Springtime in France is a special time of year. It is with some relief that we wave goodbye to winter and welcome in this new season which is fresh with the promise of warmer days and delicious food. Discover France in the spring and enjoy all that this early season has to offer.
Fresh spring produce
Eating seasonal produce is at the heart of French life.
Here, fresh produce is generally bought and sold according to the rythmn of the seasons and Nature’s natural cycle.
I love the way that this is reflected in the increasingly colourful village market stalls in France.
Fresh new flavours include asparagus, rhubarb, spring chard, fava beans (known as broad beans in the UK) and spinach.
Personally I always look forward to the appearance of the first gariguette strawberries on the market stalls in April. They have an incomparable flavour that is worth every extra cent that their pricetag suggests.
In restaurants, springtime is marked by a creative awakening as fresh flavours replace the heartier richness that are part and parcel of a French winter. In spring, healthier, lighter dishes such as asparagus wrapped in Bayonne ham delight the tastebuds and egg-based dishes reflect the hens’ increased activity at this time of year.
Warm springtime sunshine in the south of France
There may still be a night time nip in the air but daytime temperatures in springtime may reach the heady mid 20s, especially in the southern half of the country.
Springtime in France is the time to top up the vitamin D levels after the darker days of winter.
It’s the ideal time for hiking in the moyenne montagne and foothills of the Pyrenees where spring wildflowers of all colours carpet the meadows and woodland floors.
The fresh clean mountain air and exercise come as a welcome change from being cooped up indoors during the winter months. It awakens the mind and body and restores the spirit and is the best prescription possible for shaking off those winter blues.
But be warned, it’s easy to underestimate the strength of the sun in the south of France even in springtime. Shorts and shirt sleeves mean the risk of sunburn is ever-present. Dig out that suncream that has been languishing in the drawer since last summer and be sure to bring it on your springtime holiday in France.
Easter in France
Easter is one of those occasions at which the French excel. It’s an important holiday and a traditional time for families to gather together.
‘Chasse aux oeufs’ or Easter egg hunts are put on throughout the country.
Head to the Loire Valley for your Easter break and take part in an Easter egg hunt in the grounds of one of the many family-friendly castles in the area, such as the Chateau du Rivau
Easter is also a time for creative shopkeepers to let loose with seasonal window displays of rabbits, chickens, eggs and flowers. Artisanal chocolate makers are in their element too, creating not only rabbits and chickens but also bells or ‘cloches’ out of chocolate too.
France is an intensely Catholic country and tradition dictates that church bells fall silent between Good Friday and and Easter Sunday to commemorate Christ’s death and resurrection. The enjoyment of chocolate bells on Easter Sunday is a nod to this religious tradition!
The return of migrating wildlife in France
There is no surer sign of a turn in the seasons than the sights and sounds of returning wildife.
One of the most iconic is the white stork, that symbol of new life and fertility, which returns each year to nest on the rooftops and chimneys of Alsace in eastern France.
Storks are synonymous with Alsace, thanks in no small part to the stork conservation centre in Hunawihr. You must make a point of visiting the centre if Alsace is on your itinerary this year.
In many towns and villages in Alsace, horizontal cart wheels have been placed on the top of poles and chimneys to serve as a base for stork nests. It is quite a sight when these big birds return to their nests en masse in the springtime.
Cheap travel to France in springtime
Springtime is still in the tourism off season. Even over the Easter holidays travel is still considerably cheaper than in the summer months
Whether you are travelling to France by plane or by ferry, there are some great deals around.
Accommodation in France is also great value in the springtime as low or mid season tariffs still apply.
Treat yourself to a short break, or why not a proper holiday, and enjoy all that springtime in France has to offer.