When to Go
The area developed a reputation long ago for benign winter weather. Wealthy Brits discovered the micro-climate of the coastal region and were wintering down here long before the Spanish Costas became popular. While researching this book, the author spent two winters (December to Easter) living on the Côte d’Azur. On both visits there were less than a dozen wet days, which equated to 3 or 4 a month. The Mistral can be a problem at times – a ferocious and bitter wind that blasts down the Rhône Valley for days at a time in the winter. The western cliffs are markedly more affected than the eastern ones. Pick a low-lying, sheltered, south-facing crag and you should be able to get something done.
Climbing in the sun on winter’s day in France is always delightful, we have climbed at Châteauvert in December wearing shorts and T-shirts, whilst the puddles by the road were frozen solid and the trees in the shade were covered in frost. Spring and autumn are the best times for the lower crags when you can choose between cool climbing in the shade or seek out the warmth of the sun. Summer is not the best time for many of the crags but seek out shady sectors, or the high crags like the Verdon, and you may not overheat too much. The number and variety of crags on the Côte d’Azur means there’s always somewhere to climb, no matter what time of year you choose to visit.
The average rainfall for the areas covered by in book is relatively low. The high figures in September to December tend to result from storms rather than full days of rain. This may mean that there is a bit of seepage on some routes but you are very unlikely to lose too much climbing time unless you are the unlucky type.
There are a number of airports in the South of France served by budget airlines. Nice, Toulon and Marseilles are the closest but Grenoble, Nîmes plus Genoa in Italy are also options. Expect to pay more at popular times like weekends, the summer months and school holidays. Air France and British Airways run regular services into the area.
Eurostar operates a direct service from London to Marseilles and onward to Toulon and Nice. At other times of year, an indirect service is possible on the TGV. Luggage restrictions are far less than those imposed by budget airlines, and the journey only takes around 8 hours station to station.
The French autoroutes are fast and usually uncrowded. The cost of the tolls is considerable, but the time saved avoiding all the small towns on the route nationals is priceless. If you’ve got a long drive, it is possible to break the journey by sleeping in one of the rest areas. If you’re looking for a bed without spending too much, find a Formula 1 or, for those wanting something a little nicer, try an Ibis or Etap.
Getting Around (without a car)
A little tricky, although a number of areas covered in this guide can be accessed by public transport, or by hitch-hiking. If you are visiting at the busier times of year, you may be able to hook up with other climbers with cars. The guide covers an extensive area, and to make the most of a trip, access to a car is recommended.