What's France like in December?

Mr. Athena and I are considering leaving town over Christmas. We’re thinking of a two week vacation.

We’ve been wanting to go to Europe for a long time. We’re wanting to learn more about wine, and we like French food, so France is high on our list of potential places. However, I’m not sure about France/Europe in the winter. What’s it like? Is it a dumb time to go? Weather-wise, anyplace is going to be better than here, but I’d rather not go somewhere where the bulk of what’s attractive isn’t available because of the season/weather.

We’d like to visit wineries, eat well, see some museums, and in general experience the place. Is this possible during this time frame, or should we go someplace else over Christmas and wait until spring/summer to head to Europe?

Also, any suggestions of other places to go over Christmas would be welcome!

Well, you can certainly do all that in December, but I wouldn’t advise you to. The weather will be cold, overcast, rainy, the days short… I would rather pick a country where I could find a fine weather, if I were you. It makes a difference when it comes to enjoying vacations.

If you’d rather like to go to Europe, what about Italy? The weather will certainly be warmer, and you’ll find there too winneries, good food, great museums… Of course, you coul pick, say, Morroco, or even Australia and enjoy some summer time, but I assume it wouldn’t be at all the same experience.

You address the very issues I’m worried about.

Australia, or my personal choice, New Zealand, is simply too far away. 2 weeks is barely enough time to go to Europe, IMO. When I go to New Zealand, I want to be able to take at least 3 weeks or more.

Morrocco… I’m guessing that would be a hard sell to Mr. Athena, who is a bit less adventurous than I. Regardless of how touristy and safe it is, anywhere in Africa will probably not happen.

I think if we don’t do Europe because of the weather we’ll end up doing something like the California wine country.

For some reason, I’d never thought of Italy. That makes sense, it’s farther south, therefore warmer. So how’s Italy in December?

Oh, and also remember - anywhere is going to be better weather than where I live in December, so even if it’s not warm & sunny, as long as it’s not a) raining every single day or b) snow up to my eyeballs, I’m open to it.

I lived in France for a year, so I’ve got an idea. Specifically, I lived in Alsace, which is a hair cooler than a lot of the rest of the country. I understand it’s not unusual to see snow there, but I didn’t see very much at all when I lived there. I lived in Strasbourg, which is beautiful, and Christmas is a big deal there. There’s a big Christmas fair in the middle of town, where they sell mulled wine. It’s gorgeous.

Of course, this is Alsace, so there’s a definite German influence on everything, including the food. Especially the food. There’s something called tarte flambée which is simple in its elegance. Or elegance in its simplicity. Or something. Alsatian beer rules, too. And Germany is right next door, where you can nip over on the city buses, which cost 7 francs when I lived there, which was something like $1.25.

During the winter, it could get bitter, and there were quite a few days when the temperature hovered around freezing, but I don’t remember it going much below that. If you ski, the Vosges Mountains are just off to the west, and even when Strasbourg doesn’t have snow, they will.

Alsace has a number of wineries, all located along the region’s celebrated Route du Vin, which you’d need a car to see. I found Riqwihr to be a charming little town. Alsace is about the size of Connecticut. I’m not sure if the wineries there would be open during the winter, though.

Strasbourg is a very walkable city, and there’s a lot to see. There’s a mountain reserve of Moroccan monkeys called magots, as well, which I think is open year 'round. It’s a six-hour train ride from the Gare de l’Est, but it has an airport, too. Oh, and its cathedral has really neat things happen with light shining through its stained-glass windows on all equinoxes and solstices that aren’t overcast.

I happened to go to Italy, France, and Greece in November in subsequent years. Italy and Greece were fine. Not shorts weather, but comfortable, and I had no complaints at all. France was unpleasant and rainy and made me change my travels to September for all future trips.

My one and only trip to Paris was in January. Was it an ideal time to go? Well, no. But we still got a lot out of the trip. It was quite cold when we were there, but we just bundled up. We spent most of our time in museums, and saved the more outdoorsy stuff (walking tours, etc) for the few warmer days.

There weren’t tons of tourists but i ran into two different people I knew when I was over there. They were taking advantage of long holiday breaks. So tourist suites will be less crowded than nicer times of year, but not deserted by any means.

The one thing I remember is that I’d packed just a few turtlenecks, planning to wear them several times each layered under different things. But just one day walking around the city and they’d look filthy. The pollution, or something, seemed to gather on my neck and get wiped off on the neck of the turtleneck. Ick.

Compared to the UP, France will be paradise.

What is a little rainy cold weather compared to snow up to your tits?
You Yoopers! Whine, whine…whine… :stuck_out_tongue:

(What about Frodo & Edith? Do they get to go on this vacation or are the second rate citizens? Huh?)

What’s the UP, anyway?

I think it’s the Upper Penninsula of the state of Michigan (USA). For example…

Here’s a map.

It is the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Home of Yoopers and Pasties ( a delicious meat pie not the boob stickers.)

It is beautiful and the winters are long and the sheep are nervous.

I love the UP but I don’t drink enough to live there.

Bah, how come every second thread I start turns into a Yooper discussion?!?

Frodo and Edith will be quite happy being taken care of by… someone. Probably one of any number of relatives who we will bribe to housesit. Unless you wanna do it, Shirley.

Actually, the UP is quite nice around Christmas. Very Christmasy. One of the few places in the nation where the chance of a white Christmas is 100%. The only issue is that my family is here, and every fookin’ Christmas for the last three, someone has had a fit, or been miffed, or otherwise made our lives a living hell. Plus the guest-list calculus involved in trying to do get-togethers without offending someone or putting two people who hate each other in one room is proving difficult.

There is a mystique about that place that is hard to explain. Besides, saying Yooper is fun.!

If you lived closer, I would happily take in your pugs, thus getting over my major pugs jonesing that you started me with …

Well, then you either need to move north, or I need to move south. Or I need to convince FedEx to ship pugs. Because it seems like every time I get a good dogsitter trained in, they graduate or move or otherwise disappear. What do other people do when they need someone to take care of their dogs?!?

Wait, don’t answer that… this thread has been hijacked enough! Back to France! What’s it like in December?

Italy is cool, especially southern Italy. The north is more industrial, and therefore better for shopping and the like. History is scattered throughout Italy, but the best food is in the south. (Of course, I’m biased, but then, so is everyone else!) Puglia, (which is near the coast) is supposed to have some of the best cooking in the country. Pompeii is also in southern Italy, and it is awesome. V. historical, you can see old graffiti on recovered walls, and lava encased people. I think tours are offered in English as well. Most places you visit in Italy will have several restaurants/hotels/stores with people minimally fluent in English, because tourism is a large part of their economy.

As for Italy in the winter, I’ve never actually been there (I’m much more of a summer gal), but my relatives have palm trees, which don’t stand much cold, and were absolutely astonished at the concept of autumn and leaves changing colors. From what I remember, the temperatures never go lower than 50’s/60’s in the winter.

Sorry for the mini-hijack; I don’t know much about France, but if it falls out, at least you’ll know a bit about Italy.