Pitch black mornings, a sprinkling of snow and a transport system in meltdown. Is there a bleaker time of year to be an office worker in the capital? If the January blues are getting you down, what better way to let the sunshine back in than by embracing continental carnival fever. No point in heading to Rio when less than two hours away you can find a land of towering citrus sculptures, masked acrobats and papier mache giants.
Menton Lemon Festival – (11 Feb – 1 March 2017)
If you are running low on vitamin C, the Menton lemon festival is just the place for a winter tonic or perhaps even a G&T or three. 2013 marks the 80th anniversary of this fruity extravaganza which now attracts over 200,000 citrus lovers from across the world. Effervescent floats groaning with oranges and lemons sway precariously down the Promenade du Soleil in readiness for the climactic Parade of Golden Fruit (yes really). A permanent citrus exhibition and a spectacular sound and light show add to the zesty shenanigans. Outspan lovers eat your heart out.
Venice Carnival – (11-28 February 2017)
The world-famous Venice carnival marks a two-week explosion of processions, masquerades and general mischief-making in the days leading up to Shrove Tuesday. Try out the carnival’s speciality fritelle or stare agog as a procession of devil-filled gondolas glide by. From acrobatics in St Mark’s Square to aristocratic high-jinks during masked balls, there is no better way of putting the feel-good-factor back into winter.
Nice Carnival – (11-26 February 2017)
Not to be outdone, the elegant Promenade des Anglais provides the highlight of the French Riviera’s winter calendar. In scenes reminiscent of It’s a Knock-Out, papier-mache giants plod down the promenade while fragrant flurries of gerberas, mimosas and lillies swirl gently earthwards during the famous Battle of the Flowers. Mardi Gras marks the Grand Finale of this two-week mayhem with the Carnival King going up in flames under a fanfare of fireworks on the beach.