My favourite things to do on the French Riviera in Autumn with Kids
Hiking, Foraging & Soup Making
The weather in Autumn on the French Riviera is still exceptionally sunny but the great advantage is that all the tourists have gone home. It is an incredibly stark contrast to the bustle of summer and feels so calm and tranquil.
There are so many opportunities to take long walks along the beach, hike inland, one of my favorites being Greolières. You can visit one of the stunning natural parks like Le parc naturel de la Valmasque and l’Étang Fontmerle, visit the weekly markets to buy fresh local seasonal produce, or visit some of the many art galleries in the area.
However, my favorite things to do with kids in Autumn 🍁 🍂 🍃 that are a bit different include:
Foraging for Mushrooms
This is a wonderfully fun family activity although care must be taken to only pick the edible varieties of mushroom. The best advice I was ever given to ensure we don't poison ourselves is to take the mushrooms collected to the Pharmacy and they will be able to tell you if they are safe to eat or not. Get a basket each, find a damp forest, and get picking.
Here are just some of the varieties you can find here: Cèpes, girolles, lactarius and champignons de Paris (portobello).
Mushroom hunting is a popular tradition during the autumn in France if your are not quick all the mushrooms will have gone so go early. Remember if you are in the countryside you may need to ask permission to collect mushrooms from the landowner. Usually, though Mushroom found on hiking trails are free for the picking.
The fun doesn’t stop there if you enjoy cooking. There are so many delicious dishes you can use wild mushrooms in and what a fabulous flavour. My personal favorite is to simply fry them with garlic salt and a few sprigs of thyme from the garden.
Foraging for Chestnuts
In Autumn you can also go foraging for sweet chestnuts. No autumn in France is complete without the smell of chestnuts roasting on on an open fire!
Again go early you will have to beat the squirrels to them. They are encased in really spiky cases so take a pair of gardening gloves to pick them off the trees. There’s nothing like stumbling upon a bunch of fresh sweet chestnuts during an Autumn hike.
**Important Note** Be careful not to mistake them for Horse Chestnuts, sometimes called Conkers which are inedible and poisonous. Don't worry, it’s easy to tell them apart because the inedible Horse Chestnut doesn’t have those spiky, needle-like casings around the nuts and the leaves are a completely different formation ( a series of 5 leaves in a fan shape). Sweet chestnuts on the other hand have single leaves with a spiky edge. (see pictures)
The one to avoid - Horse Chestnut
Visit a vineyard (Wine Tasting and Cellar Visits possible)
I just love the way the vine leaves change colours. The rows of vines are just picture perfect and perfect for some autumn family photos. And while you are there why not book yourself in for a wine tasting or a visit to the cellar. There are lots of vineyards within driving distance of the Cote D’Azur which would be perfect for a day trip or long weekend.
Here are a few options:
rd 37 Lieu-dit Sainte-Brigitte - 1609, route de Malpasset
+33 (0)4 94 52 80 51
Domaine de Toasc - 213, chemin de Crémat
33 (0)4 92 15 14 14
The Domaine de Toasc vineyard got it’s appellation over 70 yers ago and is 10 minutes from Nice. They are currently closed due to COVID but usually, they have a 20-minute tasting, no appointment necessary, for 10 Euros. You can try 3 wines/3 colors AOP Bellet.
More information is available on their website.
The International Air Festival takes place in Fréjus every year, the last week of October. We have just learned that sadly it will be cancelled for 2020 but will be back the 25th of October 2021.
This is the third-largest kite festival in France and includes single line kits and stunts kits as well as other aerial treats.
Enfants D’Azur visited this festival in 2019 and I have included a video I took of the colourful displays. There are stalls selling kites and other market stalls, food trucks, games and activities for kids including a workshop where they can learn to build and decorate kites, kite flying competitions, a stage with shows throughout the day but most impressive of all is that the whole sky is filled with thousands of colourful kites big and small. It is a super fun and exciting event for kids. We promise to remind you in time for the 2021 edition.
Why not take the kids out to fly kites anyway and take a picnic. The beach is always a good spot for kite flying but my favorite spot for kite flying and a picnic with kids is the ruins on the road to Gréolières. It is a good few degrees cooler here than on the coast and a popular spot for hand gliders. It is a truly fun place for kids to run around and for families to explore the ruins.
Here is a map reference.
Also at this time of year you will start to see all the beautiful pumpkins and squash being sold at local markets and in supermarkets. This is Harvest Festival time in France and the market becomes filled with brilliant Autumn colours.
As a family we love butternut squash, and often have it roasted as part of a roast dinner, as a treat in bacon and squash quiche and it is perfect for baby spinnach, squash and toasted pinenut salad. France has such an abundance of different squashes that start to pop up in markets and supermarkets in Autumn, from late September onwards. Not only do they make brilliant soups they can also be used as a beautiful table decoration.
Here I share my really simple Butternut Squash Recipe.
This meal is what I call real food because there are so few ingredients all of which are totally natural. There is so much natural flavour in butternut squash you really don't need to add anything. I serve it simply with a torn-off piece of rustic baguette, grated parmesan, and a few homemade garlic croutons.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP RECIPE
For the Soup
- 1 Butternut Squash
- 1 small onion - finely chopped
- 1-2 Cloves of Garlic - grated
- Dried or fresh thyme
- Salt / Pepper - to season
- Rustic baguette
- Grated parmesan - to garnish.
For the Croutons
- Slices of bread rubbed with raw garlic- toasted under a grill
On a baking tray season and roast the Butternut squash.
Once roasted, scoop out the flesh from the skins and set aside.
In a saucepan fry a finely chopped small onion and 1-2 cloves of garlic (to taste)
Add the bright orange butternut squash flesh and 1 litle of fresh water.
Using a hand blender blend the garlic, onion and squash until it becomes a smooth soup.
Stir on a low heat until it is piping hot and ready to serve.
Serve with croutons and/or a rustic baguette.
A really hearty meal that the whole family even very young babies will enjoy!