On Wednesday (the 10th), we got news that a strong winter weather system was heading our way. Dozens of inches of snow were predicted for the hills, and up to six inches along the coastline — never before seen on the French Riviera. We get snow once every few years, but it’s usually a dusting, like we had in December, and melts by noon.
Thursday morning, I woke up to 4°C (39°F) and rain. I decided to try for the bus, and put on my nice hiking boots, wool socks, a turtleneck, and a wool knit cap, as well as taking along a pair of gloves just in case. I figured that if the bus came, it meant the weather was fine at our offices in Sophia Antipolis, some 28 kilometers (17 miles) to the west of Nice. The bus did indeed come; when we arrived in Sophia an hour later, it was raining there too.
Until just before 11am, that is. Snow began to fall, but it was still above freezing, so it wasn’t really sticking. Then the temperature began to dip, and the snow started picking up. By 11:30, the snow had built up noticeably. Roads quickly became blocked. The buses were no longer running. Not long afterwards, our prefect formally forbade drivers from going on the roads, and the highways were closed. Weather reports said that the worst was still to come in the evening! At 4:30pm I took the photo above, as well as a few others (full photoset here), and then my reflex’s battery died.
With roads still closed, buses not running and the news continuing to report a larger storm front about to roll in, I realized I was probably going to spend the night at the office. When I joked about camping in front of my office radiator with another colleague, he mentioned that he lived 8 kilometers (about 5 miles) away and was going to walk home — he offered to let me eat and sleep at his place. His children were with their grandparents, so there would be a spot for me without a problem. I took him up on his offer. In addition to working together, we often cross each other’s paths on the trails at lunch time — he goes running, and I go mountain biking. So we both knew we’d be fine with the 8-kilometer hike through snow.
It turned out to be one of the most beautiful hikes in my life. We passed the Mougins golf course, Fontmerle lagoon, and Picasso’s former home. Just as we passed the sign pointing to Picasso’s home, the setting sun set afire the Estérel coastal range beneath the grey storm clouds. I took these photos with my mobile phone, since it was the only camera we had available. A few minutes later, we looked behind us and had our breath taken away again, this time by the all-encompassing ink blue that was enveloping the Pré-Alpes just to the north of us. To the south, the sunset skies had transformed into pinks, purples and blues.
The next morning, it was below freezing, so we set out to walk the 8 kilometers back. It was more dangerous than on Thursday, since melting snow had frozen. We both had to catch ourselves from slipping a few times, but thanks to our trusty hiking shoes, we made it to the offices safely. Along the way, I took more photos (reminder, full photoset) and shot two videos:
o Etang de Fontmerle in the snow and morning sun
o Trail after the Mougins golf course, about a kilometer from Sophia Antipolis
Luckily the weather warmed up on Friday and I was finally able to get home by bus. There’s no more snow in Nice, but it is still falling heavily in the back country! And today I made sure to get some nice chocolates for my kind colleague.