Spring normally arrives in February on the Côte d'Azur and in mid March further north. The almond and cherry trees start to blossom and the weekly green markets are full of optimism and chatter again. March mornings are still crisp, but during the day it's mostly sunny and warm days, ideal for hiking and biking. The Mistral blows on many days during March and April but has lost most of its winter ferocity. Come Easter life really starts to move. Most inns and restaurants are open again. Easter can be quite busy as many French take 1 - 2 weeks vacation. It is wonderful to be in the sunny Provence while it is still miserable and gray in the Northern parts. Driving the A7 from Paris to Aix en Provence in early March you pass by the "Porte du Soleil" monument between the Montélimar North and South exits. It heralds a change in climate and landscape. It's greener, the villages start to have that familiar Provençal look and the sky brightens up. During April days get warmer and come May a plunge into the Mediterranean sea or the swimming pool is quite agreeable. May to June and then again mid September to end of October are the "shoulder seasons", a time when many people without school aged children take their vacation.
Summer is the busy season as everywhere in Europe. In June/July the lavender starts to bloom. The nights can be quite warm, yet cool enough to get a good nights sleep without air conditioning. Except for the usual 2-3 weeks of "La Canicule" (literally translated the canicular days, the dog days) some time in July/August it is very agreeable and you can do without air conditioning. Make sure when you rent a vacation home that there are lots of shaded areas. A swimming pool would be nice too. It's very dry - it might not have rained for months. Yet the landscape does not look parched like in the Spanish meseta or in Greece. In the Northern Provence the vivid green of the vineyards and wooded hills dominate the landscape. Might Mont Ventoux with its snow white peak towers over it. What appears to be snow on top is actually the dry white limestone visible from spring to autumn and snow during winter. In the Luberon, the Pays d'Aix and Var the pale green of the dry "Garrigues", mostly rosemary brushes, lavender, laurel, thyme, thistles and small oak trees, give you more of a sensation of being in a hot climate. Walking the historic sights of Arles, Avignon, Glanum and Vaison la Romaine can be an exhausting experience in July and August. Frankly sightseeing is better in the shoulder seasons.
Autumn is great except for those few days when it rains. It does not drizzle, a word which does not seem to exist in Provençal, it pours. It pours heavily, may be just a couple of hours, may be a day or two, rarely a week. There are years, like in September 2003, when this can lead to inundations in the plains. Normally it is less of a problem. The good news is that once the rainfall is over the weather goes immediately back to its good old habit of sunshine and bright blue skies. Most years autumn is gorgeous for weeks and weeks. In September the wine harvest starts; lots of village feasts and the markets are wonderful. In November and December olives are being harvested and the truffle markets start. Autumn is a great time for for biking, hiking, mountain climbing and sightseeing. Unknown to most visitors the Provence has two growing seasons, spring and autumn. Spring, with a profusion of colours is followed by a hot, dry summer in which plants seem to go dormant. The autumn rains start a new growing season. Roses often bloom until late November.
Winter announces itself somewhere in mid November to late December when the Mistral starts to blow. The sky is bright and blue and while the sun is shining it cannot warm you up because of the wind chill. On those days where there is no wind you might still be able to have the occasional lunch outside. A lot of Europeans, especially those owning secondary homes in the Provence, spend Christmas and New Year here. As to the rest of the winter: cold, rarely snow but the Mistral blows and blows. The "Mistral", in Provençal this means "Master", is a dry wind blasting from a Northwestern direction down the Rhône Valley. It occurs with various speeds depending on the difference in atmospheric pressure between the cold North and the warmer Mediterranean. It can blow for weeks. We wonder if that is the reason many parts of the Provence have few flies and mosquitoes.
Average Temperatures in the Provence: