As capital of the Cote d'Azur and a working port, Nice (www.nicetourisme.com) has a more practical, worldly wise quality than some of its sister resorts along the French Riviera.
Founded by the Greeks, later a Roman stronghold and popular from the 18th century with the Russian and British leisure classes whose legacy is the seafront Promenade des Anglais, its grand fin-de-siecle buildings around the Place Massena contrast with the old town's hilly jumble.
The beach is pebbly, so strolling in the winter sun and sampling some of the city's excellent restaurants is a better bet. We're almost in Italy here, and the ingredients and dishes of Nice reflect the best of both.
Chagall and Matisse were among the many artists drawn by the light of the coast, and you'll find collections devoted to each among its 19 museums and galleries. The big annual event is the carnival (February 16 to March 2, 2008, www.nicecarnaval.com), which attracts a million visitors for the parades and the battle of the flowers.
Nice Airport (www.nice.aeroport.fr) is well served by national andlow-cost carriers from British airports, and from Wednesday, when Eurostar moves to its new St Pancras base, travellers will be able to book trains through to the south of France from 68 British towns and cities, with return fares from Birmingham, for example, from pound;127 (www.eurostar.com, www.raileurope.co.uk).
For a Christmas break, VFB Holidays (01452 716 840, www.vfbholidays.co.uk) has an apartment eight miles from Nice for pound;786 (pound;196.50pp for four sharing), which includes seven nights' self-catering and ferry crossings for one car leaving on December 22
What to do
The best option is to just wander around. The old town is atmospheric, and weaving through the narrow streets and coming upon unexpected churches and galleries is a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon.
There's plenty of art to be had on the Cote d'Azur, but pick of the crop has to be the Matisse Museum (avenue des Arenes de Cimiez). Matisse lived in Nice for about 40 years and, as a result, work from pretty much every period of his life is on show.
Where to eat
If you fancy a day trip out of Nice and you're interested in food, head to Haut de Cagnes, about 20 minutes away. As well as being a historic village with an exhibition dedicated to Suzy Solidor - of If you knew Suzy fame - it's also a gastronomic paradise. Particularly worth a detour is Entre Cour et Jardin (montee de la Bourgade), whose nine-course tasting menu has to be eaten to be believed.
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Coming up: Isle of Wight, Austrian Tirol, Val d'Isere, Glasgow.