The pun -- sort of -- is hard to resist, yes. Please forgive us; it's winter and we want it to be warmer. This week's smart deal comes from Air France's travel division (tel. 800/2-FRANCE; www.airfrance-holidays.com) and highlights six nights in Nice from $899 for airfare, airline fuel surcharges, hotel taxes and service charges, and daily continental breakfast. The travel period this price reflects is March 8-25 -- the price rises about $100 for travel through April 2, and then departures for most of April through mid-May are priced from $1,089.
The base price is calculated using Newark and New York-JFK departures and double occupancy, standard accommodations at a budget-class centrally located De Kent Hotel. The Busby Hotel, a three-story Victorian property located within walking distance of the beach, starts from $949 and is rated as tourist class. You can upgrade all the way to the Negresco Hotel, a 1912 palace overlooking the Bay of Angels and which has its own private beach.
Why Nice? It is a logical base for exploring France's Cote d'Azur and is well-situated for public transportation -- you can head to San Remo and be back in the same day. Historically it has attracted artists and writers -- it is lovely and laid-back -- as well as aristocrats and other uppercrust types. These days it is more middle-class and affordable. Like Spain's Costa del Sol, Nice boats about 300 days of sunshine a year.
Other departure gates are possible, such as Baltimore and Washington, D.C., for an additional $40; Boston and Philadelphia for $60; Cleveland, Chicago and other Midwest cities for $70; and Los Angeles, Dallas and Atlanta for $180. Other fine print to be aware of: the full payment is due within one day of booking by 2pm.