There’s an anticipation when you go to the beach, isn’t there? There’s an image in your mind so it’s disappointing when the image is not fulfilled. That’s what has happened to me, here in the South of France – a few times – searching for the beach in my head. I’m a big beach lover….. any weather will do…… but sun is best for paddling in the shallows and occasionally mastering a half decent sea swim. Provence is blessed with an endless coastline from the Calangues of Marseilles to the beaches of the Cote D’azur but some are better than others. Shabby, too touristy, too small, too pebbly – most are OK; it’s just not the image in my head. So after a year of exploring the region here are my top three beaches… of the one’s I have seen so far…..
My first is L’estagnol – hidden on the other side of a pine forest, a perfect crescent shaped slip of soft, yellow sand and miles of shallow water to play in. It’s close to Le Lavandou but you need to ask for directions or check on-line. It has two delicious restaurants under the trees (serving huge lobsters) and a snack bar – a stay all day place for all the family.
My second are the beaches of the St Tropez area. Essentially it is one huge bay with a number of different beaches including the famous Pampelonne and my favourite, the Ramatuelle beaches. Driving from the main road out of St Tropez and past the swaths of vineyards you can pick a number of small roads down to a different beach. We were greeted in the car park at the end of the road I chose by an attractive man in a smart uniform standing by a shiny golf buggy (beach etiquette in this area is to park and be driven to a swanky restaurant, I’m assuming). I couldn’t refuse – I lost my tongue. ‘Oh dear’ said the kids ‘this is going to be expensive’. Mild panic set in. The restaurant was expensive; one from Conde Naste Traveller or the top places in the world to eat, but thankfully due to friendly staff, they offered our pleasant little ride as complimentary and directed us to a variety of creperies and snack bars. We found Charly’s Snack at Nioulargo Plage, a five minute walk away and thought we were in heaven. Little wooden seats on the sand by the sea; super snacks, fab waiters and the most glorious of beaches. OH joy and happiness!
My third is Saint Maxime. My best coastal holiday destination in the South of France so far. Lots of small but perfectly formed coves off the main road from Port Grimaud to Saint Maxime with cheeky little beach bars. But the town’s best is La Nartelle, on the west side. A good size, easy to park, a great mix of restaurants and a superb view and that’s where I finally had my sea swim. A rarity for me…………the sea was calm and cool and it was memorable…….
I know there are more beaches out there. Notre Dame on the island of Ile de Porquerolles is supposed to be one of the best in Europe and En Vau (a calangue near Cassis and an hour walk down the cliff side to the beach) is another. I’ll get there……..eventually.