Beaches in Southern France

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Today, France's Mediterranean beaches are enormously popular in the summer, but, as early as the 18th century, the mild weather and abundant sun attracted aristocratic sunbirds during the winter months.

The Côte d'Azur, or the Riviera, as it is commonly called in English, extends west along the Mediterranean from the Italian border to just east of Marseilles and includes Monaco, Nice, Cannes, and Saint Tropez. Along the seafront, hotels and clubs have claimed much of the pristine beach territory though there are public beaches to be found. While Nice, the Riviera's largest city, sits invitingly in a sheltered crescent of coastline, the pebble beach does not offer the most comfortable sunbathing unless you pay for the amenities offered at a private beach. Sandy beaches are found elsewhere along the Riviera coast--Villefranche-sur-Mer, Antibes, Cannes, Hyères, and St Raphael, to name a few. The beaches in Saint Tropez are geared more for adults than families with children. Throughout the region, certain beaches are clothing optional so find out before you go which beaches are for you.

Many of the calanques , fjord-like inlets that form the coastline east of Marseilles, have small beaches that can be accessed only by boat or hiking through the garrigue, the dry hinterland that descends to the Mediterranean.

The area known as Languedoc-Roussillon is located west of Marseilles as the coastline curves towards Spain. Here, one of France's most ambitious, and futuristic, resort projects, La Grande Motte, built in the 1960s and 70s, rises along the shore. The beaches here are sandy and safe though the summer season is congested. Still further to the west the coastline has undergone massive redevelopment to create seaside resorts out of marshland and, at the same time, preserve the natural beauty of the area. Cap d'Agde, west of La Grande Motte, has 1 of the largest nudist colonies in Europe, and Argèles-Plage, just north of the Spanish border, attracts campers to 1 of Europe's largest camping facilities.

On the Atlantic coast, both St Jean de Luz and Biarritz have a whaling history, but today heat up during the summer tourist season with vacationers coming for the sandy beaches (particularly safe swimming off the coast of St Jean de Luz) and surfing (Biarritz). As with Mediterranean beaches, amenities such as deck chairs and parasols can be rented by the day or week and nude bathing is allowed along certain stretches of beach. Surf boards and body boards can be rented in Biarritz.

December 28, 2009 new by kimerly

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