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Thread: Trip to France (Côte d'Azur) - Need Suggestions

  1. #1
    Member
    Registered: Jun 2003
    Location: Darmstadt, Germany

    Trip to France (Côte d'Azur) - Need Suggestions

    Next week my wife, our toddler and I will be going to France for a week. We've already booked 5 nights in Toulon, but we want to also spend 3 more nights somewhere else. We only booked in Toulon because we couldn't find anything affordable anywhere else, but the city and the beaches seem nice enough. For the other 3 days I hope someone can offer some suggestions on where to go.

    First of all, we thought of just going to some place (Sainte-Maxime for example) and looking for a place to stay by just asking some passersby or at the tourist information if there is one. And by a place to stay I mean a private room/apartment similar to what you can find on AirBnB. On AirBnB itself there isn't anything in our price range (about 50-60 Euro per night). Is this idea feasible or is there no chance of it working? I'm going by my experience in Bulgaria, where in most cities and villages near the coast there are plenty of people who advertise their rooms to let by just placing signs on their property. And you can just ask people on the street if they have a room to offer.

    As to our preferences - the most important one is that there is a nice beach with sand and at least somewhat clear seawater and some amenities like a rescue watch and toilets and a place to sit in the shade and buy something to eat, like a restaurant or a street vendor. We also prefer smaller cities, like the aforementioned Sainte-Maxime or even smaller, where there are some tourists, but also plenty of local people going on about their daily lives. That's not a must, though. If someone says "Marseilles/Nice/Cannes/etc. has fantastic beaches and is a great city to visit overall", then we could do that as well, provided we can find affordable accommodation either via the above method of basically knocking on people's doors or some other one (?). We'd also prefer something directly on the coast, but we could go 10-15km inland if push comes to shove or there is a particularly nice city/village there.

    We'll be coming from southern Germany and will go either via Switzerland and Italy or only Germany -> France. We have over 1000km to travel so we'll either travel overnight or stop somewhere on the way and spend a day to rest and maybe visit some other interesting place, like some nice city/village in Alsace or Burgundy or maybe something in Italy. Any suggestions about that?

    If someone says "Toulon is a bad idea, go to X instead", we could do that as well - we can cancel the booking in the next 4-5 days and get a full refund. I'd rather not wait to that until the last moment though, as it would be unfair to the host.

    I'm be interested in hearing from both French citizens and foreigners who were there on vacation - I think both can offer interesting but different viewpoints.


    And yeah, we'll of course be practicing social distancing, even if apparently not all (tourists

  2. #2
    Member
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Melbourne, Australia
    Is that even allowed with all the lock downs going on? Quite risky for your health (and your family's) with rampant covid everywhere). Now is the worst time to be going for a holiday anywhere but Antarctica (since there is zero cases there).

  3. #3
    Member
    Registered: Jun 2003
    Location: Darmstadt, Germany
    In the EU there are quite a few countries that aren't on lockdown anymore and aren't classified as "regions at risk" so going on vacation is possible. Especially since we are going by car and not by plane/train. And on the beach there's usually enough space between groups of people. So with social distancing and good face masks I think the risk is acceptable.

  4. #4
    Member
    Registered: Nov 2001
    Location: Lille, France
    I live on the other side of France.

    I'm near from la Côte d'Opale that is great too. Hello, le Touquet, hello Wissant. Very large beaches, some wind.


    But la Côte d'Azur in july/august is fully booked and expensive and a lot (i mean a lot!) of tourists. Too much for my taste.

    I think that it will be hard to find a place to rest.

    I was several times in Giens near Hyères, to practice windsurfing, so I don't care if there's a lot of people on the beach (like sardins) as I am on the sea windsurfing with friends. Near Hyères, there's a nice island to visit : Porquerolles. Again, I think that you will not find a place.

    Sanary-sur-mer (one of my windsurfing spot) is a nice town too, but the beach is very small glued with people. On the other side, there's Six-fours-les-Plages, the beach is larger but, whew, I don't like it, looks fake to me.

    Maybe you will find something in Le Lavandou or Bormes-les-Mimosas.

    When I was a kid, we were in Cagnes-sur-mer, the beach was not made of sand, it was pebbles.


    As for me, I don't want to go to the south of France this year because of the Covid-19. I will go for a couple of days to la Côte d'Opale or the Flemish coasts.


    Good luck for your research. Not an easy task in august.

  5. #5
    Member
    Registered: Jun 2002
    Location: melon labneh
    Toulon is a decent city, it has the advantage of being one of the rare cities on the coast that has plenty of locals and is not entirely built around tourism or rich assholes, but the downside is that it isn't particularly attractive: the beaches of the Mourillon are tiny and fake and you don't get a true waterfront like in Nice. But if you want to travel around, you could do worse as a base of operations as long as you avoid the rush hour traffic.

    Things that I would recommend in the city:
    • Taking the cable car to the Mont Faron, marvelling at the beauty of the Rade and visiting the Allied landing in Provence museum (Musée du débarquement).
    • Musée National de la Marine. The other museums are good too but small. The opera house ain't too shabby either!
    • Walking along the Sentier du Littoral. Basically start at the Tour Royale and follow the path eastward along the sea to the Cap Brun.

    If you're into walks around the city, look for hikes around:
    • Notre-Dame du Mai
    • Cap Sicié
    • Saint-Mandrier

    I wish they had this guide in English because it is awesome.

    I would recommend avoiding the beach from the Mourillon as much as possible, but depending on how you want to do things it may be your only choice. Stefan mentioned Giens -- the Plage de l'Almanarre is honestly one of the best place to just enjoy the beach, especially if you're willing to walk until you find a less crowded place.

    The problem with all the usual nice things along the provençal coast is that it's simply the absolute worst period of the year to experience them. I would usually recommend Biot (quaint glassmaker village), Porquerolles (but they have been fighting tourist overcrowding for weeks), Le Castellet (medieval village on a rock), Bandol, Cassis and the calanques, Nice as well, at least the center. But in the summer it's simply too many tourists

    If you have the opportunity to go inland, go to the Gorges du Verdon, they are really nice. Stop at the Abbaye du Thoronet on the way there.
    Towards Aix/Marseille, there are so many nice hikes in the massif du Lubéron, but the heat may get overpowering.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Stefan_Key View Post

    I'm near from la Côte d'Opale that is great too. Hello, le Touquet, hello Wissant. Very large beaches, some wind.
    I did my Master's at ULCO in Boulogne sur Mer, I loved the town and the region.

  7. #7
    Member
    Registered: Jun 2003
    Location: Darmstadt, Germany
    One important question to the French citizens - are there any of the nearby countries currently classified as "at risk" with regards to people coming in from there? For example we might be going through Switzerland and Italy (and might stay there for a day or two) - just want to make sure we will then be able to enter France and not have to stay quarantined for two weeks or something. The other option is going directly from Germany to France via Strasbourg/Mulhouse, but because of where we'll be starting from the Switzerland-Italy route is a bit better and shorter.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stefan_Key View Post
    I'm near from la Côte d'Opale that is great too. Hello, le Touquet, hello Wissant. Very large beaches, some wind.

    But la Côte d'Azur in july/august is fully booked and expensive and a lot (i mean a lot!) of tourists. Too much for my taste.

    I think that it will be hard to find a place to rest.
    Well, we've already booked a room via AirBnB in Toulon so at least the 4 nights there are secure. We'll check the beaches starting from the Mourillon and then go outwards and check your suggestions like Sanary-Sur-Mer. With a 2-year old kid we won't be staying THAT long on the beach anyway, depending on how hot it is.

    Quote Originally Posted by Briareos H View Post
    Toulon is a decent city, it has the advantage of being one of the rare cities on the coast that has plenty of locals and is not entirely built around tourism or rich assholes, but the downside is that it isn't particularly attractive: the beaches of the Mourillon are tiny and fake and you don't get a true waterfront like in Nice. But if you want to travel around, you could do worse as a base of operations as long as you avoid the rush hour traffic.

    Things that I would recommend in the city:
    • Taking the cable car to the Mont Faron, marvelling at the beauty of the Rade and visiting the Allied landing in Provence museum (Musée du débarquement).
    • Musée National de la Marine. The other museums are good too but small. The opera house ain't too shabby either!
    • Walking along the Sentier du Littoral. Basically start at the Tour Royale and follow the path eastward along the sea to the Cap Brun.

    If you're into walks around the city, look for hikes around:
    • Notre-Dame du Mai
    • Cap Sicié
    • Saint-Mandrier

    I wish they had this guide in English because it is awesome.

    I would recommend avoiding the beach from the Mourillon as much as possible, but depending on how you want to do things it may be your only choice. Stefan mentioned Giens -- the Plage de l'Almanarre is honestly one of the best place to just enjoy the beach, especially if you're willing to walk until you find a less crowded place.
    Thanks for the suggestions, depending on the weather we might try some of them. They all sound quite interesting, but with Corona I think we'll avoid doing too much indoors like visit museums and the like. Besides, as mentioned above we have a 2-year old daughter so we'll have to plan our activities around her.

    What about my idea of just going to some smaller city/village near the coast and looking around for a place to stay by just asking people?

    Also, any suggestions as to how to find some decent and cheap and typical French food? Or are those three adjectives mutually exclusive? Is there something like the Polish milk bars in France? Or should we just look at Google (maps) and go further from the city centre? And any suggestions about what to try are also welcome. We were in Paris a few years ago and tried frog legs and snails and steak tartare and liked them well enough to get some this time as well, but anything else we should definitely try?

  8. #8
    The quote/unquote worst country bordering France right now is arguably Spain so you shouldn't have a problem as you're not going to be even close... That said, just stay prudent, wear your masks and wash hands etc. and you should be all right.

  9. #9
    Member
    Registered: Nov 2001
    Location: Lille, France
    Quote Originally Posted by raph View Post
    I did my Master's at ULCO in Boulogne sur Mer, I loved the town and the region.
    Yes, this part of France is so underrated! Still there are a lot of people this year, COVID/confinment and heat conjunction I suppose.
    Even in the belgian coast, there is now some tourism restrictions...

    Quote Originally Posted by dj_ivocha
    like Sanary-Sur-Mer
    If you intend to go there (Plage de Portissol), I advise you to come very early, because it's very difficult to find a place to park your car, the streets are very narrow.

    For your future trips in the south of France, try in september or in october, it's less crowded and prices are cheaper. Or in April/may, it's blooming season. And you could visit the town of Grasse for its perfume industry.

  10. #10
    Member
    Registered: Jun 2003
    Location: Darmstadt, Germany
    So in the end we went to Agde and spent 3 nights at a very nice camping site. The beach and the water were very nice and totally not overcrowded. The beach itself was some 30-50 meters wide and had very fine sand - a bit too fine for me, but still orders of magnitude better than gravel. The water was warm enough and not deep at all - also up to 50 meters before it got to 160-180cm deep. Very very clean and there were fishes swimming around also! Otherwise not much to do, with Agde and Cap d'Agde and Grau d'Agde being basically villages, but if you go mainly for the beach (like us), then definitely very recommended.

    After that it was the 4 already booked nights in Toulon. Like Briareos said, the beaches were nothing to write home about, but the city itself was quite nice and not boring at all. The port was interesting and we saw Charles de Gaulle and a couple of other military ships from the top of Faron (the Téléphérique du mont Faron was great too). We went to a different beach every day and they were all better than the ones in Toulon itself, but not quite as good as the one in Agde. One of the beaches on Porquerolles came quite close, but only because of the water - the beach itself was too thin and not as clean. There were some traffic jams on the way to and from Porquerolles, but otherwise we didn't feel it was overcrowded anywhere. I even found a place to park for free about 600m from the apartment, the cheapskate that I am

  11. #11
    Still Subjective
    Registered: Dec 1999
    Location: Idiocy will never die
    How was the food?

    Also:

    Quote Originally Posted by dj_ivocha View Post
    very fine sand - a bit too fine for me
    wat?

    How is that even possible?

  12. #12
    Member
    Registered: Jun 2003
    Location: Darmstadt, Germany
    The food was nice, but we couldn't find much stuff from other regions of France, like boeuf bourguignon or coq au vin, which I'd have liked to try. But we didn't look too hard and chose cheaper restaurants, so... This being the Côte d'Azur there was a lot of fish and seafood and most of what we tried was delicious. Only the Bouillabaisse that we tried in Toulon was not really worth the 23 Euro, especially considering there were only 3 fairly small pieces of fish that were put in the soup itself and not served separately as shown on Wikipedia. I mean, that too was delicious, but I'd have expected the price to be 10-12 at most.

    As to the too fine sand - it really was. The individual grains were like 1/5th of the size I'm used to. It feels almost more like dust than sand and sticks everywhere because of that. It's also very hard or even almost impossible to build sand castles because of that. I guess you can almost call it silt already? When walking on it the feeling is interesting, but not bad at all and in the water I think it might even be slightly better than coarser sand.

  13. #13
    Member
    Registered: Jun 2002
    Location: melon labneh
    Damn I didn't even think about giving restaurant recommendations in Toulon, I dropped the ball, sorry! But I'm very happy that you had a good time and that you managed to find suitable beaches around. Porquerolles has a few gorgeous ones but they are really narrow and frustrating to navigate during the high season.

  14. #14
    Still Subjective
    Registered: Dec 1999
    Location: Idiocy will never die
    Quote Originally Posted by dj_ivocha View Post
    As to the too fine sand - it really was. The individual grains were like 1/5th of the size I'm used to. It feels almost more like dust than sand and sticks everywhere because of that. It's also very hard or even almost impossible to build sand castles because of that. I guess you can almost call it silt already? When walking on it the feeling is interesting, but not bad at all and in the water I think it might even be slightly better than coarser sand.
    Oh, that doesn't sound pleasant at all. I've never encountered such sand in that case, which (given my like of beaches and visitation of them whenever possible) I'm surprised at.

    It still sounds better than most British beaches! Note: I've never been to Cornwall and I hear the beaches there are as nice as on the continent.

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