A Day at the Beach
This morning we realized we had had enough of Roman ruins, ancient buildings, and cobblestone streets. We had considered going to Arles, but Van Gogh is not there and neither is any of his work. Feeling a bit too warm, dry, and claustrophobic in our little Paradou nest, we decided to head to the beach. After all, the Mediterranean is only an hour and a half away and since I had never been there, Norman wanted me to experience it. We packed up a picnic lunch and were off — guided as usual by our now trusty GPS companion, Moneypenny. Eventually, we arrived at our destination, a seaside town called Le Grau du Roi, a challenge for English-speakers to pronounce with those two French r’s — we’ve been working on it all day. You might compare it to Santa Cruz or Oceanside in California. We stopped in at the tourism office where a very informative young man gave us the scoop on the area — where to park, which were the best beaches, and the name of a hotel with a very good restaurant — plus a map to go with it which is very necessary. It’s not a large area, but everything is tightly squeezed in and it’s difficult to maneuver around town without some guidance.
We found our way to a beautiful beach with easy parking. The French vacation in the south of France during July and August so we haven’t encountered seasonal crowds yet. We set ourselves up on the beach near the water. Fortunately, we found a few items in our apartment to help us along with this such as beach chairs and a picnic basket. For a couple of hours we enjoyed relaxing on the beach and swimming in the Mediterranean — yes, swimming! I’m a California girl, but I grew up swimming in pools all my life. I’ve never been fond of swimming in bodies of water that have no edges and where I can’t see what’s on the bottom. About the only place I’ve ever swum freely in the ocean is Puerto Vallarta — something about having young children with me and the intense heat helped me overcome my fears there for the time being. Today, however, I was drawn to the inviting waters of the sea. The water was warm and shallow for several feet and the bottom was covered only with slightly rippled sand. There were no rocks, seaweed, or critters to impede wading calmly into the gentle surf. As I got out farther, the water became deeper, cooler, and more refreshing. It was truly delightful!
A variety of sunbathers and swimmers accompanied us for the afternoon — a grandfather playing water soccer with his grandson in the shallow waters, another set of grandparents introducing a toddler to the ocean possibly for the first time, and friends of all ages just hanging out together enjoying the day. Young men and women (some decidedly more enthusiastic than others) manned pushcarts along the beach selling glacé, beignets, and other tempting treats. People watching is always interesting at the beach, but after a couple of hours at a French beach, you understand why the Beach Boys wrote, “I wish they all could be California girls”.
As with every beach, thankfully, there is at least an ocean breeze or something a bit stronger — it’s what keeps you cool, right? In this case, it was a wind which began to pick up more and more taking the sand with it so we knew we would have to relocate for our picnic. We headed in the direction of the recommended hotel on the marina side of town and found a quiet park and completely unoccupied park, the perfect spot for lunch. We ate and relaxed surrounded by various building complexes which appeared to be vacation homes or rentals uniquely designed to looked like double-decker boats.
After lunch, we walked out to the hotel past the marina filled with countless yachts large and small all shamefully not in use. Just like at home, people are typically out working to pay for them and rarely get to set sail. The marina is ringed by a number of hotels all in keeping with the theme designed to look like ocean liners — a bit unattractive really. Once we reached the hotel restaurant, we discovered it was closed… no explanation — it’s open in the evenings (but apparently 5 PM was not evening enough). There was also a grill restaurant by the pool which was inactive but seemed to have the potential to open at some point (though it never did). However, since no one was around, it turned out to be our personal oasis complete with comfortable outdoor furniture and palm trees where Norman was able to catch a nap and I started this post.
Rested and rejuvenated we still had one more wish on our list — an ice cold beer which we found back on the main drag at Quai des Artistes (how appropriate!) across from the beach — Belgian, delicious, and cheap! 5€ for two — the total amount of money we spent for the whole day.
Time to return home and enjoy the last day of our week in Provence before we head off to Toulouse in the Languedoc.