Recent Posts

Thinking About the Beach

We would like to take one last summery trip before Fall gets here and we want to go to the beach. We’re thinking somewhere in the south of France. Any recommendations?

picture by Paul Ferney for Oh Happy Day

  1. Christine | Darling

    August 25, 2011

    I know this isn’t the beach, but I just loved the Picasso museum in Antibes.

  2. Stephanie

    August 25, 2011

    Hey Jordan – I was just dreaming about my old life down in the south of France. Antibes was always a favorite of mine. It’s big enough, small enough, close to a lot of other great places, has the Picasso Museum (reviews and info on my blog), and best yet – sandy beaches compared to Nice’s pebbley ones. The highlight of all of my experiences in the south of France though was making my very own signature perfume in Grasse at Gallimard. Whatever destination you decide, you’re in for a treat! Enjoy!

  3. Caroline, No

    August 25, 2011

    I was just in Nice and Cannes. Some pics here:

    Cannes is fun to people watch; very glamorous jetsetters. Pretty little beach right in the centre of town. Nice was nice to experience every day SoF life. Pebbly beach. GORGEOUS produce markets.

    Antibes nice too. Perhaps a little road trip to all three. (Or the train is efficient and stops at all three.)

  4. The New Diplomats Wife

    August 25, 2011

    st. jean de luz if you’re looking for lower key – basque goodies, beautiful linens, home of the espadrille…gorgeous markets. and easy to hop to san sebastian for a change. if you want to go all out, then go for cannes.

  5. Marie (Food Nouveau)

    August 25, 2011

    If you want to go to the beach, Nice, Cannes and St-Tropez are classics, but we loved the low-key Cagnes-Sur-Mer. Located between Nice and Cannes, it’s a great base to explore the area, it’s charming and much more approachable. It has a nice long beach, which is narrower than Nice’s but a lot quieter. It’s also where you can visit Renoir’s house and garden, which is not to be missed. We stayed at a beautiful B&B held by a charming Italian woman, right by the beach, called La Locandiera (‎).

    If you plan on going to St-Tropez, unless you’re staying there, I recommend making a day trip out of it and getting there by train because trafic is always crazy (went there in early spring and got stuck on the way for hours – we never got there).

    If you’re leaning towards Provence, I would recommend visiting St-Rémy-de-Provence, a cute village with a great market, where Van Gogh lived his last years (the St-Paul de Mausole hospital is a great visit). Aix is, of course, a classic and Les Baux is a great historic spot to visit (nice view over the neighboring wineries and olive trees) but it’s tourist-heavy (even more so than Mont St-Michel).

    I could go on and on because we’ve seen beautiful places in Languedoc as well (still dreaming of Uzès); I’m sure you’ll get plenty other tips as well. Have a nice trip!

  6. chanel

    August 25, 2011

    Nice, the city obviously, is one of my favorites! Amazingly little beach vacation.

  7. Nicole S.

    August 25, 2011

    The Ile de Re. We spent a week at Hotel Le Senechal at Ars en Re on our honeymoon and it was so lovely! Not too touristy (seems only the French and British know of it), kid friendly, wonderful food – I’d go back in a heartbeat. (Also super affordable.)
    Most of the Ile de Re is only accessible by bicycle, so it sort of feels like this magical and old-fashioned island.

  8. Erin

    August 25, 2011

    A few years ago, my family rented this place in a town called Sigale in the moountains above Nice:

    You can take the TGV down from Paris to Nice, but would then need to rent a car. The town is about an hour’s drive from Nice. The town of Sigale is a charming medieval perched village. There are no roads in the town – you have to park in a parking lot at the entrance to the town. There are no permanent stores in the town, but there’s market days where a truck will come and set up and sell produce, meat, bread, etc. There are some great places to walk near the town. Nice is close enough that you can take a drive to the coast and go to the beach. And there’s a Carrefour just on the edge of Nice on your way to Sigale so you can go grocery shopping.

    Loved it!

  9. Rachel S.

    August 25, 2011

    As a student, I spent a month in Menton, right on the Italian border. It’s a lovely, sleepy little town. But my favorite, just because it’s so pretty, is Villefranche-sur-Mer.

  10. Aude

    August 25, 2011

    Hello fellow Parisian lady!
    Well, the place I absolutely LOVE in the South is the Pays Basque: St Jean de Luz is just so beautiful and typical. There are other lovely cities nearby (Biarritz for instance), the prettiest little villages (Arcangues, Espelette, Ascain….), the most beautiful countryside, great GREAT food, and Spain so very nearby (San Sebastian is a magical city: the architecture is amazing and you eat the best pinxos ever). This part of France is very preserved and authentic.
    I know this comment may sound a bit “too much” but trust me, I’m not exaggerating!

  11. Bun

    August 25, 2011

    I have never been to France…but I would kill to be at ANY beach right now!

    xoxo bun.

  12. brannon

    August 25, 2011

    I would echo the recommendations for Antibes! We did a week based in Menton and traveled from there to Nice, Villefranche sur Mer, Monaco, and Antibes and we have always said that if we could go back to just one place we would choose Antibes. The public bus that drives along the coast is easy to use and makes for a very exciting ride given the direct plunge down to the sea along the side of the road! Have fun!

  13. Jessie

    August 25, 2011

    I was in Marseille around this time last year and it was fantastic. Lots of beaches and beautiful views, and a short drive from Aix.

  14. Sarah @ Designsgood

    August 25, 2011

    If you’ve never been to Cannes, you should go there!

  15. Kallie B

    August 25, 2011

    Antibes. Much more laid back than Nice, and quite lovely.

  16. Maria @ Busy as a Bee in Paris

    August 25, 2011

    Jordan, St. Jean de Luz was my first love when my then fiancé first brought me to France 12 years ago and I still love its charm, my in-laws live in Moliets and there are beautiful beaches there, Hendaye is a nice quiet family beach and Arcachon is the vacationing hotspot, very fun! You can take a peek on my blog for posts about these places. Looking forward to see where you go! Bisous xoxo

  17. Molly

    August 25, 2011

    Canet-Plage just outside of Perpignan. There is nothing in the world like playing at the beach with the breathtaking Pyrenees as the backdrop.

    If you go through Perpignan talk with as many locals as you can and count how many times they say, “Ici, c’est le Centre du Monde.”

    While you’re there head down the coast to Collioure, one of the most intriguing villages to explore in the south of France.

    I can’t wait to find out where you decide to go!

  18. Kate

    August 25, 2011

    I absolutely second Aude’s suggestion. Having lived in the region for almost twelve years it is very un-spoilt and far less crowded than the more touristy “south of France” (ie south east france).
    My home in south west France is in Hossegor (about 20 mins drive north from Biarritz).
    I’ve just written a little blog piece about it:
    I’d suggest you rent a little house in the Landes region & not in Biarritz itself as it’s a little over priced and only a hop skip & a jump away by car. The beaches of the Landes are vast and you’ll always be able to find an un-crowded spot. Check out my local spots here: ….. & you’re just in time as September is the best time of year to be here. Bon Voyage!

  19. La Chapstick Fanatique

    August 25, 2011

    If you wouldn’t mind going Southwest, you can go to Archachon (which is a cute resort town) – it is close to Bordeaux. Close by is the dune of pyla which is the tallest sand dune in Europe. I climbed it a few years back (without using the stairs) and once you get to the top there is a BEAUTIFUL view.

  20. Di

    August 25, 2011

    Gosh – so many places to choose from. My friend and I chose Arles – we’ll head there soon – we want to visit the Camargue, perhaps Uzes, Aix, Avignon, St Remy….not sure we’ll have enough days 😉 But we are desperately hoping for some sun, given the poor summer we’ve had here in Scotland.

  21. Katie

    August 25, 2011

    I’ve never been go the south of France but I imagine it’s amazing! I want to see a ton of pictures when you go! xo

  22. Shelley

    August 25, 2011

    I would also recommend St Jean de Luz and Biarritz – lovely beach towns. Also, like someone already said, it is not far from San Sebastian – one of my favorite Spanish cities. And it’s easy with kids – we took all 3 of ours with us 🙂

  23. Hannah J. Holmes

    August 25, 2011

    I’m always dreaming of the beach…well my dreams are split equally between NYC, Europe, and the beach, I think.

  24. NY_NKE

    August 25, 2011

    Jordan, you should consider Corse, the French Island. It is the most beautiful you have ever seen.

  25. TERESA

    August 25, 2011

    Eze is not Nice, but very nice. It is also the location of the restaurant Chevre d’Or where Morgon Freeman and Jack Nicholson dine at in the Bucket List.

    If you don’t mind a little drive to the beach, St Remy is absolutely charming. Les Baux is a village perched above the valley, where the rock is bauxite (hence the name of the town), the road is beautiful with its twists and turns. With so many beautiful cities in the South of France, I would definitely skip Arles. Obviously, Avignon is very historic and very touristy. Aix is also nice but I like the smaller villages better.

    This article from the NYTimes also mentioned some other places in the South of France as well…

  26. Karen @ Aurelia Interiors

    August 25, 2011

    Don’t spend longer than a day in NICE, you’ll be disappointed. I went and it was just OK. My friends have gone to the small towns along the French Riviera and said it was amazing!!!! I wish I had done the same instead of spending a very expensive three day weekend in Nice which was just so-so.

  27. Lindsay Marie

    August 25, 2011

    Nice and Monaco of course….you can take little train rides to other nearby towns. I would just go to a different beach each day. Each one is unique and special. In Nice its fun to people watch but the beach is pebbles and rocks, not as comfortable as Monaco, which was my favorite beach on the riviera I think…they feed the fish so they swim around your feet and are really cute. It has softer sand and Monaco is just a gorgeous gorgeous place. If you can go, savour every moment….

  28. Kaitlin

    August 25, 2011

    I hear Cap Ferratt is ridiculously gorgeous.

  29. Melissa

    August 25, 2011

    It sounds as though you have a bunch of great suggestions already! I’m just here to recommend a place *not* to go: Cassis. We attempted a day trip there this summer when staying in Provence, and it was the most miserable experience of the trip. A harrowing, winding town with insufficient parking and a sort of Jersey Shore vibe. The beach was gorgeous, but crowded beyond comfort. We ate lunch and left. Next time, Antibes!

    Enjoy your trip!

  30. Bonnie

    August 25, 2011

    Collioure is beautiful and it won’t be as busy now as it is in July- you can swim in the bay & walk up a hill to the windmill and look out over the gorgeous view.

  31. Jenna Wray

    August 25, 2011

    This is heaven:

    I highly recommend spending an afternoon at Cap D’Ail if you are in Nice/Monaco.

    Have fun!

    xoxo O&C

  32. Anna

    August 25, 2011

    How about northern Italy? We went to Levanto this summer. It’s a nice, not to big city, with beach and boulevard. It’s not too touristic, but enough to be comfortable. You can visit the Cinque Terre. You can walk or take a boattrip, or just enjoy the beach. I loved it.

  33. Joaninha

    August 25, 2011

    Biarritz – so lovely, wish I could live there. Cool, beautiful, relaxed. I was planning on going there again next week, but we’ve decided to go to the south of Portugal. Marvelous beaches, lovely food, cool, way cheaper…

  34. Ellen

    August 25, 2011

    Just remember: “NICE IS NICE BUT CANNES HAS SAND”. I wish I’d heard that li’l saying before I was sitting uncomfortably on Nice’s rocky beach! Have fun!

  35. Jantine

    August 25, 2011

    Wonderful (recent) summer memories of the Provence. A really nice B&B in the village of Lorgues, On one of our tours along the coast we came across Saint Jean Cap Ferrat,, picture on my blog:

  36. Faith

    August 25, 2011

    Nice is a wonderful town to spend a day or two; if you do go there, the flower market and farmers market are both famous and beautiful and worth a stop. If you are into cooking classes, Rosa Jackson (a Canadian) offers some great market tours and cooking sessions in her home. My favorite restaurant in Nice is Oliviera, a little shop that specializes in dishes with olive oil – delicious and special.

    However. Having said all that, Nice is not my favorite beach at all. Rocky, and quite crowded in the summer. You can walk the promenade all around it and the parks are great, but if you want to truly go to the beach, I would suggest driving further east into Italy. Skip Sanremo (like the Myrtle Beach of Italy, I swear) and continue on to Alassio.

    Alassio is a perfect tiny beach town. Hemingway used to live there – there are all these memorials to him and other famous writers who spent time there. There are sandy beaches, restaurants right on the beach, and it’s quiet and good for families.

    Just my two cents — have a marvelous trip, wherever you end up!

  37. Lora

    August 25, 2011

    one of the best towns we visited in the south fo france was Le Rayol VEry calm & layed back, lovely mountains to drive around & the beaches were delish…oh & the food great too! Not everyone knows of this- true secret!

  38. Katherine

    August 25, 2011

    Hi Jordan,
    I enjoy your blog. In answer to your question, I would avoid going anywhere in the south of France in August, if you can. Wait until after the French return from their summer holidays. If you go in early September, you’ll still have good weather but will avoid the crowds of holiday makers and the horrendous traffic.
    That being said, I personally am not a huge fan of the Côte d’Azur. I find it too bling-bling for my taste, but I do love the arrière pays and Provence. Some of the places suggested, albeit lovely, are located nowhere near a beach, by the way (I’m thinking in particular of Saint-Rémy).
    If you don’t want to go too far, I would look into these options:
    1. Ile de Ré (a small island off the Atlantic coast, midway b/w Nantes and Bordeaux). Here is their official website:
    2. Ile d’Yeu ( – another island off the Atlantic coast, but more northerly than Ré.
    3. As some others suggested, the Basque country is lovely and has some nice beaches.
    4. Corsica, of course, has great weather but you would have to fly there.
    Good luck with your search!

  39. katie

    August 25, 2011

    fun! we enjoyed antibes (but stayed in nice). pics here in case you’re interested: riviera

  40. C

    August 25, 2011

    Marseille! Lovely beach, very close to centre of town. Lots of lovely seafood and north African restaurants around the harbour. We stayed in the Le Corbusier hotel, a design classic if not right in the centre. Paddling pool on the roof! And good transport. Get the TGV, such fun and so fast.
    Arcachon as recommended above is great too, i remember climbing the dunes with my parents when I was about six, beautiful pictures.

  41. Emmanuelle

    August 25, 2011

    Like Lora, I would say Le Rayol-Canadel, close to Cap Nègre. We have spent every single summer there since the birth of our children, especially at the Bailli de Suffren (which is a fancy hotel but also a brand-new one close to it and the residence where we are used to staying at). There are two beaches within 50 to 100 meters each). It is worth paying for “plage privée” which means you will have “transats” for the day. You should check their website. Have a nice week-end (in advance).

  42. Heather

    August 25, 2011

    I recommend anywhere that touches the Mediterranean! So beautiful and peaceful. No wonder why so many people flock there.

    But when we were in Nice, there was a nice man that said his favorite was spot was St. Tropez (we never made it there).

  43. Heather

    August 25, 2011

    Oh! And the most popular thing to do was get one of those blow-up rafts to lay on the rocks with and then take for a swim. I’m sure the kiddies would love that.


    August 25, 2011

    Bonjour !
    I’m a French girl living in Seattle and following your blog, I think you’d love Sanary-sur-Mer. It’s between Marseille and Toulon, not far away from Aix-en-Provence. You have the vineyards in Bandol, the beautiful beaches in Sanary and so much more. And from there, you can drive to Aix,Cannes, Antibes for the day. You can, also go from Sanary to Vintimille which is in Italy, just at the border with France by train, the railroad is along the sea, a trip to remember. Let me know, if you want more info.

  45. Lauren

    August 25, 2011

    I vote for Antibes. We spent 10 days in the south of france two years ago, and Antibes is the place we miss the most. You should go to Mougin too, a pretty little medieval town not too far from there. Very pretty, not very touristy.

  46. Carrie

    August 25, 2011

    The water in Nice was very warm and clear. The ground was all pebbles, though– fine if you don’t want to get sandy, but not very comfortable to sit on!

  47. Jen

    August 25, 2011

    If you aren’t looking to do the touristy scene, I would recommend Camargue. My French/Swiss husband and I drove down there to camp and kite surf in the spring a few years back, and it is beautiful. Very few international tourists, free camping on the beach, lovely and cheap seafood. Also, lots of meat (they are famous for their bulls) and the famed Camargue sea salt. They have amazing bird watching and wild flamingos everywhere, at least in the spring. Just a suggestion if you are up for something different…

  48. Patisserie Paris

    August 25, 2011

    Nice is a great location for bathing in the sun, but only if you go to the private beaches (which can be costly!). I think we paid 18euros a day (each) for access to the private beach, which included a towel, umbrella and chair.

  49. findingmagnolia

    August 25, 2011

    We go to Nice every year if we can. I agree that some of the smaller towns have better beaches, but we keep going back to Nice because we can get to those smaller towns so easily while still having the conveniences of a larger town. Also, we don’t mind the pebble beaches, so that’s probably a factor for us. Villefranche would be my choice if I were going to stay in a smaller town. It’s lovely, and not far outside Nice. You can also get the train there to go to any of the points along the coast. The Picasso museum in Antibes is a must see.

  50. Lindsay Marie

    August 25, 2011

    ps. everyone is talking about Picasso in Antibes but if you happen to be on team Matisse, like I am, Nice has the best Matisse museum in the most gorgeous neighborhood, its heavenly. Just wanted to add that in!

Comments are Closed

More Recent Posts