September started with a whimper, bringing damp conditions and cool temperatures to our area, a bonus for our parched garden but not appealing to the last of the visitors still enjoying the scenery. It seemed that the conditions had set in for good and we heard mutterings about the arrival of an early cold autumn until one fine morning we woke to bright sunlight and the sound of a garden full of sunbathing birds; our Indian Summer had arrived! Summer itself may be over but we’re not quite ready to give up the sun loungers, bikinis, suncream and sand just yet, so read on because today, for a spot of fun, I am taking a humorous look at French beach etiquette!
September and October sees the departure of the heaving crowds, there is a distinct lack of foreign number plates on the traffic along the coast road and the long line of camper vans behind the dunes is reduced to just a handful off diehards. A trip to the beach becomes as easy as popping out to the local supermarket once more. Lying on a towel last weekend, utterly relaxed, I let my thoughts wander, without the tourists and a multitude of different languages to distract me I was able to watch the French at play. Are beaches elsewhere different or do the same general rules apply everywhere when it comes to the sand and the sea ?
In my mind I started to make a tongue-in-cheek list of the things I thought made French beaches so distinctly different. So here we go; let’s take a little romp in the surf together and please add your own thoughts about seaside etiquette here and anywhere else in the world. Let’s see how amusing we can make this!
YOU KNOW YOU ARE ON A FRENCH BEACH WHEN…
A fair number of people are sunbathing topless, and I mean the women, not the men!
Those that are sunbathing topless all seem to be over 50
(and they aren’t shy either, they will walk to the water and dip their feet without covering up, and they will be with their children, grand children and friends, and no one cares less).
Everyone plays games; ball games, wooden beach skittles, football, frisbees – you name it, they will play it.
All ages mix together, teenagers, young kids and the elderly.
You look around and notice that you are seriously lacking ‘stuff’. It seems the general rule is ‘bring as much as you can and then some more’ in fact everything you can possibly think of, just in case you need it.
And pool-toys come too; big plastic blow-ups in lurid colours are not saved just for the pool; swans, sharks, turtles, anything that is good at home is good in the sea.
Once you are happily ensconced on the sand you decide to go for a stroll; it’s only a few minutes before you start to see a few naked bodies, then a few more, and before you know it you realise you have inadvertently stumbled across the nudist section of the beach.
The men are all wearing ‘speedos’, even those who don’t have a six-packs and perfectly toned bodies, it’s NOT a good look!
The lifeguards are all wearing speedos. Still not a good look, BUT they DO have six packs and perfectly toned bodies.
You’ll be dive-bombed by a large angry kite at least once during the day. Flying these in amongst the crowds seems to be de rigeur.
A picnic is not a sandy sandwich but a full blown affair including wine, of course. A fellow beachgoer may approach you apologetically to borrow your corkscrew and will appear quite bemused if you do not have one.
The beaches are remarkably clean, and certainly here, people really do take their litter home.The local beach-bar is selling oysters and not chicken nuggets.
And the local fishing huts look like, well, very local fishing huts! (incidentally these are unique to this area and known as carrelets).
What’s more these fishing huts rub shoulders, without any embarrassment, with million dollar houses and both look equally at home.
Don’t be shocked if you seem smoke rising from the next door family’s camp, barbecues are allowed on many beaches.
You’ll notice that even though there may be mile upon mile of perfectly smooth sand to enjoy, nearly everyone congregates in the same area.
And when it’s finally time to go home, just in case you have forgotten where you are, you’ll pass a happy group of locals playing petanque, another reminder, where else in the world could you possibly be but in France?