You Know You Are On a French Beach When…

IMG_2487September 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!

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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 ?

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.IMG_2499The local beach-bar is selling oysters and not chicken nuggets.

 

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And champagne.

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And the local fishing huts look like, well, very local fishing huts! (incidentally these are unique to this area and known as carrelets).

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What’s more these fishing huts rub shoulders, without any embarrassment, with million dollar houses and both look equally at home.

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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.

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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?

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118 thoughts on “You Know You Are On a French Beach When…

    • Well if it makes you feel any better, after two weeks of gorgeous weather, temperatures in the mid 20’s and endless sun it is wet, grey and very soggy here this morning too!!! Have a great Sunday xx

  • When we first arrived in France, our children were in the habit of covering up with protective ‘rashies’. Our friends had no idea why they were wearing them and deduced that it was to protect against the insects, not the sun. The hats, sunscreen and staying out of the sun in the hottest parts of the day were also non compulsory. Yes, the biggest difference to me was the different attitude to being sunsmart.

    • Yes I know that feeling only too well, slip, slop, slap, was the slogan we adopted in NZ, Slip on a rash top, slop on some suncream and slap on a hat. No one does that here at all. Our still avoid the beach during the mid day sun and usually a couple of hours is our limit, fortunately we are close enough that we can just pop down the road rather than having to make a full day of it and we always have a big umbrella and lots of shade. xx

  • And what about the way the French stare. Maybe it’s just us being Brits, but we’ve tried talking quietly, we don’t look that different, we’re tanned and relatively toned, but how they love to stare! Perhaps it’s because my hauband and two sons are not wearing speedos and I am wearing a bikini top!

    • It’s funny we thought of that one too and I forgot to include it, yes we have all noticed that!! Who knows, I’ve just learnt to ignore it or to make sure that we do something that is completely stare worthy! xx

  • That brought a smile to my rainy Sunday morning! I remember going on an organised trip when I was in Italy a few years ago, as we passed a beach, the guide said that we Brits hate to be near people, whereas the Italians, & it seems the French too, all cluster together & chat, & share wine & food. Sounds like a much better way of life to me…

    • Absolutely true, we do tend to find a “nice quiet spot” I can hear my parents saying that to me and me saying that to the children! Whereas the French all join in together. xx

  • Oh so different from where I live, on the southern coast of Maine–Old Orchard Beach, a tourist area for sure, with lots and lots of Quebecois all summer. You’ll know you’re on an American beach because there won’t be one single spot of sand to lay your blanket–wall to wall people. There will be not just umbrellas but sun tents or sun half tents. No cooking or alcohol allowed. Zilllions of aggressive seaguls who will walk right up to your blanket and take your bag of potato chips. Depending on the time of day, adorable little plovers (tiny sandpiper-like birds) running in packs of 50 skirting the waves looking for worms. Lots of sand castle building. It’s hard to walk because of all the people. We like to walk on the beach at low tide at the end of the day when fewer people are there. We have 7 miles of sandy beach. The tourists have all left but there are still twenty or more people on the beach, some in the water. Maine is akin to Bretagne so the water is cold until August but that doesn’t stop people from paddle boarding or just playing in the water. One thing you’ll also see on American beaches, “hélas”, is litter. We often pick up the litter left behind by inconsiderate beach goers and sometime incredible things, many very big, wash up on the beach, undoubtedly from boats or maybe other beaches, the tide bringing them in. Americans are not so good about picking up after themselves. I’ve been to the beach in Normandy, Brittany, Talmont (on the Atlantic), Cassis and in les Issambres (opposite of St Tropez). I can’t thing of anything to add to your description except to note that in the past I saw only think women on the beaches (not so with men) but last year, I did notice far many more women of many different sizes. But that’s a topic of another day! As always I enjoy your posts. Well written and I always feel I’m there with you. Bonne journée

    • We get the little sand plovers here, adorable, but not many seagulls amongst the beachgoers and plenty of sand castles being built too and writing one’s name in the sand of course. All the usual things. I too have noticed that the French are no longer all super slim, women are of all sizes now and the shops sell far more larger clothes too. Perhaps a subject for another day or perhaps it is one we don’t want to delve into at all! Suffice to say McDonalds is hugely popular here too! xx

  • This was funny. I remember how in England we choose to be miles from anyone, up goes the windbreak, a beach mini empire so to speak, with a no entry sign and changing under towels back into full swimsuits then the mad dash to sea before anyone glimpses your pure white skin. All very discreet.

    Lunch has to be sandy sandwich and cold pork pie and all lugged in the ubiquitous plastic coolbox along with stripy deckchairs that either slice your fingers off when setting up, or collapse after eating the pork pie! Loved it though. Yet to try the French beaches. Should be interesting!

    • I know exactly what you mean and I should have added that there is not a lot of discretion and no one is shy, I have seen so many naked men, (men more than women) who simply drop their swimming trunks and change into regular shorts at the end of the day, not worried, not bothered who sees them, of course we being British, all sit and snigger, but it seems quite normal to the French! I had better not let Roddy read this, one of the few things he misses from England are pork pies! They are classic picnic food along with scotch eggs and sausage rolls! xx

  • We spent a lovely 4 days in Saint Palais sur Mer 2 weeks ago, totally unprepared for the heat! It topped 26! Our own observations there and also San Sebastián earlier in the year: about 2pm, when we are boiling and packing up, down the french come, all ages, the ladies in particular with the low beach chairs.
    A universal etiquette seems to be, you’re on a practicallyempty beach, another group/couple arrive and sit down about 3 metres away, they have the whole beach to choose! Makes us laugh.

    • It is very true, there is plenty of space to park in the morning and the beaches seem busy but not overcrowded at all, this continues through lunch and as you say until 2pm, when suddenly there is a huge influx, parking is impossible and it seems as if everyone descends on the beach. And yes, they sit right next to each other! The weather was perfect and beautiful, 28 yesterday and Friday, and today it is raining! But we are told that after a couple of wet days October looks good, fingers crossed. Maybe we will have a few more beach outings at weekends before winter! xx

  • The lifeguards in Oz still wear Speedos – affectionately referred to as budgie smugglers, but I think that Australians are generally more sun smart when it comes to children or being over 50. The age groups in between are far more variable with their approach to sun safety. I would be happy if we renounced our fish and chips for champagne and oysters!

    • I love that expression, spot on!! It seems the young are starting to wear long shorts here, but the older men are firmly stuck in their ways, with their tight and tiny speedos and in public pools boys of all ages from 6 to 60 all have to wear them, our son nearly died when he realised he was going to have to buy a pair and put them on if he wanted to swim with his friend whilst camping in France last summer!! xx

      • “Budgie smuggler” is a new one for me 😀 Although I have heard the speedo-style referred to in Canada as a noodle bender. It’s funny that it’s mostly the older generation of French women who go topless — I’m sure the men wish it was the opposite!

      • Noodle bender, brilliant, oh that made me laugh. I am sure we could all come up with any manner of names for them, let’s face it they leave absolutely nothing to the imagination! And yes, I am quite sure the men wish it was quite the opposite, I have never seen anyone young topless, I say over 50, possibly it is over 60, but never ever even a 40 year old as far as I can tell, it is very much an older generation thing.xx

      • my French “family” calls the “mouille couille” LOL.. I think since men can’t wear swim trunks in a pool in France but have to wear speedos, men probably just have the one suit and are use to it.

      • I have never heard that name before but wow it made me laugh, very accurate description! I think the men are just used to them, it’s only us foreigners who take notice! xx

  • What a lovely surprise, Susan. A Sunday Blog post!
    Great article on beach etiquette. 😎👙 I remember the first and last time my husband and myself inadvertainly ended up on a topless beach in St Martin. Yikes…it was actually hilarious. Yes, Susan the older the topless the more brazen they became! 🤔
    One thing I’ve seen is men and women with metal detectors. I’ve always wonder how many actually find anything.
    I am so glad you included the carrelets. I think they add such a “dimension” to the water. What a “fun” alternative to fishing in a boat!
    The sunset photo is spectacular! ❤️

    • You can tell it is getting nearer winter, or perhaps I should say that it is raining today, I have time to do a Sunday blogpost!! St Martin, a place we know very very well having lived on the neighbouring island of Anguilla for a couple of years when our youngest was just a baby. We would take the boat over to St Martin to shop once a week in Marigot. I wonder how much they find with metal detectors, possibly quite a bit on a busy beach, it is so easy to drop a euro or two here and there without even noticing. I love the carrelets, several have been bought and are now used as beach huts, that would be my dream, imagine, they could be gorgeous, simple and yet sophisticated inside and what a view! xx

      • Some of the smallest spaces make the loveliest memories. Ideas are always swirling around in my head for a new decorating project! 🤔
        I was wondering how is Izzie doing in London?
        Such a wonderful adventure for her just out of school!
        Have a lovely week! ❤️

      • They do indeed, I am always on the lookout for a fishing hut that might be for sale at a sensible price, it would be a dream come true! Izzi is having a wonderful time, thank you so much for asking. She landed her dream job, thanks to an internship that led to a full time offer. She is now furiously flat hunting with a friend. But loving London life, I remember those days very well, her whole life ahead of her, we are of course so proud of her. Can’t wait to go over and visit very soon. Hope you too have a lovely week xx

  • Long may this Indian summer stay with us! I remember when I lived in Juan les Pins some years ago being entirely alarmed when the frankly elderly lady next to me stripped to a thong. She was already a Trumpian shade of tanned and over the summer worked her way to full mahogany and beyond. She was actually delightful and I think though me a little odd in not wanting to bear the boobies. My other remark concerns the equipment. One of the things that my Hubble and I laugh about is how the French have to be absolutely perfectly attired and equipped for all occasions. For example if you decide to go running. I wear old leggings and a long sleeved T-shirt possibly even with mismatched socks, they wear coordinated Lycra EVERYTHING including special socks and sweatbands for every part of the body and make me look like the local bag-woman. Which I am sure is how they view me!! This was such an enchanting and amusing interlude. And I end with what I said at the beginning … long may the summer limp on! Xx

    • Ah yes the thongs, another thing that seem to be reserved for the older generation too and that deep mahogany colour, well all I can say is, I prefer to have fewer lines and a much paler skin! But oh the sports equipment, I feel I am quite well educated on this subject being around sports people every day and yes you are totally correct. Everything must match, and everything is the latest and trendiest and most in fashion. Cycling seems to be much the same, when we go cycling we are always the only ones in jeans, or shorts and a t shirt, whereas locals, even just to go for a few kilometres for fun are kitted out to perfection. If you look like the bag woman of Eastern France then I am the bag woman of Western France!xx

      • All hail the bag women of both sides of the country … long may we ride (bikes, horses, ski lifts – maybe even skateboards … what do you say?!!) xx

      • Totally agree, and beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and all that, and I think I look just fine in my glad rags for fitness as opposed to the latest lycra, I’ll leave that to the kids, who I have to admit, wear it so much better than I do!! xx

      • Know that feeling! I am fine with lycra tennis skirts, they seem to be quite flattering actually, so long as one forgets the matching debardeur! I’ll leave that to the girls, they have the bodies to rock that look, I do not!!! xx

      • They have those bodies because they they have your genes. They have a very glamorous mummy but one of the crucial keys to glamour is to age gracefully and never ever be mutton dressed as lamb or heaven forbid looking as though one is trying to compete without gorgeous girlies. I think xx

      • Ha ha, you are too kind, but not really true, I never think of myself as in the least bit glamorous, I tend to live in jeans and sneakers, albeit I do have a bit of a thing for gold sneakers at the moment!! However, I do so totally agree with you in not trying to dress like our daughters, there is nothing that makes people look older than trying to pretend they are a 20 year old. I think we need to stick to what suits us and I prefer elegant to trendy, but I have never quite pulled off the elegant look either!! Just to make you laugh,(this is a typical day to day scenario for me), I started out the day looking quite good, I felt good, newly blow dried hair, great outfit, lightweight linen scarf, all went well together. Then the drizzle came down, a fine mist that creates absolute havoc with my hair. So first off the clothes were all covered with a giant raincoat, I prefer a great old one of Roddy’s as it comes down to my knees, I was standing on a tennis court after all, not in a city! Secondly, the hair went frizzy, in the end I watched with my hood covering most of my face and by the time I got home I looked like I had been dragged through a hedgerow several times backwards!!! xx

      • Frizz sister, I feel your coiffeured pain! When I get around to writing about the interior of this gorgeous place I am living in (the comments seem to point to people wanting the inside as well as the out) I will include my uber chic neighbors 😳… I am, as they say, a work in progress and I have an apéro to partake in in Saturday … I just don’t feel I can live up to it!!!! Roddy’s raincoat seems like the answer xx

      • Roddy’s raincoat hides a multiple of sins, large enough for two of me, but then the oversized look is all the rage at the moment so at least I am bang on trend!!! I am sure you will look fabulous on Saturday, I’ll just keep my fingers crossed for you that it is clear and dry and not a day for frizzy hair! xx

      • I’ve recently discovered co-washing (or no-poo as my delightful eldest daughter calls it) – I no longer use shampoo at all and wash my hair with conditioner that contains nothing that ends in ‘cone’ – silicone for example. Every few weeks I use a gentle clarifying shampoo to get rid of any build up. I can honestly say my hair is more manageable than before and has less of a tendency to full angry-cat puffball than it did before though I have yet to test it in fierce winter conditions. But honestly, the conditioner I use is inexpensive and I am confident to wash my hair more often than before – before I used to dread doing it because it was so risky!! So it used to be once a week and now it’s three times and much bouncier. Do you remember those rain bonnets ladies used to keep in their bags – see-through and with ribbons that tied under the chin and they packed to the size of a small comb? Funny what conversations trigger in the memory banks. Xx

      • No poo, I need to learn more, sounds fascinating and terrifying at the same time! I’ll switch to email! I do remember those bonnets, and the weekly shampoo and set my Mother used to have every Friday! I am off to wash my hair, I need to talk to you first before I go the no poo route, but today looks sunny and bright here and not a rain cloud in sight, hope I haven’t just jinxed it x

  • I really enjoyed this Susan as it did remind me of our sampling of the nudist beach where all the women were way past 50 and the men were all ages! It was certainly an eye opener… Unfortunately the beach is too far for us to leave the dogs but I have serious withdrawal. We are selling the house but can’t find anything that works for us and be nearer to the sea. As for the weather it was boiling yesterday and damp today but October is looking good. xx

    • It is an eye opener, but we have got fairly used to it! Do please email me, I would love to know your plans and where you are looking, maybe I can help? We have had fabulous weather for two weeks until today, but I believe come Wednesday it is going to be lovely again. xx

  • I always hear a collective gasp from American tourists about the topless aspect of European beaches and noticed the same phenomena in Majorca when I traveled there but found the custom refreshing that beach goers were so uninhibited about body image. It never bothers me, but Speedos…now that’s another topic and best left to the likes of Michael Phelps than your average beach goer. 🏊

    • No one has any inhibitions here at all, which is a good think I think, I cannot tell you the number of times we have seen people stripping off at the end of the day, especially men, everything there for everyone to see as they change to go home!! But I do agree, speedos are just not my style at all, our son had to wear them when he went camping with his friend in France last year, they are obligatory in public pools, he was not at all impressed and we teased him endlessly. Apparently they are more hygienic, the thoughts behind this being that with long shorts it is possible that someone has worn them all day and then gets into the pool which is unhygienic whereas speedos are specifically for the pool. That is what we were told. xx

      • I suppose that makes sense if you stretch the logic. Thankfully men don’t go parading around in them beyond the beach! LOL Having less inhibitions is a good thing in particular with young people. There’s no need to allow one more thing to tilt their already fragile psyches with body issues.

      • I totally agree with that, I think it is rather good that they change without a care in the world, it is vital that we feel comfortable with our bodies gives us all so much more confidence. xx

  • at first glance it seems that beaches look world wide the same and I agree, Speedos are horrible looking and are
    obviously worn only by the French men and older generation. I saw also many men in that outfit in Asia…oldfashioned. In Spain they wear oversized Bermudas which look also
    absurd (to my opinion). And yes,I agree, French beaches (particularly the Atlantic coast) are more cleaner than the Spanish one. Here, unfortunatelly people don’t care much about cleanliness either on beaches nor somewhere else
    and this summer they were too crowded.

    • I think we all agree that speedos really are a look that does no one any favours, but let’s be honest they do give us plenty to talk about! I am very happy that our beaches are so clean, there are always plenty of rubbish bins provided in the car parks and people really do take pride in keeping our beaches clean, it makes it so much nicer for everyone. Our beaches are also very crowded in the summer, but as the French all tend to stick together, so long as one is prepared to walk a little way, there is plenty of space to be found! xx

  • I have been to many French beaches and have seen the very same. I will say that my American sensibilities were a little overwhelmed when I went to the beach with a group of French friends including 3 men and they all striped to nothing.

    Thanks for the Sunday laugh.

    • I can imagine, it must have been quite a shock until you got used to it! But there is much to be said for the lack of inhibitions I think. As Brits, I think we are somewhere in the middle, not as liberated as the French though! xx

  • I like the food and drink parts of this. In the mid-seventies, when I was in Europe for almost a year, I accidentally ended up at a nude beach on Mykonos. It’s not the exciting, erotic place you might think. In most cases, more would be better!! And let’s not even get started on men wearing Speedos! I’d go back to the champagne, but I have to leave for work shortly and that wouldn’t work. 🙂

    Enjoy these lovely day, Susan.

    janet

    • Ha ha, no it’s not erotic at all, it just makes me laugh, usually a bunch of slightly overweight middle aged and elderly people. Nothing wow about it at all, but if that’s what they want to do then good for them is what I say. Each to their own. Like you though, I agree, the champagne is a much better bet! Hope you had a good day at work and a great week ahead xx

  • Lovely photos and observations, Susan. I first saw topless sunbathers at a Club Med we stayed at. Many of the women were well past their ‘sell by’ date, but that didn’t seem to deter them. 🙂

  • I remember the first time I went to a French beach, I couldn’t stop staring, not at the people sunbathing quietly topless, that was fine, it was the ladies parading up and down the beach without a top, and they didn’t care, I was shocked and also realized how prudish we Americans are. I like the European lack of inhibitions, it’s refreshing and somewhat liberating and I don’t have a problem with it at all. Here even small children run and hide when they change, I find that worrying.

    • I know just what you mean. Those lying quietly on towels don’t even get a second glance it is those walking along the sand, down to the beach that make me take notice. But as you say, it is very liberating and good for them. It is wonderful to feel so comfortable within one’s own skin. xx

  • What a fabulous twofold surprise, one to have a post on a Sunday, a bonus this week and two the subject. So much fun and so entertaining and very accurate!

    • I try to post on a Sunday whenever I can, but with a big family and plenty of activities with them I don’t get as much time as I would like for the blog. However, this was a great fun post to write and I so enjoyed sharing it! xx

  • I think I would like to be French just for the lunch on the beach, champagne and oysters certainly beats a warm bottle of water and a sand filled sandwich!

    • I know just what you mean, but remember oysters here are really not a luxury, they are eaten regularly and enjoyed by a great many. Champagne is also drunk far more frequently than in other countries. However, our picnics on the beach tend to be something in between the two which suits me just fine! xx

  • Susan,so enjoy your Sunday posts,and always,the wonderful pictures!
    Thank you!
    You gave us food for thought today,particularly regarding inhibitions.In all the years we spent visiting the beaches along the Pacific Cpast,never once did we see anyone topless,or ,for that matter,outside of the younger set,people in speedos.
    Such a thing there would be considered totally inappropriate behavior.
    Lynn McBride of Southern Fried French(which is where I learned about your wonderful blog),just featured an excellent post entitled “A Pissing Contest”–which,as you might guess,was about bathroom habits in France(and sparked many comments of how they are elsewhere).
    This brings us back to inhibitions,or the lack of,and makes one wonder why in the world we get so uptight about bodily functions or nakedness.Perhaps it is how and where one is brought up,and how we accept those guidelines as the standard for ourselves.
    At 71 (and even in younger days) I would/could not be topless in public but certainly don’t fault anyone who is.
    An expression from the 60’s comes to mind here:”different strokes for different folks”.

    • I totally agree with you Natalia, I am certainly going to go and have a look at Lynn’s post, it sounds brilliant and absolutely spot on! It think it does depend where one is brought up, what shocks one does not shock another. It is not something I would do but I have no problem with it either. However I do think that a slightly more open outlook as regards our bodies and inhibitions is good. I hate it when I see young children, and I mean 5 or 6 year olds embarrassed by their nakedness, they have nothing to hide. However, I don’t think there is any right or wrong here, each to their own. Hope you have had a lovely weekend xx

  • You mean to say that Roddy didn’t wear his speedo’s on the beach? As they say……When in Rome! Lol

    • No No and most definitely No, did Neil wear his??? I think that is another No too. But you have to admit the French beach is a great place for people watching! Alas, after two weeks of glorious weather today it is pouring with rain, but meant to be lovely again by mid week. Then we might get to have that lunch on the beach I keep promising Roddy and I!!! xx

      • Lol…..I would disown him if he did!
        Yes people watching fascinates me everywhere, especially on a beach.
        The French have no inhibitions unlike us Brits!

      • Yes so would I, it’s a hideous thought! But Jack did have to wear them once when he went camping with a friend in the Ardeche last year. Public pools do not allow anything but speedos, apparently for health reasons, it means the swimming trunks are completely used just for swimming and there is no risk that the person will have worn them all day around town etc!! xx

  • Hi Susan, back in 2006 I was on a beach in Nice (pebbles – no sand like in Australia!) – and a woman dressed in a smart corporate suit, high heels, the lot, sat next to us. She undressed down to what looked like undies, removed her bra (? Bikini top), sunbathed for half an hour then got dressed and left! I guess she was on her lunch break! I’ve never forgotten that! Thanks for the great post – brought back fond memories of many trips to stay with French family friends in Noumea as a teenager in the 60’s & the beach going habits of the French there even then.

    • How fantastic, thanks so much for telling us this story Mary-Jill, I would imagine it probably was her underwear, but then French do take their lingerie very seriously so I am sure it was a perfect matching set that probably looked better than many people’s bikinis and there is not a lot of difference anyway! Our beaches here on this part of the Atlantic coast are all beautiful soft sand, I am pleased to say! Hope you have had a lovely weekend. xx

    • Thanks so much, this was such a fun thing to do. It is always so much fun to sit on a French beach and just people watch, so much to see and it is always entertaining and one learns a lot too! xx

  • Oh Susan, I can but comment on our stretch of shingle and mention things that are surely part of your childhood – handkerchiefs on heads, wooden deckchairs with a mind of their own, fish and chips in newspaper, a Mr Whippy van and goosebumps galore. I think French beaches – especially down south where it is warmer – hold all the aces!

    • It’s funny we were only talking with a french friend the other day about good old English fish and chips and how really the only way to eat them is straight from the newspaper, sitting on a wall overlooking the sea, with a good dose of salt and vinegar of course! Goosebumps, Mr Whippy’s 99’s, they are all part of my childhood! xx

  • Oh what fun! I am still laughing about the budgie smuggler. Here the speedo is unusual and part of the fun of many beaches is the boardwalk, where there are little eating places and shops looking out to sea. It’s lovely, the beach, as long as it’s warm and there’s sun!

    • I too am laughing, I had heard of a budgie smuggler before, but never some of the other names! We have several beaches to choose from here, often in the height of the season we will head for the huge ones where the Atlantic rolls in and the sands stretch for miles and they back onto the sand dunes and pine forests. However, in spring and autumn when the crowds have gone we often choose the smaller little coves which are also lined with shops and restaurants, because like your boardwalks, it is a fabulous place just to wander and to be able to gaze out to sea. xx

  • Oh, Susan, I am laughing aloud at both your wonderful story – vive la France again! – and many of the comments! I so wish the French way was the world way! Champagne and oysters and wear whatever you like!! Nudity certainly does not offend me tho’ the wrong age- and size-group oft feels the need for it most – and budgie smugglers are doing very well indeed in Australia! Quite frankly both media and man-on-the-street know our previous Prime Minister Tony Abbott not only as the ‘Mad Monk’ but for his bright red budgie smugglers [oh does he strut :)!]: one is not mentioned without the other! Slip-slop-slap of course is our ‘national mantra’ also . . . . I have mixed feelings – by all means wear a hat and cover up with a t-shirt not to get sunburnt, but sunscreens are known to be oh so poisonous I would curtail their usage whenever I can – just stay on the beach for a shorter time and not in the midday sun, as Noel Coward suggested. Sadly I have lost four friends to melanoma – not one ever went to the beach, as a matter of fact, three barely left their offices. Things are not as simple as they may seem!!

    • I have to admit I just spent a couple of minutes googling Tony Abbott and his speedos, I had no idea he was a fan, but now I have seen more than enough!! I do agree with suncream though, whilst slopping it on is a good idea, in general, seeking shade and cover and avoiding the midday sun is far far better. I try to limit the amount of suncream and we only use it when we absolutely have to. The French just don’t understand covering up, I think we are nearly always the only ones on the beach in t shirts! Thanks for sharing this via email amongst your friends by the way, always always really appreciated. Have a great week xx

      • *laughing* Dislike the ‘Mad Monk’ so much I had NEVER Googled him until I got curious tonight – oh dear, worse than I thought . . . . well, at least Putin looked even more dreadful! But methinks I like the term ‘budgie smugglers’ better than ‘grape smugglers ‘ and the rest . . . . . look where oysters and champagne and dancing in moonlight on the beach got us . . . .

      • Where would we be without google? I have never looked up speedos before, you and Tony Abbott started it and guess what names they list!! Amongst a few are ‘nut hut, marble sack and pickle pincher’ you will have to look the list is endless and some really did make me laugh! I think I’ll stick to the image of oysters and champagne and the beach at sunset!!! xx

  • You got that right! I know I’m at a French beach when I can take the top of my bikini off and not get arrested for indecent exposure. And I know I’m at a French beach because my French husband can frown when one of the kids that are playing with a soccer ball too close to us hits him and he snarls and stands and starts scolding them in French and the kids say “desole” and nobody threatens to sue my husband because their “babies” were offended.
    Damnit. I need to get out of Trump country and move to France as soon as possible.

  • Oh, how I miss the beaches of France! I remember a very romantic evening of drinking champagne, eating oysters fresh from the sea and dancing on the beach at Arcachon. Though I now live near the beach in Southern California, it’s not nearly as much fun. I only know of 2 beaches that allow fires for cooking and none that permit topless female sunbathers or alcohol but here in my town alone we have 5 or 6 dog beaches! And Speedos are called ‘banana hammocks’ here, haha.
    Thanks for another lovely post!

    • Sounds like it was a fabulous evening, the beaches around Arcachon are fabulous. Dogs are all banned from the beaches here during the warmer months, which I think makes perfect sense, but in the winter it is the perfect place to take them for a long walk. Banana hammocks is a new one, and a brilliant one, love it xx

  • Speedos? Those who wear these, and it used to be solely continentals, were always referred to as ‘grape smugglers’ in my youth. It still makes me smile when I visit a French beach and see speedos being used. Hilarious blog entry, Susan – I agree with all you say, and I love the beaqches of the SW; a regular stop-off for Amy and I on our trips down to the Pyrenees is one we always visit just south of St Jean de Luz. Rocks for beers and a saucisson dismemebering department, and sand for toes and white feet. Water always pleasant and never too many people, even in August. The only downside is having to park at the side of the coast road and never knowing as you climb back up whether you’ll find the car intact. I suspect you know the area 🙂

    No longer sure we can do our trip this autumn, Amy has been promoted at work and I fear long weekends will be put to one side for a while. I’ll email you if things change.

    • Grape smugglers, yes I have heard that one before too, the names we call them, I love it! I do know the beaches around St Jean de Luz, all of them beautiful and I know exactly about parking alongside the road as well although we have never had a problem, I wouldn’t worry too much. Congratulations to Amy, that is fantastic news, I am sure long weekends will be on the agenda again soon once she has got into her stride with the new position. Hopefully we will see you in the New Year. xx

  • Give me oysters and champagne at a beachside restaurant any day, certainly way better than sandy picnics! You still get to taste the salt but it is meant to be there!

    • I know what you mean. Sand is just a part of beach picnics, no matter how had one tries it just manages to creep in! But I have to admit I love a good picnic spread out on the sand, there is just something about the setting that I adore. xx

      • I do understand. Unless one is able to take along chairs, tables etc., which when one has to walk a fair distance is out of the question, then beach picnics are not always the most comfortable! Plus there is always the sand, but somehow that just adds to the atmosphere! However, a perfect beach side restaurant with a stunning view is always a bonus!

      • At my age it is the best option. The grand children enjoy the sand and I enjoy a cold glass of wine and a little comfort. That is how I do the beach now.

      • And I think you are very wise, sounds like the absolute perfect solution, the best of both worlds. Plus you don’t have to worry about clearing up, washing up or preparing food!! When our children are older and have their own families, I will remember this is the way to do things!! xx

  • Wasn’t it a fabulous weekend? We were on the beach both days too at St Gilles and Bretignolles sur Mer. Funnily enough my aunt commented that the French beachgoers were mostly doing something (flying kites, surfing, volleyball,walking dogs) not just lying toasting themselves. I didn’t see any topless or naked folk, perhaps I wasn’t looking hard enough! I’ve noticed that older children play together with the younger ones here, unlike the UK when kids try to offload their younger siblings for fear of looking uncool. And yes, the French picnics put ours to shame.

    • Wasn’t it fabulous and the entire week was beautiful with us, Saturday too, we ate outside and it was too hot! Then yesterday the rain descended, and it felt as if autumn had returned again. I am sure we are going to have to think about wood and fire lighting at some stage this month, but that’s ok, those cosy evenings are something to look forward to. I too love that everyone and all ages mix so well together here, not just on the beach but everywhere, it is very refreshing and one of the things I enjoy so much about living here. French picnics are fabulous, but I still miss pork pies scotch eggs and sausage rolls!!! xx

  • I rather like how the French just get on with things, they are not worried what people think, if they want to do it, they do it. I find that quite refreshing.

    • That is very much their attitude with a lot of things, whereas we British tend to keep quiet or do anything rather than stand out in the crowd, the French are quite the opposite. It takes a little getting used to living here, but I am becoming more and more French! xx

  • Susan, which little cove with oysters do you recommend. going back to San Diego next Tues., but think I must fit in a beach (avec les huitres et chanpagne bien sur) before I go!

    • Plage du Chay in Royan, absolutely superb. If you come up this weekend, let’s at the very least meet for coffee, I have been so busy, which I will explain when we meet, I don’t really have a moment to spare most of the time these days. But this weekend is for once relatively straight forward!! xx

  • My most surreal experience on a local beach outside of Wilmington, NC was on a Sunday, early afternoon, when my daughter and I arrived at our favorite local public beach to find llamas on the sand. There was a group of Llama owners setting up for “Llama Games” on the beach. There were about 12 Llamas, and their owners. Some has traveled there from adjoining states to participate. We watched in amusement as they did “Llama Limbo”, and Llama relay races. The relay involved throwing two children’s plastic sand buckets over the Llama’s backs – the buckets were attached to each other with twine – then the owners would race their Llamas to the surf, remove the buckets, fill them with water, and race back to the staring post. Winner arrived first, with both buckets containing water. The Llama’s running back from surf to starting line often jostled all the water out of the child-sized beach buckets.No water in the buckets, no winner.

    The most disappointing thing about stumbling upon this group activity was their total lack of interest in involving the amazed beach-goers in their antics. They were totally self-absorbed in their group and their games, and seemed annoyed with questions from the gathered throng of spectators, or photos, or anything. Do Llama’s enjoy being on the beach? Are they indiginous to beach areas? Where are you from? How far did you travel to participate? May I take a picture with your Llama? May my children pet them? All questions were met with a somewhat annoyed attitude. They were just there to do their own thing, and there was no joy in sharing info about their wonderful animals, or their group, or in just being friendly on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. I go to that beach often. The Llama Games have never returned as far as I know, but I always look for them!

    • OMG I have never heard of llama games on a beach or anywhere else. How brilliant, like you, I would have been fascinated and would have watched enthralled, but likewise, I would also have wanted to ask questions and what a huge shame that the general beachgoers weren’t able to be more involved. I wonder if they will ever return? xx

  • Love to see French bloggers getting it in with good blogging. Stopping by to spread love the Brooklyn way from the United States of America. Much love and respect to all the beautiful French bloggers. Keep on keeping on! 🙂

  • A fun piece Susan, I read this one out to Mr T who also enjoyed it. Speedos are now considered to be extremely bad taste in Australia, although our ex Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, fancied himself in red speedos and became the butt of many jokes and cartoons as a result. Sppedos are nicknamed ‘budgie smugglers’ here. Even the young and handsome young lads prefer to be seen in a nice pair of board shorts. Bikinis are not usually worn by many women over 40. Australians live at the beach but most are quite modest.
    ( PS, I’ve sent you an email) x

    • I saw the photos of Tony Abbott, after Eha suggested I go and have a look on google, I had to laugh, I had not seen them before and had no idea!! I think board shorts look so much better even on the fittest of bodies. Bikinis are worn by everyone here, a one piece is a rarity even in the ladies of 50, 60 and 70! I have emailed you back, hope you are having a fabulous time xx

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