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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Michelin Stars of the Beach...Blue Flags

Well, it's official: summer has arrived. If I wasn't tipped off by the cicadas, Pastis, & copious amounts of Rosé drinking, then the current rush of tourists has certainly caught my attention. In many ways it's quite pleasing: Italian girls chatting on the bus, sidewalk cafés brimming with people, & finally some nightlife in our town after months of snooze-ville. On the other hand, I've found myself fighting to wedge my towel among the bronzed-bodies getting in their share of Med-time at our local beaches.  And while I was trying to do as the French do & get my sun-on this week, I discovered a little article by the Riviera Times which helps explain why we might see more sun-worshipers in our neck of the Sud.

So, between obsessing about what the sun is doing to my newly-planted garden, and what French glacé (ice cream) is doing to my waistline, I read a bit about Blue Flag Beaches.  According to the Riviera Times, Blue Flag beaches meet a set of criteria set by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) which includes testing water quality & pollution levels. The FEE is a non-profit organization & each town can submit an application for Blue Beach designation; essentially creating "the Michelin star of the beach world".  The program is not limited to France, and currently more than 3450 beaches in 41 countries around the world have been selected. Although, it does seem difficult to measure how important a Blue Flag designation really is, and the Riviera Times article also questioned its real level of influence in relation to tourism & numbers.  Nonetheless, after reading the list of Blue Flags for Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur (PACA), these flag-worthy beaches are truly quite exceptional. 

I'm doing most of my sunbathing in the "hidden" beaches (along with about half the town) near our home, but I have been to several of the Blue Flags, and it looks like the beaches of La Lavandou rank top for our area.  I think I'll stick with our concealed coves for the moment (skipping the infamous "naturalist" one for sure), but here is a list of the other Blue Flag Beaches in the area:

Antibes-Juan les Pins
Cap d'Ail

La Croiz-Valmer
La Londe-les-Maures
Le Lavandou
Le Pradet

[photos- top: Pampelonne beach; middle: Toulon / Club 55 at Pampelonne; bottom: Nice]


  1. Blue Flag Beaches, uh? I wonder where this non-profit originates from since it is already in 41 countries.
    Well, good to hear you are hiding in non-naturalist beaches for now. Can't wait to hear when you visit the opposites. that will be Tuula's biggest leap, larger than traveling from one country to other. :)

  2. How I miss France. It's stifling hot here in Toronto and I've already started my countdown until I'm back home. Thanks for the post and for the photos!

  3. I've been checking blue flag designations here in Italy for years. They really are a great way to know if a beach is safe and clean, and if the water is not polluted. Some towns that invest a lot in promoting themselves may neglect to mention the fact that their water isn't the healthiest, but the blue flag designation is a sign of quality that you can't fake! It's priceless in a country where a lot of the beautiful sites have been ruined by industrial pollution and illegal waste dumping. I don't know if France shares that unfortunate problem...

  4. And I was just thinking it's time to get my sun on! Thanks for the list of clean beaches, because I'm sure my husband wouldn't have had a clue. bisous

  5. Hi Tuula, thanks for stopping by my blog - I'm glad you did as now I have discovered yours! :) It's nice to know where the blue flag beaches are for when I get to go South. I also like finding the more secluded, smaller, off the track beaches. I look forward to following your future posts. Enjoy the beach!