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