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June 6, 2006 11:30 AM   Subscribe

I want to stay in the French Riviera for a couple of weeks in August. However, much of the research I'm doing implies that it's horribly overpopulated and overdeveloped. Can you suggest a good town, island, or village in which to stay?

The ideal location would have the following characteristics: French or English-speaking, on the Mediterranean, beaches within walking distance of where we're staying, the ability to get away from people (at least for a few hours at a time). Also, this location needs a couple cheap hotels and/or a campground. An old-man-and-the-sea fishing hut for rent on the beach would tickle me pink.

One of the places I considered (after reading of it in a Heinlein novel) is Ile du Levant. I like just about everything about it (especially including the nudism). I just doubt that I can get a hotel booking there.

I was in Nice for a few hours, and found it absolutely beautiful. However, everything I read about it suggests eschewing it. I'm willing to believe that, but if you have some personal suggestions to the contrary, I'd love to hear them.

I'm traveling with my girlfriend. I intend to spend most of my time wandering around exploring, swimming, enjoying the scenery, and most certainly having a few pints in the local bar. However, someplace reasonably close to a big city might be nice--I really want to show her what passes for a French nightclub.

Any thoughts?
posted by Netzapper to Travel & Transportation around France (9 answers total)
I really liked Sete when I was last in France. If that town in itself doesn't fit (and it may not), I'd certainly recommend something in that area: check out a Green Guide.

As to seeing a real city, Nice is an intersting city. I wouldn't spend my whole vacation there, but since you may well fly into it, it'd be worth a few days.
posted by dame at 11:50 AM on June 6, 2006

Response by poster: We're flying into Amsterdam for a little drug tourism, then catching the train south to France. But, we'll likely see Nice regardless.
posted by Netzapper at 11:52 AM on June 6, 2006

Don't know if you're committed to the Cote D'Azur, but in the last 8 years I've summered in France 3 times. First time was in Perpignan and Le Boulou in the Catalan region. The second time was near Draguinan in the Cote D'Azur, and the last time was the Loire Valley.

The Catalan region was hands down the most interesting, and certainly in comparison to the cote d'azur did not seem overpopulated or overdevelopped. Lots of interesting towns with connections to the arts, I'd recommend Ceret, Collioure, or even Perpignan (Salvador Dali once referred to the Perpignan train station as the center of the world, I think he was high at the time).

So that's my personal preference, but, to be sure, I had a wonderful time on each of these visits, so you know, don't worry about it too much.
posted by jrb223 at 11:52 AM on June 6, 2006

I see. You'll definitely find your French nighclub in Nice then. Remembering more about Sete, I take the recommendation back; there is no real campground and it is trashy French on vacation. But the Catalan area or a smaller town in the Languedoc will definitely be more pleasant than the coast closer to Nice.
posted by dame at 11:58 AM on June 6, 2006

Perpignan is touristy in the town but pleasant and lovely outside (where we stayed). It is near the Pyrenees and as a bonus you can arrange, as we did, to drive to Niax to see amazing cave paintings. Not as extensive as other caves in the Dordogne but you get to see the real thing.
posted by bluesky43 at 12:11 PM on June 6, 2006

I stayed in Villefranche-sur-mere for about a week last year...only 30 minutes by car/taxi out of Nice and a totally different feel. Nice beaches, pretty quiet, and relatively cheap hotels (don't know about campgrounds, though). I don't recall seeing much of a nightlife there, however, so if that's a big selling point I wouldn't recommend it (although you could easily just taxi into Nice for the night).
posted by johnsmith415 at 12:45 PM on June 6, 2006

Just as a side note, you might want to start booking stuff now, considering most of August is state-mandated vacation time for the French and I understand the south of France is a pretty popular destination.
posted by johnsmith415 at 12:49 PM on June 6, 2006

I would second jrb's Perpignan/Collioure suggestion. It's cheaper, it's nicer and and it's not swamped with Brits/Yanks/Germans. You can fly to Barcelona and drive up or fly to Perpignan.
posted by TheRaven at 3:33 PM on June 6, 2006

Why not go to Corsica? A couple of hours by boat from Nice. Sandy beaches, cheap hotels and camping sites. And so much less crowded than the French Riviera!
posted by rom1 at 8:50 AM on August 9, 2006

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