These days in Paris, we’re experiencing une canicule (a heatwave). If you weren’t already thinking of heading à la plage (to the beach) for a refreshing getaway, you probably are now!
France has thousands of lovely beaches, from the sweeping golden shores found on the Atlantic Coast in places such as Bretagne (Brittany), Normandie (Normandy) and Biarritz, to the hidden coves and sparkling turquoise waters of la Mediterranée (the Mediterranean) in the South of France. The stunning island of Corse (Corsica) also offers extraordinary white sand beaches, and you’ll find amazing, plages sauvages (wild/unspoiled beaches) in the Poitou-Charente region.
If you’re really desperate for some sand-time but can’t leave Paris, there’s always Paris plage, an artificial beach created for one month every summer in the city center. This beach, which runs along the Seine, has several tons of imported sable (sand), chaises longues (beach chairs) and palmiers (palm trees), ice-cream stands, live music, and plenty of other activities. Although you’re not going to think yourself swept away to a beach in Cannes, it’s definitely worth a visit.
French Beach Attire
If you’re going to French beach for the first time, you should there are a few things you should know – mainly about attire. Depending on where you are from, it may surprise you to see men of every age wearing tiny Speedos, and women of every age wearing tiny bikinis, and small children wearing nothing at all. In France, the body isn’t something to be hidden away in shame. It’s perfectly acceptable to wear as little as possible.
Which brings me to plages naturistes (nude beaches). You may have heard about France’s nude beaches, and it’s true that they are plentiful here. But that doesn’t mean that it’s acceptable for adults to run around tout nu (fully naked) any beach they choose. If you want to get naked on a beach, here a few tips:
- Research French nude beaches first. With a little Googling, it’s easy enough to find plages naturistes in any region.
- Observe the locals. If you’re not sure whether it’s socially acceptable to go full monty or topless, watch what the locals do. If you don’t see it, don’t do it. As a foreigner, you shouldn’t be the one to try to change the local custom.
- Don’t be rude. Taking pictures, staring, pointing or speaking loudly about nude beach-goers is a gross breach of etiquette. If you’ve accidentally stumbled upon a nude beach or upon the random naturiste / nudiste (nudist) and it makes you feel awkward or offended, simply go elsewhere.
French Beach Vocabulary
And now, here are some beach words that may come in handy during your vacances balnéaires (beach vacation).
La sable – the sand
Les lunettes de soleil – the sunglasses
La serviette de plage – the beach towel
Le parasol –beach umbrella
La crème solaire – the sunscreen
Le maillot de bain – the swimsuit
Coup de soleil – sunburn
Le château de sable – the sandcastle
La pelle – the shovel
Le râteau – the rake
Le seau – the bucket
L’eau – the water
La vague – the wave
Le courant – the current
La marée haute –high tide
La marée basse –low tide
Un poisson – a fish
Une étoile de mer – a starfish
Une algue – algae
Un coquillage – a seashell
Une mouette (a seagulls)
A few useful verbs
Nager – to swim
Plonger – to dive
Prendre un bain de soleil – to sunbathe
Faire un pique-nique – to have a picnic
Faire un château de sable – to make a sand castle
Will you be going to a French beach this summer? Where will you go? Share with us below!