The picture above is one of my favorites from my recent trip to Europe. It was taken during a hike along the coast near the French town of Le Lavandou. In addition to being a charming and less expensive alternative to such Mediterranean stand-bys as Saint Tropez, Le Lavandou boasts twelve beaches, each with its own character.
While there, I set a goal to visit as many of Le Lavandou’s beaches as I could in a single day. Many are a car ride away, but I had no access to a vehicle and prefer to hike, anyway. In a day I visited six beaches, taking the time to swim at each one. Though you can do the trip by following a long and winding road, I chose to remain as close to the shore as I could, meaning that my hike often veered into coasteering territory as I ran out of rocky coast to walk or clamber over and was forced to wade through the Mediterranean waves. These are not complaints.
Every few minutes or yards, I’d come across another beach; some perfectly maintained while others were wild and natural; some were dotted with children and others populated with older men and women equipped with books and snorkeling gear. One was a nude beach, so I stripped off my bathing suit and enjoyed a few moments of unabashed freedom before moving on.
The town itself reminded me of a California beach town, like Laguna or Newport. It seems that, in the summer, Le Lavandou is overrun with students and a more raucous place, but I was there in early September and the town was quiet, tranquil, almost sleepy, while the waters were still warm and restos still open. It offered a refreshing blend of relaxing and exciting, with quiet street-side dining at night and hiking and swimming during the day.
Le Lavandou is a perfect alternative to the overpriced and overcrowded resort towns of the Cote d’Azure, offering all of the charm and none of the hassle.