Can I get some Southern Comfort?


I kind of hate the South of France, but I’m outvoted in my family by three to one, so it looks like it will be my lot to spend a week or more down there every summer. The photo above captures some of the reason why: a whole bunch of my wife’s relatives are down there every summer (I’m the GIANT at the back), and we joined up with them this year for the first time since my oldest (now 13) was a baby. I don’t know which one took the photo, but they didn’t frame it very well.

The location is La Londe Les Maures, which is a bit of a nothing town next to the Mediterranean Sea, with a few crowded beaches and an ugly port for the kind of boats owned by people too poor to moor them at St. Tropez, which is a few km down the coast.

It’s true that if you drive any distance you can usually find stunning scenery and even a lovely beach with good swimming in clear blue/green water, but La Londe has a beach with the texture of builders’ sand and the water is full of bark (of all things), shed from plane trees and washed out to see from all over. Every now and then a plane flies past towing a banner exhorting you to visit the nearest big shopping centre in Hyeres.

It’s crowded, and it’s hot. You actually have to hurry yourself in order to get a parking space (we were two or three km away from where everybody congregated, which is a long way with an inflatable dinghy and all the other beach gear), which is not what I look for in a holiday. So we were often on the beach close to nine a.m. (it was warm enough). Not relaxing.

If you try to go anywhere in the South by car, you end up sitting in queues of traffic and (usually) unable to find a parking space when you get where you’re going. One evening, we made a particularly memorable tour of the two car parks in Bormes Les Mimosas. On another, we drove to St. Tropez, saw both car parks were full, and went on to Ramatuelle, which is less good for gawping at rich people. I did note that wealthy people tended just to park anywhere and presumably pay the ticket, which is the kind of thing that makes me want to smash things up.

The camp site (of which more on another blog) was okay, but not the best experience I’ve ever had. Item: ants, all sizes, who after they learned where we lived, formed an orderly procession around the tent and the table where we sometimes ate. Item: there was one civilised (as opposed to Turkish) toilet with a seat, but using it meant you had to ignore the fact that the pipe from the cistern sprayed water everywhere when you flushed. I could go on, but I’ll just say the one word: burrs

I tell you, I almost snapped when my wife announced she wanted to stay an extra day.

4 responses to “Can I get some Southern Comfort?”

  1. I find its best to arrive at St Tropez from the sea and then grab a table at Senequier to people watch.

    Oops. I know that’s come out wrong – I’m usually on the Riviera on business most years but now the Palais is being renovated in Cannes we have had to go to Barcelona instead.

    Oops. Thats still coming out wrong.

    And even if ‘outvoted’ everyone looks as if they are having a good time in the picture!


  2. Well, sounds like hellish holidays indeed, though most others seem to have fun. As a native of the incriminated area, I’ll say it’s hard to understand why tourists all come at the same time, to find crowds, heat, and high prices everywhere. The bright side is, it leaves the rest of the year quiet, beautiful and stress-free.
    My suggested cure to your South-of-France allergy:
    Leave the relatives at home, come in May-June or Sept-October, you’ll find peace and might fall in love with Provence.
    Thanks for linking to my blog


  3. FibraCreativa: sorry for the delay in approving your comment. I was away.

    I agree it’s probably quite lovely when less crowded. Our problem is, we’re both teachers, so we have little choice about when we go.


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