Kids' French Riviera
Sunshine in the South
By Lori Alexander
Enamoured with the thought of
teaching my toddler to swim in the Mediterranean, I couldn't resist booking
an off-season family vacation. Eager for a last dose of autumn sunshine we
headed towards France's most popular Riviera destination, Juan Les-Pins.
Whipping through the Maritime Alps,
we finally spotted the glittering lights of Nice. Our introduction to
Juan-Les-Pins began in a neon jumble of crowds, discos, and whizzing
The following morning, we stepped
barefoot onto our balcony, and were greeted by the extraordinarily blue sea.
Below, sandaled women shopped in the patisserie. The boucher was opening his
doors. My sons threw on their trunks, grabbed their towels, and packed their
buckets and spades.
The cloying glitz of the previous
night had given way to a languid vibrancy and beaches of powered sugar, and
we were ready to spend a week in the water.
Know Before You Go:
-American/Canadian citizens don't require visas for trips
shorter than three months.
-July-September air temperatures
range between 84-77F, and water temperatures are between 73-77F. Spectacular
thunderstorms can strike unpredictably.
-'Off-season' begins in September, and many services are closed between
October-March. Those that aren't can offer substantial discounts.
-The Casino Supermarket chain provides picnic basics at excellent value.
-The south is made for strolling. If travelling with a small child, don't
consider travelling without a stroller.
Plan Your Route:
-Air: Nice Airport is the arrivals choice of the
-Train: Aboard the TGV Méd, the trip from Paris's Gare de Lyon to
Nice is 5 ˝ hours, and offers family and babycare areas, a restaurant, and
spectacular scenery. Adults: US$135/$103. Child fares (age 4-11) are half
the adult rate. Regional and time-limited passes are also available. http://www.raileurope.com
-Auto: Car seats are required for children through four years. The tolled
Auto Routes permit rapid travel. When venturing onto smaller roads, short
distances can be extremely slow going.
Hotels and rentals range from the ultra-luxurious Hotel Juana to
economic "Residence" digs such as Couleurs Soleil.
The pass offers reduced rate access to a multitude of water sport
activities and lessons for 8 eur/50 FF. Check with Station Voile
participants for purchase.
-Shopping: For bargains, skip
the downtown boutiques. In Juan Les-Pins, amble along the Bord de Mer for
goodies from aqua toys and skimpy French swimsuits. For the more serious
water sports enthusiast, check out Decathalon, located on the Antibes
vs. Public Beaches:
Admission to private beaches costs12-15 euro per day, and includes
attendants, parasols and chaise lounges. Most are connected to eateries, the
sand is raked each morning, and all offer restroom facilities and showers.
In Juan Les Pins, two large public
beaches are within a five-minute walk of the town center. Restrooms and
outdoor showers are available.
Two small public beaches are easily
overlooked, and both provide showers. One is centrally located, slightly
beyond the clock tower, in the direction of Nice. The other, which offers
shade, is beyond Lucky Beach, directly below the scuba school's courtyard.
The warmth and gentle inclines make the Med perfect for languid
swims, and the coast is dotted with beaches from sandy stretches to
secluded harbors, and rocky inlets. What could be more
enticing than schools of small fish hovering close enough to touch?
-Juan Les-Pins is 'the' water skiing
resort, and skiing is available all summer. Check with beach attendants for
individual fees and age restrictions.
-Vision Sous-Marine: The 'glass bottom' boat glides around the Cap D'Antibes,
stopping in the Bay of Millionaires, and provides views to a depth of 14
meters. Adults: 11 euro, children 5 euro. Tip: At depths of ten feet,
similar sea life can be seen around Juan Les-Pins. I never spotted fewer
than three varieties of fish, and drew them close to shore for my children
with bits of bread crust.
-Bring your own diving gear or check with hotel reception for rentals.
Goggles can be purchased along the Bord de Mer. Diving and swimming classes
are available July-August at Centre Municipal Tennis d'Antibes. Tip: Once my
son realized that holding a single deep breath would bring him bobbing to
the surface like a cork in the high salt content, he was swimming.
-Moussaillons Club, Blvd Guillaumont , offers sailing and water skiing
instruction for children who can swim, 5 years and up. Sail boarding lessons
are available for teenagers.
Images by Lori Alexander