Summer has finally arrived around here! Sunny days up into the 80s F, and sleepable nights in the upper 60s F. Perfect time to go to the beach. Especially in June, before the onslaught of summer vacationers in July and August.
No one knows how many tourists will visit the beaches this summer. On the one hand, people from outside Europe will not be visiting any time soon. But Europeans are technically allowed to travel within the countries of the European Union (the Schengen Area). A French friend observed that many of her compatriots who would normally travel outside Europe for summer vacation will stay closer to home this year. We will see as the summer progresses how many people feel comfortable going on holiday to the beach.
In the meantime, we could check out a beach that we like, La Franqui.
It is about an hour’s drive from home. We like the beach because it offers an almost endless run of sand between ocean and inland lagoon (or étang). The end of the beach nestles against a little village and a steep wooded hill. Our goal was to spend some time in the ocean air, to have a seaside lunch, and to walk a bit on the sand. No need to lie out in the UV. We are more interested in atmosphere than melanoma.
La Franqui: a beach between two worlds
Can we be both a vacationer’s paradise and a surfer’s sanctuary? This is the unique case of La Franqui beach. Considered the 4th most beautiful beach in France, its geographical location is particularly notable. This spot offers exceptional conditions for kitesurfing and windsurfing enthusiasts. It is here that the famous Mondial du Vent takes place every year. In addition, the small inlet that communicates with the lagoon makes it an ideal swimming area for the little ones.
We succeeded very well in our goal of some seaside seafood. The village has only a few restaurants and cafés.
And as we expected, there weren’t very many people out and about. Nonetheless, we heard quite a few languages amid those who were there. Parking was easy; finding a table was easy. Lunch was simple, ample and tasty.
First seaside resort of Aude in the 20th century
The history of La Franqui is inextricably linked to that of the most famous of its children, the writer-adventurer Henry de Monfreid; his family started tourism development here. The hotel-restaurant that was founded at the beginning of the XXth century was for a time a mecca of gastronomy; it received illustrious guests, such as the painter Paul Gauguin. La Franqui has thus long been a premier seaside resort in the Aude.
And at the end, the cliff…
The cliff outcropping protects the cove of La Franqui from the sea winds and provides a safe anchorage. It is the only natural shelter on this coast, between Port-Vendres and Agde. Though the ages, not all the ships have been able to reach the safety of La Franqui in time; many were stranded on the nearby beach of Coussoules, and many were smashed on the rocks of the cliff. The first known attempt to establish a port here dates back to the 13th century, but progress was slow. In the 17th century, Vauban planned to build a port, while Paul Riquet – the designer of the Canal du Midi – had initially planned to finish his canal here; even Napoleon Bonaparte envisioned a port at La Franqui. However, none of this grand projects ever saw the light of day.
Now, about that walk on the beach. The wind was roaring the entire time we were there. At least 30 mph / 50 kph. Kitesurfers and windsurfers were having a field day. From our lunch table, we watched them galavant. We watched a thick layer sand steadily grind across the beach.
After lunch, I tried to go for a walk, in between ropes and cords for the kites. I had to lean into the wind, push against the pressure, tread in the soft sand, and try not to eat too much sand. Not quite the relaxing seaside walk I had envisioned. I aborted the mission after about ten minutes.
But it was fun watching the surfers.
We have learned that La Franqui is famous for its wind. It should have been obvious from the fact of all the giant wind turbines perched on the hills to the northwest.
Thanks to this ferocious wind, La Franqui is home to the annual Mondial du Vent competition — The World of Wind. Here’s their YouTube announcement:
Rather than resist the wind, perhaps in 2021 we’ll come watch the Mondial du Vent competitors.
Source for notes about La Franqui: https://www.ladepeche.fr/article/2018/08/21/2854318-la-franqui-une-plage-entre-deux-mondes.html