You don’t have to have your own yacht to enjoy a seaside stroll in France. You don’t have to be a filmmaker to enjoy Cannes or Deauville. You don’t have to own a summer home to enjoy St. Malo or Biarritz. You can stroll all of these seaside towns in style without telling anyone that you’re just a normal working bloke on holiday. If you have a large nose and a difficult demeanor, who knows? You might even pass for a Frenchman, until you open your mouth, that is, and ruin the world’s most beautiful language with either your accent or mangled grammar.
France has three coasts to savor, and each has numerous delightful towns through which you’ll want to faire une promenade. The experiences you’ll have on each coast, though, will vary as widely as the weather and beaches that you’ll savor. After sampling all three, you can choose a favorite and return there year after year.
The northern coast has beaches that may not be the most appealing to some, with their cool waters and abundant seaweed washed onshore, but they often lack the crowds that the south attracts and a few of the harbor towns will capture your heart. Try a day in Honfleur, for example, and see why this boat town has been drawn again and again by painters. You can sample all of the shops in an afternoon and eat a memorable meal with that day’s catch as the sun sets.
St. Malo is another unforgettable destination. You’ll watch the waves crashing against the giant boulders for minutes on end, then retreat into a number of boutiques with distinctive marine fashion and mouth-watering caramels made in the region. Dress for the wind, though, it’s almost a constant.
Further west and south, spend a day or two in Biarritz if you can find a hotel room and a 1-meter x 2-meter spot on the beach for your towel. I’m not kidding; if you’re not on the sand by noon, you might not find a site for your serviette de plage. Once there, enjoy the active waves that draw surfers from around the world and revel during your walk past the long-standing hotels, ostentatious mansions and vibrant markets and restaurants in this longtime French playground.
The southern coast has been written about by scores of writers who behave as if they are the first people to sample Cannes. The marinas are amazing, the people-watching is world class and you never know who will pull up in the next yacht. If you like to gawk at celebrities and pay a month’s rent on a drink, stay on the Riviera and party with the rock stars.
Whatever coastal towns you choose to holiday in and absorb by lazing on the beach and sauntering through the streets, you’ll need footwear that is light enough to breathe yet sturdy enough to withstand high mileage. It would make sense to choose a French brand with a name that proves its knowledge of the terrain you’ll trod. Rivieras is a new mark that has been making waves of its own with its Classic 10 and Classic 20 models. Both choices will make you look as chic as the French, and they’ll keep your feet as comfortable as a slice of ham in a baguette. Leave your crumbling sneakers at home; Rivieras must be the footwear of choice when walking in the most visited country on the planet. Posted by Roger Martin for Stand Out.