Wednesday, August 08, 2012

French mediterranean coast best kept secret

Only 60 Km from Avignon, one can enjoy a coastline of remarkable beauty with very quiet beaches - even on a searing hot August day.
We went today for a picnic and an dip in l'Etang de Berre, a salty laguna of some 38.000 acres tucked between tne Camargue and the hills of l'Estaque west of Marseilles. On the north of the lake, between Saint Chamas ans Istres, the scenery is lovely, almost Tuscan in character. Here the northerly wind, the Mistral is always fresh, the water quality rated "average" by the french sanitary autorites, which is a bit worrying, but it seemed very clear to us.And we had a long, empty strech of beach to ourselves. I guess nowhere on the cote d'Azur could such an empty space be found exept at the end of impassable private roads. How to explain this ? L'├ętang de Berre has recovered from decades of agression by freshwater pollution from an hydroelectric plant. Only 9 meter deep, its communication with the sea limited to a narrow strait in Martigues, and a man-made tunnel near Marseilles, the huge laguna is said to suffer from entrophic sedimentation : in the bottom layers of the lake - the fresh water remains cold and lifeless. Also the southern bank of the lake is more industrial and polluted. But neat Istres and St Chamas, we had a nice swim and the windsurfers were having a great time. Try La Digue in St Chamas for lunch near their main base.