I'm kind of weird, but I love the beaches of the north. I have no interest in lying on a beach mostly unclothed in the sun, but I absolutely love walking along immense empty beaches. If jumping into the ocean is not a priority, I would have a number of recommendations less than 300 km from Paris (preferably by driving but not always essential).
If bathing is a requirement, I would vote for going around Arcachon or Hossegor (France's Surf City) -- still fine in September and maybe even the beginning of October.
Actually, it is best (but probably more expensive if you are not driving) to wait until you arrive and see the weather to make any decisions.
I got to places in Normandy from Paris very easily by train.
There are lots of quiet places in Corsica - noisy places too. It is a big island.
And plenty of interesting places to see not far from Nice off-season, in France and in Italy. I do love the scenery on the Mediterranean, where it hasn't been spoilt by ugly holiday condo developments.
Hi, this is lola's daughter. Walking along immense empty beaches sounds fantastic, Kerouac, so I was wondering what those 300 km from Paris recommendations were. Unfortunately, driving is not an option, so if you could throw a couple names this way that are accessible by train or bus, I'd appreciate it!
The other kind of beach is also appealing, although I know it's late in the season to actually do much sea bathing. I'm thinking of making a weekend trip to Corsica and/or somewhere near Nice. I see easyJet flies into Ajaccio and Bastia in Corsica... which one would provide better things to see for someone with no car-renting qualifications? Basically looking for beautiful, distinctive scenery, maybe some nice places to walk around.
La Rochellle is a beautiful little historic city, a centre of international trade many centuries ago (unfortunately this included the slave trade; I believe the city of Nantes was an other important centre) and it is well known here for the role it played in launching French exploration and settlement in America. L'ïle de Ré (Ré island) is accessible by a bridge now, off the Atlantic coast. Is there a fa s t train there now? Look up La Rochelle and click on to Île de Re on wikipedia.
I've never been to Biarritz and for me, that would be a stop on a longer trip I am hoping to make, to the Basque Country (Euskadi) on both sides of the French-Spanish border. Biarritz is very glitzy, of course. Interesting that there is a cheapo hostel there. I presume that these are both all ages hostels?
I'd be more interested in visiting the nearby city of Bayonne and the Basque ethnographic museum, and Basque villages, but can see the appeal of that beach for beach lovers (I don't mind a beach, or a rocky coast, and seeing the sea, but don't enjoy days of sunbathing at all).
I know a Swedish guy who moved to Bayonne and actually learned Basque, reputed one of the hardest languages to learn (no relation to most European language groups, perhaps a tenuous one to another "isolated" language).
My favorite empty "cold" beaches for walking are in the Somme and the Pas de Calais. I can assure anybody who saw my thread about Berck-sur-Mer that any time out of season, you have the beach entirely to yourself (i.e. about 1 person per km²). Downtown is just as empty and closed out of season, so you have to be in the mood for that to appreciate it.
A more easily accessible place with a huge beach is Le Touquet, and of course there are the great old standbys of Deauville and Trouville in Normandy. They share the same train station, but you need to know that the beach for walking is in Deauville and the cheap accommodations are in Trouville -- all of this is in easy walking distance.
For a warmer experience, the best beaches are in the Landes, but it's not my part of France, so I don't know much about rail access out that way.
Biarritz is a real city, so it has both the aging glitz and normal life, which would explain why there is a hostel there. The suburbs are pretty normal and probably easily accessible by bus.
We spent a few days in Biarritz in September. Citywise, I prefer Bayonne, but you can also get by bus to Anglet (the city is called BAB for Bayonne-Anglet-Biarritz) where there are long sandy beaches. Bayonne is on a river, and the beaches of Biarritz are either for showing off (Grande Plage beside the casino) or surfing (Côte des Basques).
We went to the Landes (just across the Adour River from Bayonne) for years during the Toussaint school holidays. It was possible to swim nearly every year because the water warmed up over the summer. But there are big waves, so it's not really "swimming" and there are no more lifeguards. But the beaches are great. You can get a train to Dax from Paris, and then a bus towards the coastal towns like Capbreton.
There are also great beaches west of Bordeaux. 60km and you are at the beach, and Bordeaux is fast from Paris by train.
That looks like a pretty chic hostel. But then again a lot of them are in France. The headquarters of FUAJ is just two blocks from my place, and just across from them on the old rail yards, they are going to be building the biggest and best hostel in Paris (opening in 2012?). I'll be seeing lots of backpacks at my metro station then.