FOR adventurous singletons who like their holidays unpackaged, look no farther than the south of France.
Le Grau d’Agde – one of the three elements that makes up the area of Agde itself – is a fishing village with a difference in the Languedoc Roussillon region.
Perched on the southwest between the L’Herault river and the Mediterranean it is, first and foremost, easy to get to, if a little complicated.
A flight to Carcassonne, a bus to the local train station, a short taxi ride to Agde and then it’s time to relax.
Booking a room or a hotel generally isn’t a problem, but it’s easiest to do it before you get there, for your own comfort more than anything else.
Of the three elements that comprise the tourist spot, Le Grau is the most suited to the lone holidaymaker.
Le Cap d’Agde is geared primarily to the family holiday and, oddly enough, young people looking for parasailing, kite surfing, canoeing and, of course, the night life.
Le Cite, with its ancient and lovely St Stephen’s Cathedral, seems more sedate and less marked by frantic tourism.
Le Grau, on the other hand, is a satisfying combination of golden strand, shaded river walks and dainty restaurants and bars serving up welcome beer and pizza or gourmet fish and vin blanc, whichever you prefer, and whenever you want.
The tiny village has miles of strand to be walked and a little causeway a few feet out that makes the sea safe and sound for kids – or for those of us who are timid when the tide is a little rough.
Before you rush off to the dictionary to translate Le Grau, let Gazette Travel help. The word refers to the narrow pathways leading to the seashore – if you’ve ever been to Bournemouth, you’ll know they’re called “chines”.
These tracks are perfect for cycling in cool Med breezes, working up a slight sweat and then dumping the bike for a splash in balmy waters. Bliss!
For those seeking an all-over tan, the naturists who gather farther down the beach are supposed to be an accepting but discreet bunch who won’t hassle newcomers.
It seems most of the beachcombers or families in the area aren’t too bothered or interested in their goings-on either.
On the exercise front, the bike will get you to Cap d’Agde for a squint at how the other half lives. A delicious walk along the banks of the l’Herault will bring you to the “city” where you can enjoy the Cathedral St Etienne Stephen d’Agde.
What you will see was constructed in the 12th century, beginning in 1173 and replacing a 9th century Carolingian church that stood on the foundations of a 5th century Roman church, formerly a temple of Diana!
The cathedral is remarkable for being built of black basalt from the nearby volcanic Mont St Loup quarries.
If you get cabin fever and want to escape, it’s easy to plan a train trip to nearby Spain, or to simply use Agde as a base for a few days cycling along the famed Canal du Midi.
And, of course, the food. It’s France, so what do you expect other than WOW? The only thing that can go wrong is that you order fish when you really wanted steak, and there isn’t a fast food chain in sight.
But let Gazette Travel recommend one must: Restaurant Lou Pescadou on the Rue Chassefiere in the city. There is only one menu and you have to book your seat well in advance. (No dropping in here on spec.) But what an experience!
Taking the walk into the eaterie after a refreshing post-cycle swim in the Med, and sitting with total strangers on wooden benches, sharing the best fish soup this side of paradise, this sole holidaymaker could not recommend this restaurant or this corner of La Belle France one jot more.