The Other South of France; the Riviera Is Full of Celebrities and Smart Yachts. Not So Its Neighbour, the Languedoc, Where There's Always Space on the Beach
Byline: ANTHONY PEREGRINE
SOME people get rather snooty about the Languedoc coast - France's other Mediterranean playground. This is, of course, one good reason for going there.
But why the snootiness in the first place? Well, though the coast is vast - it curves 120 miles from the Rhone round towards Spain - the beaches tend to be featureless.
And some of the resorts, developed in the Sixties, look like joint winners of a 'Who Can Build The Cheapest Town?' competition. Big money and glamour have passed them by.
But there is a flip side. The flat, endless beaches - which are overwhelmingly sand, unlike the Cote d'Azur - are safe, perfect for families, and can soak up as many people as Europe throws at them, without overcrowding.
Leave the centres and you're soon in zones where holidaymaking has a light fingerhold. There may be semi-wild bulls in the marshy prairies or flights of flamingos on the lake beyond.
It's disorderly, but that's the way of things in the French Deep South.
Here's our pick of five of the best Languedoc seaside resorts. Prices quoted are high-season top whack, mid-July to mid-August. Other times are cheaper.
LE GRAU DU ROI THE key advantage here is that the resort remains rooted in the fishing port from which it has grown.
The busy little streets may throb with bronzed bodies and Italian ices, but the day is still regulated by the coming and going of fishing boats along the canal which splits the village (and, incidentally, runs past the former home of soccer legend Eric Cantona). The place exists independently of tourism.
Beaches run for 12 miles and include the lovely, protected Espiguette zone, where no development interrupts five miles of dunes, pines and sand.
Just round the corner is the Port Camargue, the biggest sail-in village in Europe. Beyond spreads the Camargue itself. If you need culture, there's ample just 30 minutes up the road in the former Roman city of N"mes.
But if you need life, by day or night, then Le Grau itself does the business.
No airs and graces, though.
SAMPLE HOLIDAY: Tworoom mini-terrace house, 800m from beach, sleeps four.
[pounds sterling]478 per week from Tel: 020 8891 1294; www.interhome.co.uk LA GRANDE MOTTE JUST along the coast is the weirdest resort in France. Put up from nothing in the Sixties, it's a collection of pyramids and other strangely shaped highrises. From afar, it resembles a prototype - now slightly retro - Moon base.
Fishing village quaint, it ain't.
La Grande Motte is 100 per cent dedicated to modern holidays and does the job exhaustively, from championship golf to parascending - if you can do it at the seaside, you can do it here.
The beaches are almost infinite and, when the sun goes down, the heat stays up in restaurants, bars and clubs. Some of the best overlook the port.
SAMPLE HOLIDAY: One-bedroom apartment, with other convertible beds in living room. Sleeps five.
Around 150m from beach, pool on site, children's playground and activities. [pounds sterling]773 per week, from Lagrange Holidays. Tel: 020 7371 6111; www.lagrange-holidays.co.uk
AGDE ONE of the oldest towns in France, with one of the newest tourist resorts - Cap-d'Agde - hooked on. …