SO WHAT’S A BEACH CLUB?
One of my goals for this trip was to have a legit beach day. One where I could post up under an umbrella drinking fruity drinks, do some reading and taking periodic dips into the blue Mediterranean ocean. From my past experience in Spain, I knew that finding a beach club was the way to go. While there are free public beaches, I had no beach gear, cooler or butler to bring me drinks. Beach clubs in Europe typically have a restaurant and on beach food and drink service, towels, umbrellas and chairs for rent. You typically pay for your chair on the beach and everything else is a la carte. They can range scene-y day clubs with early morning EDM and lots of thongs to family friendly spots where tots with floaties rule the scene.
IS IT WORTH IT?
I’ve found beach clubs are the perfect solution if you:
- Want to spend several hours at the beach and know you’re not trying to be out there without an umbrella
- Desire cocktails on the beach
- Are seeking a relatively safe place to leave your belongings when you’re in the ocean or walking down the beach
- Enjoy easy access to nice bathrooms
- Want to eat shrimp or whatever ya like from your beach chair
WHERE TO GO
One recommendation I got from the food tour I did on my first night was to go to Cannes for a day on the beach. Cannes is two towns away and has sand beach and not the rocky shore you find in Nice. The Riviera Beach Club was suggested as a nice spot that was classy, yet laid back and unpretentious. “Unpretentious in Cannes?” I thought. I could only imagine celebrities in Cannes and found the idea of a private club in Cannes a bit intimidating but I was determined to have myself a “beach day” so I pressed on. So noble, I know.
SECURING YOUR SPOT
After trying to navigate their inactive website, I realized I had to reserve a seat by calling the club (ahh the possibilities to be awkward are endless!). I called first thing in the morning and while it wasn’t clear that person who answered understood my request to reserve a chair and only took my first name without asking the spelling, I decided that was good enough and set on my way.
Cannes is less than 30 minute and 10 euros from the Gare de Nice-Saint-Augustin or Gare de Nice Ville train stations. Note, you can purchase all tickets online but you may need to download the OUI.SNCF app to view your tickets electronically. From the train, there’s then a sweaty mainly uphill 15 min walk to the beach club. When I arrived, the host couldn’t find my name! He had an analog clipboard (very Saved By the Bell Malibu Sands style) that mapped out all the seats on the beach and reservations that he carefully reviewed. After a few moments he scribbled some semblance of my name on a chair spot on his clipboard and led me to the beach. I was in!
BE COOL.. OR NOT
In such situations – being in a new place surrounded with regulars who tacitly understand the rules of an establishment when I don’t, I usually have some anxiety. Add to that my ability to say only say 5 non-food words in French (words, not phrases), and I’m not gonna lie, I was feeling a bit self- conscious. Fortunately, the staff there is very welcoming and maintain a laid back, open vibe. There was no shade at my chair and I wasn’t trying to to tan, so the attendant brought an umbrella. I rented a towel for the lounger chair for 5 Euros for the day and I was on my way to max relaxation.
The other guests, mostly French and a few Brits from what I could tell, were a range of ages, with a strong over 65 contingent and several kids. The majority of the chairs were taken but it didn’t feel too crowded. The all sand beach was pretty steep; however, they have built in handrails into the ocean which was both obvious and novel.
You can order food to the beach, but I opted to dine at their restaurant. The beach attendant had to put my name on the reservation list… for 30 minutes later. I tell you, the French love reservations. They had French menus, and the waitress explained the menu items and specials to me in English. She was lovely. . I decided on the “poulpe” (octopus) salad as I wanted something light.. plus the chickpea fries it came with. It’s all about balance, right? The server described octopus as calamari. LOL. I imagine some Americans would be pretty disappointed if they thought they were getting golden rings and ended up with the dish below. It was delicious.
A DAY WELL SPENT
You can and should order drinks to the beach (rosé, I learned is the tradition, but I saw quite a few mojitos). After warming up with rosé at lunch, I tried one of there tropical drink specials back on the beach. No complaints. 5 or 6 hours and 75 Euros later, I said goodbye to my new Beach Club life peeps and headed back to Nice, beach day dreams realized.