The Blonde has done the whole Côte Vermeille (as this stretch of coastline is known) thing before. Late teens and early twenties camping trips were described to me although, due to either reasons of failing memory or selective recollection, the stories didn’t last long.
Of course it was all so simple then; long days by the pool or on the beach followed by nights in seafront bars were enough to satisfy everyone in the party. Now it’s a different story. Not only has the husband got the irritating need to ‘do’ things occasionally (and on this trip, not very much) but there’s the small matter of occupying the Tomato – a typical two year old with a typical need to be busy. It doesn’t need to be ‘sophisticated’ busy of course. Just busy.
Both Argelès and Canet Plage (‘Plage’ means beach) are pretty good places to be busy. Situated some six or so kilometres apart along the cost, both have long, wide sweeps of sandy beach that seem to disappear off to the horizon or at least as far as Spain, marked by the striking wall of the Pyrenees to the southwest. The Tomato’s appreciation of beaches developed slowly; it made the whole business of walking less than straightforward (bad), the sand gets in your nappy (very bad) but, on the upside, making your father build endless sand castles so that you can knock them down is a good game. We persuaded him that a paddle might be fun too; the look he gave us when he discovered how cold the water was will stay with me for some time.
Promenading off the sand generally met with the boy’s approval too. Both Argelès and Canet have long promenades suitable for taking the sea air and people watching although Canet’s is somewhat spoilt by a busy road for a significant length. Argelès, meanwhile, have a wide, pedestrianised, manicured boulevard that allowed the Tomato to wander a little more freely. Three parallel streets run immediately behind the Centre Plage here, providing extra café capacity and a natural home for the beachwear, gaudy towel and equally gaudy art canvas shops.
Unapologetic and all good fun of course although, when we visited in September, a number of outlets and cafes had given up for the season; the proprietors not anticipating much profit from the snowbirds and parents with buggy-borne offspring that proliferate in the shoulder season. With school terms starting across Europe and the weather getting less predictable, summer was drawing to a close. Argelès and Canet are built for throngs; when the crowds depart the holiday paraphernalia just looks excessive and a little tawdry. For those of us who can take advantage of 96this cheap period however, there are a few small perks. We have the pick of the café tables, acres of sand to ourselves and the beachfront carousels in Canet do a turn for one or two children at a time – the Tomato was in his element. What could be better for a two year old? Your pick of the rides and none of that nasty sharing business.
Argelès and Canet are towns that might be described as ‘fit-for-purpose’; they provide what their, mostly family, clientele demand; predictable weather, miles of sand and plenty to occupy a busy child or two.