Gruissan: Skyline to the Sea
Gruissan is one of many coastal towns invaded by sun-seeking bathers during summertime. Expect scantily-clad topless females of all sizes and freesbee tornaments on the beach.
However if you manage to go south just a few miles, you get to the marshes on the saltwater lagoons of Ayrolle and its snow-white mountains of salt.
At the very end of a dirt road we parked our cars and set out on foot to discover the trail called Les Goules. The Aude Region has dramatically increased its hiking trails and this one has spanking new signs which make it very easy to follow.
Winds were blowing hard that day and we took shelter below pine trees to have our picnic before the hike.
In the child department, we had a three-month old, a three-year old and a five-year old in tow. For them, Les Goules was perfect because of its relative flatness. The trail is divided roughly in three parts: beach, coastal hill, valley vineyards. Each of those had its reward for us hikers.
On the beach, my girls collected shiny seashells and rocks. Climbing up the hill, I gathered wild thyme, wild lavender and wild rosemary in my hat (always carry gardening scissors when hiking if you know your local flora).
The views up on the ridge were splendid and we showed the train zooming by at lagoon level in the distance to the girls.
Walking between acres of vineyards, we finally enjoyed the sun, being sheltered from the wind.
The end of the trail borders the Domaine Bel Eveque, a winery belonging to famous French comic actor Pierre Richard, one of many actor-transplants turned winemakers in the south of France.
As we were close to Gruissan-plage, we couldn’t resist a short drive by the Plage des Chalets (cabana beach), a house-on-stilts beach resort that hit the French Hall of Fame as setting for the award-winning cult movie 37 degres 2 Le Matin (Betty Blue in English).
Alas, today’s developments lack the wacky romance of the movie and from the Café du Soleil where we sipped a Perrier on ice, the Plage des Chalets wasn’t more appealling than an upscale trailer park.
The place is probably nice at sundown if you’re lucky to hit a beach-view cabana, but if your only views are restricted to your neighbors’ dinner leftovers on their terrace, no thanks.
That said, Gruissan is a great daytrip for families because of the shallow waters by the white sandy beach and the calm seas beyond, making it a safe spot to wade with children.