by Fiona McMurrey

1. Aix-Les-Bains

Image courtesy of Wikimedia commons (Guilhem Vellut).

One of the most entrancingly strange amalgamations of Alpine, Spanish, and Italian architecture I’ve ever experienced, Aix-les-Bains, should be your go to this Summer if you’re in pursuit of a quieter vacation and want to avoid crowded beaches at all costs. Originally home to a thermal spa visited by Queen Victoria herself, Aix-les-Bains is renowned for its venerable thermal bathing waters during la Belle Époque and its prime location for hiking the Bague mountains, as well as hosting the largest freshwater marina in France. If you happen to visit, be sure to book an airbnb in the center of town for easy access to the entirety of the city then take a lovely walk down to the water where you can indulge in a healing swim in the limpid waters of Lac Bourget darkened only by imperious shadow of the hooked peak, Dent du chat.

2. Montpellier (don’t worry it’s not in Vermont!)

Image courtesy of Le Blog d’un Provincial.

The capital of the wine manufacturing, Languedoc region, Montpellier hosts vineyard tours and aquamarine beaches, renowned theater, art festivals, and is overflowing with historical buildings and monuments.

3. Martigues

Image of Martigues, author unknown.

Known as the “provençale venise,” and featured in quite a few paintings and films respectively, Martigues, situated between the Etange de Berre, and the Mediterranean, along the gentle coast of the Caronte channel, Martiges is a prime location for any south of France vacation. The town itself is a rich melange of Wes Anderson-esque row of houses along the channel that earned it the comparison with Venice.

4. Beaulieu-sur-mer

Image from the film, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” (1988)

If you want to skip the crowds at Villefranche-sur-mer and Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferat, or if you just love the iconic 1988 film, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” starring Michael Cain, Steve Martin, and Glenne Headley, which was set in the fictional “Beaumont sur Mer,” head to the glistening villa-studded pearl of the French riviera Beaulieu-sur-mer, the real life version of the con-artist’s town!

5. Quiberon

Image courtesy of Airbnb website.

Quiberon faces the Atlantic which might not make for ideal swimming as the surf can be abrasive and potentially dangerous, but during a canicule (French for heatwave) sometimes nothing feels as good as a cold ocean breeze.

6. Porto-Vecchio

Image courtesy of It’s Your Choice, yacht company website.

Fortified by the well preserved wall of a 16th century Genoese citadel, and located on the rugged Corsican coast, Porto Vecchio is a seaside hub, renown for its picturesque beaches, and rich history.