Our trip to Cap D'Aged (pronounced Cap Dagg ed - like bag ed) was an experiment. We had priced a trip thought the one and only "GROUP TOUR" that is offered through the States. After my wife revived me, I decided it was WAY too expensive for us. I did some research over the next year and found we could do a trip Cap D'Agde on our own for far less money (we saved about $1500 off their price for 2). Another reason this is a grand experiment is that we were told that we had to really know French to go to Cap D'Agde. Well, we're here to tell you "IT AIN'T SO!"
We picked up our rental car at the Montpellier Airport. En route to Cap D'Agde, we drove along the Mediterranean coast and had lunch in the picturesque town of Sete. The driving proved to be an adventure. Thankfully I could figure out most of the road signs, such as STOP being on the stop signs. I also learned that the French do LOVE their round-abouts. We took a few short unplanned excursions into the countryside which gave us the opportuntiy meet some very friendly and helpful natives of Southern France. At lunch we saw Coke on the menu, but we wanted to know if they had Diet Coke. So, I dutifully got out my electronic translator, typed in "DIET" and translated it to French then showed it to the waiter. He replied, "Ah, Coke Light?" It just goes to show you American English is creeping into French culture.
I booked the apartment, a small efficiency only 162 steps from the water's edge, through a German company that can and does deal with Americans in English. I was told they will pick you up at the airport and return you there, for a reasonable fee, thus eliminating the expense of renting a car. We booked our flights and a rental car through EXPEDIA TRAVEL. When renting cars in Europe your American insurance is not good so you MUST buy thier insurance which is quite expensive. It was helpful to have a good currency converter page open also. You can find links to these in the left hand frame.
We found the restaurants were moderate to expensive, but groceries were very reasonably priced. We could buy a whole roasted chicken from the butcher for 60 Francs, which is about $8.50 U.S. This fed the 2 of us for 2 dinners. There are at least 30 bars and restaurants in the section where we stayed, 3 grocery stores, several bakeries, and 2 or 3 butchers. This is besides wine shops and fish stores. They have many places to buy souvenirs. There are medical facilities just outside the main gate as well as a pharmacy.
I do advise you to buy buy your Francs or Euros before you leave (we used SkyTeller) since there one exchange bureau (located in the camp grounds) is no bargain.
The weather is coolish in the mornings and warm to hot in the afternoons. Many people bring their own umbrellas and chairs, but we rented 2 chairs with a table and umbrella in a wind-protected area. It cost us about $95 for the week. Some times the sea breeze was so cool that it got goose bumps with the umbrella open, then we would put it down until we warmed up. The Mediterranean is quite cool ranging from 16c (61f) to 22c (72f). At first I though that was too cold, but I got used to it through the week. The air temps ran from the 60s at night to upper 70s-91f during the daytime. We only had one foggy morning and one partly cloudy day (the day we went to Carcassonne). I was glad we had the wind screen as one day the wind was out of the north and I think if I had been holding an umbrella I would have landed in North Africa.
I was amazed to see so many people sunbathing in one spot. I estimated that there were about 10,000 there on Friday. I am told there are up to 40,000 there during the high season of Mid-July through the end of August. There were all ages (from babies to 80 year olds) and all sizes. They even have handicapped access that will take a person in a wheel chair to within 12 steps of the sea.
I have included some pictures of the beach, the apartment, Heliopolis, etc. on my pictures pages. I tried to NOT take pictures of people since I did not want to fish my camera out of the Mediterranean. Taking pictures of your own family is quite acceptable, but be careful who is in the background.
On Wednesday we went to Carcassonne, a walled medieval city started about 118bc by the Romans. It is quite well preserved and very interesting. I've included a lot of pictures from there on the picture pages. It turns out that this area had it's own Inquisition against the Cathars
We spent a lot of time meeting some really nice people. A French couple gave us the last of their bottle of wine at lunch in Carrcassone, after we had a very pleasant bilingual conversation. There were many people there from the UK and from Germany. My point is, if we went with the "TOUR GROUP" from the USA, we probably would not have met these folks since we would be visiting with other group members all the time.
Saturday was our last day there. We cleaned the apartment, loaded the car, dropped off the keys and then moved out onto the beach where we stayed until 4 p.m. Then we drove in to the center of Agde, the 2nd oldest city in France. It was founded by the Greeks and was known as Agathe. We checked into our hotel, Hotel La Galiote, right on the River Herault. This is a nice little old world hotel with lots of charm which I recommend to anyone needing to spend an extra night or two in Agde before/after their holiday on the beach. It is run by a very pleasant and helpful lady from the Netherlands. She is quite fluent in English, Dutch, French and German. They have a very good restaurant there, although the menu is a bit challenging for the French-impaired. We took a nice stroll along the banks of the Canal Du Midi down to the round locks and watched an excursion boat lock through.
After a good night's sleep and a really good breakfast buffet, we drove to Montpellier, turned in the car and started the long treck home. Gas for the car was about $3.89/gallon. The only near-mishap was the fact that we were told the wrong terminal for our flight from Paris, and had to RUN on to catch the plane just as it started loading. Our flight took us east of London, over Manchester, north of Ireland, over the southern tip of Greenland where we could see the ice cap and icebergs in the Atlantic. Then we flew south over the southern tip of James Bay, a part of Hudsons Bay, and on in to Chicago. After a short layover we were on our way home from there.
All in all, I call this a great vacation and hope we can do it again next year.
Well, it's next year and we did return to "Le Cap", this time for 2 weeks.
We again booked our flights through Expedia.com but we booked the land portion through PENG FRANCE. Our first flight was from St. Louis to Cincinnati on Com Air, the commuter airline for Delta. This was the one section that had me most concerned since we only had 45 minutes to make the connection to the Delta flight to Paris. Welllllllll, it turns out our flight was 38 minutes late leaving St. Louis. When we landed in Cincinnati, we hit the ground running as we had to change concourses. As we reached the gate, they were doing the final boarding call and were preparing to call for us on the PA system. The flight to Paris was on one of the reconfigured Delta planes. The re configuration is NOT an improvement!!!! The seats were uncomfortably narrow and only reclined 2 inches.
The flight from Paris to Montpellier was uneventful. As we went to collect our baggage, we noticed 2 French police and 2 French soldiers with machine guns waiting in the baggage area. There was also a set of protective barriers that were designed to surround explosive devices. The world has changed since 9-11. We were met by the taxi driver Peng arranged (for 85 Euros), and we headed down the A-9 Motor way toward Cap d'Agde. Another reason we used Peng is they have a variety of off-site excursions.
We arrived at the Peng Office, collected our key and linens, and were taken to our apartment in building 6 of the Port Nature complex. We were on the 4th floor, but we at least had an elevator available. The apartment was TINY, to say the least. (general rule of thumb, the higher the floor, the smaller the apartment. Also, if you want an apartment for 2, rent one where they say it is for 3, for 3 rent one for 4 etc.). The bed was a folding couch/fouton that was far more comfortable than I anticipated when I first saw it.
To sum up the first day: we were exhausted from the trip, the apartment was SMALL, we were to sleep on a folding couch AND to top it off, it was foggy and cold!!! Things could only get better.
And Monday they did! The sun came out, the air was warmer and we were ready to rent our chairs for the 2 weeks. Now for another shock. With the advent of the Euro, everything went up by about 20%. The chairs were about $95/week last year and this year they cost $120 Euros each week ($114) for 2 padded chaise lounges with a small table and a large umbrella.
We spent the next several days on the beach, dining in our apartment and just plain chilling out. Sunday we went to some friends apartment for a cocktail party AND a get acquainted party for those of us traveling through Peng. On Wednesday we attended a cocktail party at the Peng "Clubhouse" (a storefront set up) and Thursday we were invited to a "pic nic" at an apartment owned by an American couple. There we met people from N. America, S. America, Europe, Asia and Africa.
The following week we went to Nimes and Arles to see the Roman Arenas and ruins. this was a LONG hot day in a van. We arrived back at Cap d'Agde by 6:45, giving us just enough time to shower for the Peng Dinner at le Bleu Lagon.
Wednesday was another beach day, with another cocktail party at Peng, Thursday was another day on the beach and Friday morning we took off to Sete for some sight seeing and pictures. Afterwards we returned to our chairs on the beach for our last few hours in the sun.
Saturday we packed, dropped the remains of a bottle of wine by some friends' apartment, then took one last stroll on the beach. We closed up the apartment and went down at 10:30 to meet the taxi. It was late due to an accident on the motor way. We were driven to the airport by back roads where we checked in and were soon on our way to Paris. We arrived with about 45 minutes to spare. When we reached the passport check there was a major bottle-neck since they only had 2 men checking passports for 12 gates. We got through after about 40 minutes and went to our gate. Soon we we told the plane to Cincy would be boarding 30 minutes late due to a problem with AC and back-up power. Then we were told it would be an hour late. We ended up leaving 2 hours late. From there on to St. Louis was no problem.
We checked out the complaints voiced in the N Nude and Natural articles and found they are cleaning up the common grounds at the Heliopolis complex. They also said they saw no children. Well, school was not out until 28 June this year BUT we saw several hundred children (and families) through all parts of the Naturist Quarter. The fetish wear observed by the authors, and by us, last year has decreased considerably. The authors also said they were treated rudely and stared at when going nude anywhere but at the beach. I must say we NEVER felt as if we were being stared at for being nude. They claimed a lot of clothed gawkers are at Cap d'Agde. One day at the beach I actually did a statistical analysis and found that only 6% of those on the beach were not at least partially nude. We had also read about the "voyeurs" portion of the beach. We walked down through it several times just to see if it really is that bad. Well, we must have gone in the time "after they were finished" because everyone was asleep, or nearly so each time we went by. We can say nothing about what goes on at the night clubs since we are not "clubbers." All of that is to say, I think the authors of those 2 articles gave a rather slanted/ prudish view of Cap d'Agde.
One more thing, there is NO currency exchange in the Naturist Center this year AND banks will not honor traveler's checks. We suggest you use your credit cards and your ATM cards. There are 2 ATM machines on site.
This was a very very enjoyable vacation. I just wish it was closer and we didn't have to take those horribly long flights to get there and to get home.