Wiggling and jiggling in La Grande Motte
On the shores of the Med, between the fishing ports of Sète and Le Grau-du-Roi, is the beach resort of la Grande Motte. It’s rather distinctive, in a “love it or hate it” kind of way. Languedoc expat Rupert Wright is rude about it in his book Notes on the Languedoc, and other folk I know turn up their noses whenever I mention the place (and I do tend to reminisce about it with fondness, as I spent a very formative summer season working on a campsite there when I was 18, met a nice French man called Patrick and lost my – oh, but that’s another story).
Innovatively styled, the town was developed by architect Jean Balladur in the late Sixties following plans to transform the quiet, sun-drenched beaches of the Languedoc coastline into unique tourist destinations.
Unique isn’t really the word. Formerly a desert of sand dunes and lagoons, La Grande Motte is now an inimitable holiday resort with architecture that consists of giant mole hills (mottes in French), based on Inca pyramids in Mexico and the nearby 638m Pic St-Loup, which dominates the skyline in the Coteaux du Languedoc (Balladur cites both as inspiration).
The buildings with their system of terraces with triangular, round and rectangular features are designed to provide wind and sun shields as well as spectacular sea views from each and every floor. Lovely!
There are some rather smart hotel-restaurants in the centre of the resort (I can highly recommend La Méditerrannée), plus some swanky cocktails bars with private beaches on the seafront (see our Best Beach Bar guide for details).
It's a completely different holiday experience to, say, renting a little cottage amongst the vineyards further inland, but if you're looking for a little bit of 'bling' and excitement, La Grande Motte is probably Languedoc's most jumpin' spot on the coast.
The marina here is large, although supposedly not as large as the huge Grau du Roi marina just along the coast. And the beaches just by the town are OK. You're better off heading 20 minutes east to Espiguette - with its huge expanses of sand and plenty of nudity!
Or, just south of La Grande Motte, you'll find Le Grand Travers - a long, more 'urban' beach that stretches between La Grande Motte and (ugly) Carnon. It's a favourite with families and joggers and won't leave you feeling quite as cramped as the Le Grande Motte beaches.