Life’s a beach (again)

Will the person or persons unknown who stole the beach at Calandre be so good as to return it?

This morning we thought a couple of hours on the beach would be a good idea so we set off early on the bike to avoid the crowds. Calandre is a small strip of beach just outside Ventimiglia, reached by an attractive path half-way up the cliff. Or at least it used to be a strip of beach. Recently it’s been getting narrower and today the waves were just about reaching the wall at the top of the beach.

We didn’t notice this right away, mind. There appeared to be a tide mark just short of the top with a couple of metres of relatively dry sand beyond, and after studying it for a while I made the judgement that the tide was probably going out. So we unpacked the usual paraphernalia – beach mat and towels – propped our bags against the wall just in case, and I went for a dip while Anna enjoyed the morning sun. Yesterday had been rather windy and the sea was still up, much to the delight of the small band of surfers crossing and recrossing the waves, and although swimming was pretty difficult, body-surfing was good fun. The water felt initially cold but after being slapped by a few six-foot waves you don’t notice it.

I returned to the beach for a quiet lie-down but my theory about the tide going out proved wide of the mark and a freak wave appeared, covering all our belongings and those of our neighbours in salt water and sand. So after debating the pros and cons for a while we set off home again, me in a soaking tee-shirt. Just as well the weather is hot.

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On the left is a picture taken in November 2007; on the right is today. Is is global warming and sea level rise, I wonder, or just the normal variation in beach height? Perhaps the sand will return of its own accord or maybe we’ve lost this particular beach for good. If current rumours are correct it’s soon to disappear anyway under the new yachting marina due to start construction later this year after a couple of decades of arguments and political in-fighting, but it’s still a shame to see our only local sandy beach vanish without even putting up a fight.

The freshwater alternative

Freak waves and disappearing beaches aren’t a problem at Ballestra, a pile of rocks and a deep pool on the Bevera river a half-hour’s walk upstream from our village. It’s a popular spot for the locals and the few outsiders who know about it; you can swim in the mountain stream – surprisingly not as cold as you might imagine – or loll about and chat. We strolled up there yesterday afternoon and found a quiet stretch of river to dip our toes in.

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Where have all the tourists gone?

As we travel around the area it seems this year is quiet. Really quiet. The car park in our village that last year was full to overflowing every weekend now has spaces at any time. Similar evidence can be found elsewhere that the tourists are staying at home in droves. Shopkeepers wait all day for a customer and even parking is occasionally possible. I hear tickets for the Monaco Grand Prix were being given away at the end and that apartments remained un-let. This is unprecedented and serves to demonstrate that, far from being recession-proof as many were claiming last winter, the Riviera is suffering from the cold economic winds too. However, the general opinion is still upbeat, with the expectation that next year will see the good times return, and many companies are no doubt already quietly celebrating the demise of their competitors.

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