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Can a beach holiday still be fun with masks on?

Wondering what a post-lockdown beach holiday looks like? This family went to find out.

After months of having to stay close to home, most people in France are keen to get out – and thoughts turn to holidays and to beaches. Excited to be allowed further than 100km for the first time in many months, on June 2 (the first day of déconfinement phase deux) we headed for Moliets on the Atlantic Coast.

The location

We chose a villa with a private pool – both for the security of knowing we would have our own space, and because no sunbathing would be allowed on the terraces around some shared pools if there was not enough space for everyone to social distance correctly. Joanna La Forge, of Summer France, showed us to our villa, wearing a white mask, which matched her uniform, and kept a discreet distance. “We’re aiming to find a balance between making people feel welcome and following the correct safety protocols,” she said. “Villas with private pools are proving especially popular for the reassurance of personal space.”

Read more: French regions are offering cash rewards to visitors

Not quite business as usual

There was very much a “beginning of season” feel, as most shops and restaurants were preparing their premises for opening that weekend. At one of the few open restaurants, Grill de l’Océan, close to the main beach, the atmosphere was celebratory as diners clinked glasses and toasted their liberté. However, it was not quite business as usual. The waiters wore masks and customers were asked to do the same while entering, leaving or moving around the restaurant. 

People entered via one door, where they were given a dollop of hand sanitiser, and downloaded the menu from a QR code to avoid handling a traditional menu. There were no salt and pepper pots on the tables – paper sachets were brought on request. As each group left (via a different door), chairs and tables were thoroughly wiped down.

A new beach experience

The almost-deserted beach had similar separate entrance and exit routes, although this was a hangover from phase one and was due to disappear once the beach had been fully prepared. It was unusual to be at a popular resort on a sunny June day and hear only French voices. Aline Marchand, maire of Moliets, said: “We are looking forward to welcoming international guests from June 15 again. All the beaches in the Landes are open. There are some things we are not able to do – for example, our July 14 fireworks will not happen as we are not allowed crowds of more than 5,000. But smaller events, where we can adhere to social distancing, can still go on. Most of the markets will run as usual, there will be golf, guided walks in in groups of less than 10, and cycling.”

Read more: France’s cleanest beaches for 2020 revealed

The possible excursions

The golf course was already open, along with Adrenaline Parc, the surf schools and cycle hire shop. We took bikes from Vélos de Golf to explore a pretty cycle path which ran to the beautiful and secluded Plage des Chênes Lièges and then back through the golf course. Outside of shops and restaurants, few people were wearing masks and in most respects, our stay at the seaside felt like previous trips.

The verdict

We did not feel in a medical “at risk” zone. Apart from in shops and restaurants, almost no one was wearing masks – we probably see more masks at home. You didn’t have to wear one while sitting at the table and it was not a big deal.

A week at Villas La Clairière aux Chevreuils for a three-bedroom villa with a private pool during the UK school holidays costs from £432pp (£3,458 total) with Summer France (0203 475 4756). Sleeps 8. Adult bike hire from Vélos du Golf costs from €39 for six days.

Read more: 7 French expressions you may hear when it's hot

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