Valras (Valrans in Occitane) is a bustling and typical southern French seaside resort. With its port, long sandy beach, promenade and diverse activities, it makes an excellent base for a summer holiday.
Kids love Valras Plage as the promenade seems to have been built specially for them; rollerblading along its flat surface with a stop-off at the little adventure park towards the marina is great fun. Then a stroll around the marina itself to see the fishing and numerous pleasure boats and, in the summer, there is usually a fairground (fete foraine) with tall toboggans and bumper cars. For the smaller kiddies, there is the lady who hires out little pony tricycles.
There is a lot of sailing activity centered around the marina with yachts, small motorboats and jet skis powering through the water just beyond the safety markers. The beach is also great for kids as it shelves very gently and the stone breakwaters break up the waves until they are no more than rivulets.
Along the promenade are various cafés, bars, restaurants and salons de thé. Ice cream is a big thing in Valras; as a ‘coupe’ - a proper, posh confection in a tall glass; as a Mr Whippy-style cornet out of an ice cream machine; or, again on the promenade, there is a shop that sells nothing but 50+ different flavours of ice cream. Smurf ice cream, Dime bar ice cream and everything in between is available here.
In the little streets behind the seafront are myriad shops ranging from a small supermarket to shops offering clothes and beach accessories. At the other end of the beach is the Casino which, in addition to gambling, has a restaurant and bars. In the high season, it stages cabarets and events such as tea-dances. Valras is a real town with people living here all year round. Some of the cafés are even open on Christmas day so you can enjoy a typically sunny and bracing post-Christmas lunch stroll along the beach, followed by a reviving chocolat chaud (hot chocolate) in the Cartoon Café.
There are stalls selling fresh fish and seafood open most days and at the far end of the port is a ‘poissonnerie’ selling a range of freshly caught Mediterranean fish. This shop is - unusually - also open on a Sunday. If you have a smattering of French, and fancy messing about in boats, you might consider signing up with the sailing school and taking some lessons on their trainer dinghies.