Palavas-les-Flots, France

Photo: Studio Costes

You’re usually not a sentimental person, but lately, you’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic. Blame it on the pandemic or isolation or the sad state of the world. The past looks pretty good right now. You wish you could go back to a simpler time and an easier place. It’s not that you want to be a kid again, you just want the joy, the freedom, and the stability that went with it. You need to recreate the vibe from the beach trips of your childhood.

You’re not alone. Two French brothers felt exactly the same way. They used to spend their summers in Palavas-les-Flots, a narrow barrier island. This isn’t the fancy Côte d’Azur outside of Marseille. Instead, it’s an old fishing village, south of Montpellier, that has a more casual, East Coast vibe. The Costes happen to be the owners of chic hotels, restaurants, and cafes across Paris, though. So they could do something about their nostalgia. That’s why they built their own beach resort.

Plage Palace is a bit tricky to find. It’s hidden from the street without an obvious sign to guide the way. When you eventually stumble upon the entrance to the white cubes, it feels like you’re entering a chic beach house. The air smells like a mixture of pine and salt. Weathered clapboards, shades of oyster and sand, and soft textures create a low-key atmosphere. Even the young staff, who you feared would be full of attitude, approach you first. The retro-cool ambiance works.

Photo: Studio Costes

Though you’re sure to spend a lot of time in your minimal room and at the lounge-style restaurant, neither is your first stop after checking in. During the process, your eyes kept darting to the wall of windows and the beauty beyond it. First, there’s the pool. The 90-foot pool has a sand-colored bottom, heated saltwater, and wide sunbeds. A rickety wooden fence and a sandy boardwalk are beyond that. They lead to a private section of the beach that’s flanked by wooden huts and filled with rows of matching sun loungers and umbrellas. They all stare out at the Mediterranean Sea.

Endless blue water. Sand between your toes. Warm sunshine. Squawking seagulls. They all feel so familiar. Yes, even the seagulls are a welcome sight. You just can’t decide what to do first. Claim a lounger and order a cocktail from the beach bar? Sign up for a windsurfing lesson to ensure you have an active vacation? Request a table on the restaurant’s terrace to order a seafood lunch? Or take in the whole beach scene from the freestanding tub in your bathroom upstairs?

All are excellent choices and on your list for the next few days. You really just want to walk along the water alone for a few minutes, though. The beach feels like joy, freedom, and, yes, stability. It doesn’t matter how old you get, the beach will always be your happy place.

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