GENERAL INFORMATION – Swimming for persons with disabilities (Handiplage)

The French Riviera has many beaches suited for people who may be less mobile or have hearing or sight disabilities.

While myself and my family are able-bodied, I am aware that there are tourists who may not have access to English information due to language barriers.

The beaches here in France are run under the name ‘Handiplage’, they are often supervised and have various facilities including amphibious chairs and adapted shower and toilet facilities.  You can find more information at www.handiplage.fr however this website is in French only.  There is a link at the bottom of the first page that provides maps of the Handiplage beaches in France.

Nearby to me, Antibes and Juan les Pins offer 2 Handiplage beaches (Ponteil and Salis) which is actually one long stretch of beach.  This handiplage offers assistance for swimmers into the water via a ramp, and amphibious chairs.  There is also ‘audioplage’ on offer which is a lighted sound device for visual or hearing-impaired swimmers.

Beach umbrellas, chairs and showers and toilets are provided.  There are free carparking spaces reserved for holders of the European card in the nearby carpark.  There is an accessible Envibus shuttle that runs from the Gare Routiere in Antibes (bus number 14) that serves this handiplage every 30 minutes, and the bus stop is right at the entrance to the carpark.

Note:  This handiplage is open Monday-Saturday, 9.30am-6.30pm until September 15 however please note it is generally only staffed during the hours of 8.30am-12.30pm and 1.30pm-5pm Monday-Friday.

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Sightseeing – Ideas for families, or travelers with reduced mobility

Beaches:   Most beaches along the French Riviera coastline are easily accessible, and safe for children with limited waves, lifeguards (in peak season) and shallow water. Many are stony beaches therefore beach mats are needed.  Children are highly recommended to use UVA/UVB water-resistant sunblock to prevent sunburn.  There are a number of beaches that also cater for those with disabilities. Some are at Plage le Ponteil in Antibes; Plage de Tiercé in Cagnes-sur-Mer; Carras in Nice.  The ‘Handiplage’ sign marked with a wheelchair symbol symbolises where to find them. The ‘Handiplage’ beaches usually include facilities such as toilets, changing areas, showers, ramps, parking and designated sea access for wheelchair users.  For more information visit www.handiplage.fr

French Handiplage sign

Lérins Islands:  Îsle St Marguerite is a small island situated just off the Cannes coastline and accessible via boat that is suitable for stroller or wheelchair access.  Please note that while the ferry boats and island are suitable for wheel access, many paths are not paved so there is uneven ground.  Disabled toilet facilities on the island are located up the hill from the boat jetty. There are stairs to the Fort on the island. For ferry timetables and prices refer to http://www.riviera-lines.com/

Parc Phoenix, 405 Promenade des Anglais, (Telephone: 04 92 29 77 00): Parc Phoenix is a 17-acre park located on the edge of Nice city complete with huge tropical greenhouse with fern, orchids, tropical plants and animals.  The park is 99% flat paved paths (some stairs inside the greenhouse). There is a small aquarium onsite, a musical fountain display and various animal enclosures with birds, prairie dogs, and turtles.  Parc Phoenix has a snack shop onsite, and a children’s playground with picnic area to keep the kids entertained.  The entrance fee also include entry to The Museum of Asiatic Arts next door – all this for just 2 Euros!  For opening hours go to http://www.parc-phoenix.org/

Parc Phoenix greenhouse

Markets: One of the nicest experiences of traveling in France is enjoying the pleasures of a local market.  Every town has a regular market; some daily; some weekly but you are sure to find something to appeal to every family member.  Vendors sell homemade confitures (jams), pastries, delicious meats, fromage (cheese), soaps, fresh local produce, souvenirs, antiques, fresh fish, olives, condiments and spices…the list goes on!  One of the best markets in the region is the Nice Market located on Cours Saleya, between Place Massena and Vieux Nice (Old Town).  It is a flower and produce market every day from early in the morning (excluding Mondays when it is an antique market), and in the evenings in summer arts and crafts vendors set up their stalls.

Spices at the Nice Market

Boules:  The French game of boules (also known as pétanque), is similar to British lawn bowling or Italian bocce.  It is traditionally played with metallic balls on a dirt surface beneath plane trees,  and the local boule pitch (boulodrome) is a social meeting place where the participants (and spectators) while away the hours with the odd glass of wine and cards in between games.  The object of the game is to throw your balls so that they land closer to the small ball (the cochonnet) than those of your opponent, or strike and drive the cochonnet toward your other balls and away from your opponent’s.  My son enjoys watching boules from the comfort of his stroller, however you can sit in the afternoon sun watching a game and even participate if you are lucky enough!

boules