After my stag weekend in France, it dawned on me as our ferry slowly edged back into Portsmouth Harbour, that we really don’t make the most of our seafronts.
In La Boule they have one of Europe’s largest sandy beaches. It stretches in a crescent moon shape for seven miles. And they make the most of it by dotting it with cool bars and restaurants while not spoiling its beauty.
All across Europe, you’ll find this style of living. Even in the industrial ports of Calais and Le Havre, you can stroll along the beach and have a coffee or a meal overlooking the sea. But you don’t get those opportunities here.
Maybe our stall was set out in Victorian times, when hotels and guest houses were built along our beaches to accommodate the new holiday makers. But we haven’t kept up with the times.
Our beaches are deserted in poor weather. Businesses and attractions then suffer with lack of traffic as people stay away.
Planners over the years have continually strangled the development and improvement of our seafronts, but as Portsmouth’s reputation as a destination improves, so should the facilities.
As the wind and rain poured down last week, I noticed the museums were packed, but just with people hiding from the weather, having a cup of tea in a plastic cup.
I’m sure these people would have been far more impressed with the city if there was a large choice of restaurants and bars with commanding views to while away the hours as they waited for the rain to pass. One pizza restaurant is hardly enough.
Our seafronts, with their fascinating views of passing ships, should be a hive of activity whatever the weather. So why can’t we take a more continental approach?
A French seafront favours walkers and people who want to relax on the beach whilst having a meal or a drink. Here, we favour the driver.
I can’t see how a long line of cars with people crammed inside eating an ice cream, can be as sociable or enjoyable as taking the same view sat in a comfy chair, with steak and chips in front of you.