I hail from Southend-on-Sea so "proper seaside holidays" are no mystery to me in fact my childhood was one long proper seaside holiday. If I get at all nostalgic all I have to do is head down to Argelès-sur-Mer and there I have it all, from sand-in-my-toes to candy-floss, from sailing-boats to dodgem-cars.
I get a lot more too. The toe-curling water temperatures of the lower reaches of the Thames estuary (was I really in the sea every day after school from March to October, teeth chattering with the cold and loving it?) are replaced by a warmth that filters through to the very bones and shingle and mud are replaced by 7 km of glorious sand with just about every water sport you can imagine on offer. I was foolishly enticed on to a sail-board recently (well that's not strictly true.. I never managed to get much further than grasping the slippery thing with all available fingers, hauling myself up on one side and promptly falling straight off the other) which provided hilarious entertainment for onlookers for at least half an hour ..
Dubious hamburgers are replaced by an extraordinarily large choice of restaurants... well this is France after all. Actually you can find hamburgers if you want them, big juicy ones full of salad and fried onions, not at all dubious in nature, the best are at Chez Simon in the Allée des Pins.
Most of the town is of course quite modern but stretching away either side from the centre, just back from the prom, you'll find not fading 19th century terraces full of terrifying landladies but charming wisteria covered 1920's villas, architectural gems waiting to be discovered by the Sunday supplements.
There's "the village" too, set back a kilometre or so from the beach, to give a bit of warning in the event of pirate raids in days of yore. A pretty Catalan village with good shopping and many cultural activities in Summer.
Every good seaside resort has it's railway access and Argelès has connections north and south so a holiday without a car is in theory possible. A day trip to Barcelona is a little ambitious, not because it's far away but because after 150 years of operating, the French and Spanish railway companies still can't manage to co-ordinate their connections at the frontier - however Collioure is just a 10 minutes ride away to the south and Perpignan 10 minutes to the north.
So much to do and that's before you've even started exploring the region. Where else in Europe can you, for a short period in spring, go sking in the morning and return to take a last sunbathe on the beach in the late afternoon. Roussillon has really got to be one of the most versatile holiday destinations on offer.
And so Argelès has it all, except for, of course, The Pier...
(Use your browser's BACK button to return)