3 free or cheap things to do in France

  1. Climb the highest sand dune in Europe: the Dune du Pilat.

Cost: Free, but camping is 15 Euro/night or so

The Dune du Pilat is a massive (80-107 meters high) sand dune with a forested campground on one side and nothing but Atlantic Ocean on the other. Visit for the epic sunset or the short-but-strenuous climb up. Don’t worry – a series of ladders are placed to ease your ascent up the steeper side (it’s about a 40 degree angle). Once you reach the top you’re free to prance around in the soft, deep sand. And when you’re ready to descend, feel free to have fun with it. I’d recommend bringing a sled. And a helmet for when you reach the forest below!


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2. Go to the Rock the Sheep music festival.

Cost: 40 Euro/day? And cheap wine. (I volunteered to serve the sheep so I didn’t pay the ticket and don’t know the exact cost).

There’s a pig and sheep roast, and it’s on a vineyard, and there’s a pool. Need I say more?

This is small independent festival in its 4th or 5th year. I went in 2016, having been invited by a family friend, and it was a truly unique experience. Technically a music festival with tickets, there were only a couple hundred people in attendance at most, 95% of whom are French. We pitched our tents wherever we wanted — in our case amongst the grapevines.

The highlight of the festival is watching the musicians perform in a treehouse. And, of course, the cheap wine. Ah! And don’t let me forget — art installations, everywhere! You have to give it to the French: they are the world leaders in arts and crafts.

I’m not sure they have a website, but they are on Facebook. So check them out.


3. Go hiking / deep water soloing in Les Calanques

Cost: Free

Les Calanques is a national park along the Mediterranean with some great hiking trails and infinite possibilities for deep water soloing. Aesthetically, it’s all the Mediterranean bliss of Greece or Italy or Croatia but a mere 45 minute drive from downtown Marseilles. This is a known rock climbing destination, but there’s also a university a mile from the coast: the University of Luminy. Naturally, if you go to the closest beach to the university (take the bus from Marseilles to Luminy and walk to the beach), you’ll find a good crew of youngsters doing some impressive cliff jumps (60-80 feet by my calculations), and just generally having a good time in some unbeatable surroundings.IMG_20170517_135932IMG_20170517_160049IMG_20170517_160947IMG_20170517_161250


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