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How to Turn Your Local Beach into the South of France

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Greg Freitas, co-owner of The Traveler’s Bookcase in Los Angeles, travels and reads guidebooks like it’s his job (because it is). Today, he helps us pretend our local beach (or next beach party) is a lot like the French Riviera.

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While the French Riviera is a dream destination, it's also a state of mind—meaning, it can come to you. "Savoir-faire" is the French art of knowing how to do things properly, and during July and August that means celebrating each summer day with understated elegance. With Bastille Day on its way, now’s the right time to turn your local beach into the South of France. All that’s needed is a little planning and careful attention to detail. Here’s where to start:

1. Set the Scene (Mise-En-Scène)
To recreate that Riviera ambiance, it is necessary to have the right look. Brightly colored wood and fabric chaise lounges with matching beach towels will give your party that certain je ne sais quoi. Bonus points if your guests wear whites or linens, over swimwear, so the party is très a la mode.

Spread a large tablecloth on the sand or, for more comfort, try the aptly named Table in a Bag, the perfect way to create a chic experience outdoors. When it's time to set the table, leave the paper plates and red Solo cups at home. The stemware can be clear plastic, but the utensils should be have class and be placed upon cloth napkins. When the sun sets and the evening breeze comes in, light hurricane candles to keep the mood alluring.

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2. The Bar Menu (Quelque-chose à Boire)
It is important to have a very specific bar menu; this is what separates les Francais from les Americans. Nothing says "vacation" quite like rosé. Top the table with a beautiful silver ice bucket or three, and then prepare to fill them.

Be fancy with Brangelina's award-winning Chateau Miraval Cotes de Provence or get bang for your buck with the highly drinkable Chateau de Campuget. At Fig & Olive in Los Angeles, they make a Piscine cocktail (French for pool), a classic and elegant drink from the South of France that involves pouring sparkling wine on ice with fresh strawberries. If beer is more what you’re looking for, no beer is more French than Kronenbourg 1664, available just about everywhere. 

More: How to make five rosé cocktails with just ten ingredients.

3. Time to Eat Well (Il Faut Manger Bien)
The most delicious tables in Provence always start off with an overflowing basket of crudités, baguettes, olive oil, and fresh pesto. The French call Mediterranean sea bass "loup de mer" and it has become quite popular and available in the U.S. under its Italian name "branzino." Follow the first course with grilled whole sea bass with Pernod and fennel.  Serve it with a cold salad of vitelottes (purple French potatoes) mixed with olives and rosemary. For dessert, a cheese plate and chocolate pots-de-crème.

More: How to talk about cheese.

4. Bring on the Tunes (Fête de la Musique)
It just isn’t the Riviera without some banging French techno. For authenticity, download Gallic faves Phoenix, Justice, or Daft Punk. For a more eclectic, downbeat soundtrack, the Buddha Bar series combines chilled out ambient lounge with danceable world beats.

À votre santé!

How do you make your local beach a little more luxe? Let us know in the comments!