Avoiding Jellyfish

They’re the most unwelcome visitor on the French Riviera: jellyfish!  A swarm of these gelatinous blobs can ruin a beach day, and one electric whip of a tentacle can taint a whole vacation.

There is no such thing as jellyfish repellant, so don’t waste your money.  They’ve tried installing giant jellyfish nets which were completely ineffective for all but the tiniest coves, so the only beaches that still have jellyfish nets are the little beaches at Beaulieu, and the Cros dei Pin beach in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.

Meduses in French, they are increasingly frequent thanks to warming seas, so Nice has gone all out and invested in a high-tech jellyfish detection system that can predict an influx three days out based on ocean currents, life-spans, reproduction rates, water temperature and other drift predictors.  The resulting jellyfish warning flags can be seen waving from the lifeguard stands.

But while the scientists are busy analyzing the deep sea for the globby creatures, the locals have created their own system by simply reporting jellyfish sightings from the beach with this crowd-sourced map.  So between the two of them, you should be able to determine ahead of time if it’s all-clear to swim… or not!

If you DO get stung, here are some do’s and don’ts.

  • Don’t pee on it (urban myth!), don’t rinse in fresh water, don’t rub or scrape it.
  • Do head to the nearest lifeguard, do rinse with saltwater, and do use makeshift tweezers (not fingers!) to pull out any remaining tentacles.

Here is a very curious story about a celebrity writer/filmmaker and her encounter with a Riviera jellyfish.

As recounted in Nora Ephron’s Final Act by her son Jacob Bernstein, the beloved writer Nora Ephron (Heartburn, Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally…) had been diagnosed with blood cancer, but she told absolutely no one, and was controlling it with chemotherapy and blood transfusions.

Then while on a trip in the South of France in 2010, she went swimming and felt something stab her arm. She believed she had been stung by a jellyfish but was not sure. A few weeks later, she wound up in a hospital in Los Angeles with an inexplicable bacterial infection that led to a bump on her arm the size of a tangerine. Miraculously, when she got out, she was transfusion-independent. Her doctors had no idea what had happened, except to speculate that her bone marrow responded to a threat in an unusually dramatic way and was now producing healthy blood cells and platelets. My mother was not one to go in for superstition or miracles — godlessness was for her a form of religion, a belief in self-sufficiency above all else — but she was near certain her recovery had something to do with the jellyfish.

So, there’s that.

Then again there’s always the swimming pool…  The best pool deals are the indoor public municipal pools:

  • In Nice, Piscine Jean Bouin is the best one with wrap-around windows with natural light and views on the rooftops. It’s straight across the esplanade from Palais des Expositions tram stop.
  • Piscine Saint-Francois is the smallest, but conveniently located in Old Nice, just across from the fish market at Place Saint-Francois, tram stop Garibaldi or Cathedrale.
  • Piscine Jean Medecin is just off the Prom but on the other end of town, across from the Magnan tram stop.

The best pools with a view are of course on the rooftop hotel pool decks (Le Meridien, AC Marriott, Hyatt, Aston La Scala) which alas are only open to guests…

But the best of both, hands down, is Monaco’s open-air Olympic-sized municipal swimming pool surrounded by super-yachts in the Port.  It’s just 6€ and comes with a million euro view!

Like many tourists, jellyfish only visit in the warm season, so feel free to plunge into the Prom Open Water Swim in October, and in December for the bracing Bain de Noel polar-bear open water swim!

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Jellyfish photo by Best of Nice

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