This is a joke, right? Some elaborate ploy by Exxon to make Al Gore and his global-warming cronies look like fools? At least that's my theory regarding these endless, crocus-intimidating snowstorms. But whatever the cause, enough is enough. It's time for a beach.
Still, there's no reason to compound the snowbird cliché. California, Florida, Mexico and Cuba all have fine beaches, to be sure. But come on, we can be more original than that. Herewith, the best sandscapes in the world to help you forget that March is now a winter month:
Praia da Barra (Barra Bay), Mozambique Except for you Victorians - Why are you even reading this? Don't you have some daffodils to frolic through? - you've suffered through more than one blizzard, so don't settle for just one beach. Jill Salt at Hike Africa (www.hikeafrica.co.za) is offering a new nine-day traipse along the entire southern coast of this very beachy country just north of South Africa. On the continent's eastern, Indian Ocean coast, Barra Bay is only the most scenic of the scores of beaches you can stroll along.
Kendwa Beach, north Zanzibar Mind you, hiking may be a little too reminiscent of your morning slog to the sidewalk. In which case go a little north to Zanzibar, just off the Tanzanian coast. Well known in the area, but practically free of travellers from around these parts, the whole island is one big crystal-blue, white-sand-lined oasis for the seasonal affective disordered. And while most beaches suffer from a bit of low-tide syndrome, making the walk to the water's edge unpleasantly long, not so Kendwa: Located on the northwestern tip of the island, the beach also has a 24-hour bar and Wi-Fi.
Patara Beach, Turkey A fan of irony? Then how about a beach vacation in the place where Santa Claus was born? That's right, St. Nick was born on beachfront property. This Mediterranean stretch of sand is 20 kilometres long and usually pretty much deserted, as the village of Patara has only a couple of hundred spots for tourists - even though, with hotel rates in the $25 range, this beach is cheap. As a bonus, the area is ancient and Biblical. Paul of Tarsus and Luke changed ships here (Acts 21:1). There are ruins, too, but why take away time from tanning.
Cua Dai Beach, Vietnam
Thirty kilometres long and as much as a third of a kilometre wide: Now this is a beach. You can walk along it all the way from the UNESCO Heritage Site of Hoi An to the port city of Da Nang. Though not unknown to the Vietnamese and the people who travel among them, this beach is so big it never gets crowded. If you decide to sit on one of those empty loungers, though, don't be surprised if someone comes along to ask you to buy a pineapple or a drink - it's the price of a sit. (I recommend you go with the pineapple.) And because you demand more from your beaches than sand and surf, this one comes with about 50 tailors within walking distance, just in case you've worn out your parka this winter.
The Lido, Venice Let's say you want to go to the beach but your boyfriend thinks beaches are for people who read Nora Roberts. Then take him to Venice. While he wanders through the Hotel Des Bains, where Thomas Mann set Death in Venice, you can sit or stroll along the beach like Tadzio, taking in the vapours while sneaking peeks at the latest airport bestseller.
Niijima, Japan Forget about Tamarindo or J-Bay - they're way too full of people who only read surfing magazines. If you want a little surf, a little sand and a little insight into Japanese youth culture, head to Niijima, a 45-minute flight or eight-hour ferry ride from Tokyo, where the temperature is fine, the surf's high, and no one's over the age of 25. Due to the friendly currents, the water's warmer than the air this time of year. And if that's not warm enough for you, there are free onsen (hot springs), too. How perfect is that?
Aakrogen Beach, Denmark The Tintorettos you see in Venice are quite lovely, and I hear that seeing that green flash on the horizon at sunset off the coast of St. Vincent or one of the Grenadines can take your breath away. But for my money, there's nothing more beautiful than a naked Dane. And even though it's still relatively cool on this secluded little beach just outside Aarhus - you have to walk through a lovely Nordic forest before you stumble on it - the Danes are a hardy people who will, at the slightest instigation, remove their clothes. And if that doesn't warm the cockles of your winter-weary heart, nothing will.
Zlatni Rat, Croatia Don't let the name fool you: zlatni rat means "golden horn," and this unique beach - actually more a sandbar that juts out into the Adriatic - is a real treat. For one, it's a different shape every day, depending on the winds. Heraclitus would have loved it. The early-adopter college kids have been discovering Croatia in the past few years, making it a fair bet that it will be the next Spain or Greece or Thailand. But for the moment, Croatian beaches are mostly populated by Croatians - who, let me tell you, give the Danes a run for their money.
Long Beach, Vancouver
Island This is, with the possible exception of Cavendish, our nation's finest contribution to the world's great beaches. It's obviously not a lay-out-on-your-towel-and-bake spot this time of year. But if you like running up and down endless stretches of sand, picking up treasures offered up by the ocean, with a gargantuan cedar wall making its daily contributions to the world's best driftwood collection, Long Beach will restore your faith in this often climatologically feckless nation of ours.
Paris Plage, Paris The hard, cruel fact of the matter is that not everyone can pick up and leave for the beach when the weather gets unbearable. But you can still make plans. So picture this: It's July, the temperature is a steamy 35 and you're on the sand under a beach umbrella. To your right, the world's most famous cathedral; to your left, some of the finest cheese shops on the planet; and you're a 10-minute bike ride from the world's greatest art collection and fashion districts - the ones they coined the word "chic" for. Yep, for four weeks every summer, Paris has a beach - 200 tonnes of sand and trucked-in palm trees lining the Seine.
Special to The Globe and Mail