PARIS (AFP) - Going to the beach can be tough work, but if you need a break from all the gruelling swimming and sunbathing this summer, a trip to one of France's pop-up seaside libraries could be just the thing.
Lulled by the gentle cries of seagulls in the distance, flocks of readers have been heading to the book-filled beach huts that authorities have opened along the coast of Normandy in northern France and elsewhere.
"It's a perfect break for reading and relaxing between two dips in the sea," said 52-year-old hairdresser Isabelle from her deckchair at the library in Etretat, a Normandy resort famed for its dramatic white cliffs.
Etretat is one of 12 local resorts where authorities have set up library beach-huts this summer. Open from July 7 until Aug 26, each of the wooden huts has been filled with 1,000 books.
Normandy launched its Read At The Beach scheme in 2005 with three huts and, by last year, was welcoming more than 38,000 bookworms.
The idea has since taken off elsewhere in France, with the Herault region in the south attracting 21,000 readers to its own beach huts last year.
Similar schemes have also been launched in other countries, including Australia, Bulgaria, Israel and Spain.
In Normandy, anyone is welcome to dip into a book, with no registration needed - but readers must stay in the deckchairs provided, rather than taking them down to the sea to get sand between the pages.
This year, 400 chairs are up for grabs around the region at the beach huts, which are open every day between 2pm and 7pm, with some books in English, German and Italian provided for foreign readers.