We are parked up today in a private Motorhome parking area 43.562035 4.166197, a couple of kilometres from Aigues Mortes as the crow, or flamingo, flies but nearer 6 kilometres walking distance. But it's a pleasant walk through the salt water lagoons, vineyards, acres of asparagus and fields with the white Camargue horses and black bulls. We arrived yesterday after a scenic drive from Cap d'Agde which didn't really appeal to us too much and, after wandering along canal sides and round footpaths by lagoons trying to find a route to Aigues Mortes, spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the sunshine before enjoying a meal in the restaurant here and getting tips from the owner about the quickest or more scenic walking routes to the medieval city. Armed with the route we set off this morning, the guy here said we might be challenged by the owner of the vineyard through which we had to walk and, sure enough an old guy on a bicycle with a big hunting dog stopped us but when we showed him our card from the site here he smiled at us and wished us a pleasant walk. Pleasant it was but it took us an hour walking briskly to reach the walled city. First stop tourist information where we obtained a guide book and where it was suggested we walked around the ramparts - at €17.50 each. We decided to explore the city with a ground view perspective.
It was a beautiful sunny day, albeit a little windy, and we were on a mission to find a restaurant where we could sit in the sunshine and watch the world going by while we fortified ourselves with Moules Frites and a cold bottle of dry white wine. That's all we wanted and which we didn't think was too much to expect. Alas none of the thirty or so restaurants were offering Moules Frites!! Not a one. Ok, Aigues Mortes is a tourist destination but we still were disinclined to part with €25+ for a three course meal when all we wanted was a bowl of mussels. So after walking around and repeatedly saying "How much?!?!" at the prices in the boutiques and souvenir shops we set off back to the van for spaghetti in our patented garlic,anchovy, parsley and tomato sauce (recipe available on request).
We think we'll stay in the Camargue for a few more days, there's a lot more to explore and the scenery is unique. Plus pink flamingos and white horses. Bit of info - the flamingos turn white in winter because of a lack of carotene rich brine shrimp and the white horses are born brown, turning white upon maturity - you're welcome.
Saturday 9th April.
We are parked up in a Motorhome car park at Les Saintes Maries de la Mer 43.455829 4.427753 and what a delightful place it is. Still in the heart of the Camargue and a five minute walk to the beach and a pretty village. We are bordered by the Rhone and the petit Rhone and although the village abounds with restaurants and shops there is a laid back feeling to the place and a lovely atmosphere. Our first stop today was, as usual, the tourist information office where we were advised of the best places to see some of the 500 bird species to be found here in the wetlands, directions for the best walks in the area and, best of all, we saw a poster for a Camargue Race in the bullring this afternoon. In the races the Raseteurs challenge the Bulls and try to take off decorations hanging from their horns and then jump over the barrier before a couple of tons of angry animal jumps all over them. Great fun. No bulls are injured during this activity but they certainly get tormented and suitably pissed off by the young lads running around them. One of the Bulls smashed the barrier, which was followed by the sound of an electric saw while they quickly carried out repairs, and there were a couple of close shaves for the athletic lads to great applause from the crowd. There are 8 "races" with a half time interval during which it occurred to me that we were only really watching in the hope that one of the lads got his timing wrong, a bit like watching motor racing waiting for the crash or cricket waiting for the bouncer to catch the batsman on his bonce. Today, however, Raseteurs and Bulls both finished the races; the Bulls with only their pride damaged and the young lads unharmed apart from one who cracked his knee on a barrier with a bull six inches from a part of the anatomy where you don't want a bull.
We had time for lunch before the bullring and to our great joy this village is Moules central! After yesterday's disappointment it was a pleasure indeed to sit in the sunshine and feast on mussels. We hadn't really planned on staying here tonight but we've enjoyed ourselves so much and there's so much more to explore that we'll stay another day before heading for a France Passion vineyard nearby on Monday, we're running out of wine!
Photos in the bullring bar:
He just made it!: