Sunday, April 30, 2006

Les Saintes-Maries de la Mer

Left Arles at 7.50 this morning on the bus for Les Saintes Maries de la Mer. Saintes as in plural: we are going back to early Christian times here and the spread of the gospel straight from Palestine basically- these Saintes were mothers of various apostles or similar though I don't quite have the story - tricky reading it all in French!
Anyhow I went out to this Estuary area beside the sea to catch the flamingoes mainly. The Rhone is on one side and the little Rhone is on the other side of this big delta kind of area known as the Camargue. I arrived to find a seaside holiday area full of holiday places to stay, and a little later in the morning saw more camper vans than I have ever seen!
I headed into town hoping to organise a place on a 4x4 safari. Decadent and touristy I know, but I was working it as a day-trip. I could have hired a bicycle and lots did, but I thought it was too windy - though it was actually a lot less windy than in Arles overnight. Others took horse safaris but I didn't feel like learning that new skill!
Had a bit of time before the safari place even opened so managed to post off the pile of postcards I had been carrying around. Then had time to have a quick look in the church which is actually a very important place of pilgrimage which seems to be a big thing in this part of France. They had a dressed up statue in there that represents St Sarah and they have a big weekend later in May apparently when the gypsies all come to town and she gets paraded around.
Time came for my trip. We headed along the sea frontage first and the first flamingoes I saw were flying in the air. Next we headed more inland in the little Rhone area. Lots of birdlife and breeding season for some. We were going too fast to see them all I know....... We also saw horses and bulls. When we came to some foals I don't think most on the trip had ever seen any.
The best stuff came last. We went to an area where heaps of flamingoes were doing their thing in the estuary water, or taking off and flying above us. So beautiful and so good to see them in the wild.
Then we saw the fortuitous sight of what looked like a proper Camargue group out riding (rather than a line of tourist horseriders). They rode in formation and some of the men had long poles. It was quite a show-stopper out on the sand and in the water and it didn't pay to be in a hurry on the adjoining section of road.
Holiday weekend here for May 1, and due to be very busy tomorrow and Monday. Heading to Montpelier around lunchtime so hope I find accommodation OK. Am hoping for a few more nights in a cheap hotel to completely heal my nose up, but we shall see!


  1. Hi Kiwi, a nice description of the Camargue, makes me feel quite nostalgic :-)

  2. I was imagining you sitting there with your binoculars etc on, and your insect repellent by the sound of things!
    Have moved onto Montpellier today and lost the Mistral so have ditched the wind jacket again.