Family travel in the Camargue in southern France is full of delightful surprises! We have lots to tell about this area from beautiful and unique medieval Aigues-Mortes built by Louis IX in the thirteenth century to the wonderful Parc Ornithologique ( bird sanctuary) , but the exciting Camargue horses ridden sidesaddle by lovely maidens dressed in traditional costumes at sunset down the main street in Les Saintes-Maries-de-la- Mer was a stunning highlight that we caught totally by accident.
I've been wanting to get to the Camargue for quite some time, even before our family world trip when I visited Provence and the Cote d'Azure on various trips in the past. When I live and modeled in Milan long ago, I would come to the south of France almost every weekend in good weather, as my boyfriend kept his yacht in Antibes, but some how we never made it to the Camarugue for explorations.
We thought about it when we were in Pont du Gard, nearby Luberon villages Gordes and Rossoulin in 2006, early on in our European road trip, but we ran out of time and good weather. We had another chance in 2008 when we spent time in Nice and Monaco areas, but again we ran out of time. It's not even that far from Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera that we visited last summer, but even with slow travel there are more beautiful places than time to see them all. You can see why our world journey keeps getting extended! The south of France alone, is filled with gems.
By chance, we arrived in Stes. Maries de la Mer just before sunset and noticed some people starting to line up along the main street. We had stopped at the beach nearby beforehand, wandered along the pretty yacht harbor and noticed there was a bullfight in progress because we could see people at the top of the arena and the waiting ambulance nearby. Ste Maries de la Mer is famous for it's gypsy gathering every May, and we found it more charming in summer than expected. It's a popular place for motorhomes and they have a place to park them for 48 hours right in the town for just 9 euros, thus we did and joined the small line of people on the main street.
Wow! We were so glad we did as it was quite a show. Women wearing traditional dresses of the Camargue, rode sidesaddle really fast from one end of town to the other, leading a large pack of wild horses thundering after them with nothing attached, and two guardians ( France's Camargue cowboys) followed behind with their traditional long sticks. Then they turn around and do it from the other direction. You are so close to the horses ( as you can see my Mozart's head in the second shot) that it is quite thrilling and took our breath away.
We are really enjoying our slow travel this summer and it has not been overly crowded so far, and most of the tourist we run into are French, with a few German and Dutch folks here and there. The Camargue did not disappoint and lived up to it's reputation as a special place. We'll be back for sure.
We'll try to get a video up soon, but I just had to share these photos with you! These special white Camargue horses, bulls, the guardian houses and of course, flamingos are all part of the charm of the Camargue and St Maries de la Mer is the key town. Put it on your list! We stayed at a campsite in town which was very cheap and could have easily stayed a week or two.
I had a heck of time getting this post up as I have some kind of glitch going on with my Typepad blogging account that suddenly doesn't allow me to upload any pictures in Firefox, so I've finally found a way around it by using my Safari browser. I'm now at a fabulous new spot in Provence and the wifi is free, but we have challenges also with the VPN on our mac and almost no places to plug in, so I've had to play instead of do work catch up. It's a rough life travel blogging on the move, so will just do what I can and work around all the kinks as time allows. We've had a great time in beautiful Arles, Nimes exploring Roman ruins ,eating delicious French food and canoeing in the river under the Pont du Gard and will tell those stories as I have time ( and decent internet).
Have you been to the Camargue or do you plan to go someday? There is a very famous ( especially in France) beautiful children's film about these romantic horses that you can watch on Youtube. It's by one of my favorite film makers, Albert Lamorisse, who also did the fabulous "Red Balloon".