Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Off to the Camargue

Saturday morning and we were on the highway heading for the Camargue region in France for a small break. The weather this winter has been mild enough to go for short trips and not encounter lots of rain or high winds.

The Camargue is a huge wetland in the Rhone delta. It is exceptionally diverse in its flora and fauna, it's scenery and the culture of Provence. With its 13,000 hectares of ponds, lagoons and salt plains, the Camargue National Nature Reserve is among Europe's largest wetlands.

We turned off the highway at Montpellier and headed south driving through the Petit Camargue. Immediately, we spotted some bright pink flamingoes in one of the ponds by the highway. As we continued down the road, I caught a glimpse of two huge Grus Grus or common crane, a bird that is normally very elusive. Then right on the median was a golden eagle chasing down its prey. This all happened in just a few minutes. What a start to our trip.

We stopped in the ancient walled town of Aigues-Mort to stretch our legs. What a beautiful spot! The huge walls were well preserved. In the centre of the town is a square with narrow roads lined with shops, restaurants and homes heading in all directions towards the town's gates. Then it was back to the car and on to our intended final destination of Saintes Marie's de la Mer.

Along the way we spotted more flamingoes and in the fields saw lots of white Camargue ponies and huge black bulls with large horns. Finally we arrived at Saintes Marie's de la Mer. We immediately noticed a metallic, chemical smell that sometimes comes from marshland. We could still smell it inside the hotel. Our room was a big disappointment. This place looked like it came right out of the 1970s and hadn't seen a lick of paint since then. We asked to see another less tired room but it was in the same state. Plants inside were dead and the lawn outside was no better. The pool was very cloudy. This was not for us. After all, we made this trip for a birthday celebration. With a few clicks we cancelled our reservation and rebooked in Aigues-Mort.

So, after retracing our steps we arrived at our new hotel. For a few euros less we were in a lovely little hotel with a spotlessly clean, modern pool and a beautiful room. Everywhere you looked it was a feast for the eyes with plants, pictures and statues. Now our holiday could officially begin.

Once again we went for a walk around the narrow streets but this time we were looking for dinner. We settled on a restaurant in the main square, where I had some sea bream and Seamus had some cockles, we think, and a hearty stew made from bull meat and cooked in a red wine sauce. Oh my it was rich.

After dinner we walked around the inside of the ramparts before happily retiring to our small, lovely hotel.

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