Whiiiiiite horses, couldn't drag me away!!!

Trip Start Apr 14, 2011
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Trip End Nov 16, 2011


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Flag of France  , Languedoc-Roussillon,
Sunday, July 17, 2011

So it was adieos to Spain and bonjour to France. On route to the Camargue we stopped for 2 nights in Port Leucate. We had to cross the Pyrenees again but thankfully this time they were not as high and the toll road made the trip much easier than before. We did go down a couple of steep hills where the speed was limted to 70km per hour as there is a treacherous wind in these
parts called the 'Tramontane' which has been known to overturn un-careful caravan drivers!
We arrived at the site safely and set up our little camp (including Poppy's new den tent which she loves!) before heading out for the afternoon to explore the area. The weather was not as hot as we are used to so it made getting around a lot less arduous. Our first stop was Leucate, a cute little village with a handful of shops, some medieval streets and a castle ruin that deserved our attention. After an explore around the castle we found various almond trees that seemed to have some free food for the taking, shame the nuts tasted horrible!
Our second stop of the day was the Port itself. It is very touristy but we found one shop there we liked, the local wine shop, that sold wine from a huge metal drum by the litre... 2 euros for a litre of 2008 Fitou, we didn't argue and bought a couple of litres to support the local economy! That night we drank the wine and popped to the local camp site bar for an evening with 'Lucky'. We stayed for about 30 seconds as it was not very good so headed back for the night with our plonk! 
Normally that would have been the end of the blog for the day, unfortunately we were hit by a Mega Storm that attacked us in the night. Thunder, lightning and lots of rain had us slightly concerned for Ethel's welfare (I say us but I slept through most of it).
The next morning we realised that although we were ok after Mega Storm the 4 girls in the
tent next to us were drenched and spent most of the night in their car. Poor things. We came to the rescue with some washing lines and pegs to help them dry their belongings. After storm night we fancied an easy day of lounging so we spent it by the beach. They had a cool paddling area that had seats for you to relax the day away in. Poppy would have loved to play in them but no doggies were allowed. After beach relaxing we headed back to the camp site for some pool
recovering.

The next day we set off for the Camargue, I had to drive pretty slowly best part of the way (alien to me!) as the Tramontane wind was whipping us all over the shop! Eventually we were driving through the wetlands of the beautiful Camargue to St Laurent d'Aigouze. That afternoon we stocked up on food- we've now remembered how expensive France is and being veggie is a definite option! Then popped to the pool for a dip. The camp site is a pretty big one and the pool here has slides for the kids... well when I say kids...!

 

The next morning we explored Aigues Mortes at the Western side of the Camargue. The town is set in flat marsh land and encircled by huge walls. It's quite surreal as you walk through the archway and enter the medieval walled town. It has a charming atmosphere and the busy cobbled streets and plaza's are lined with restaurants, bars and cafés. From here we drove down to the southern end of the Camargue and arrived at Les Sainte Maries de la Mer. We set up on the beach, i.e. put up Poppy's tent, had a swim in the sea and then picnicked on the sand. There is a big long stretch of lovely sandy beach and due to the warm sunny weather lots of people out enjoying it! From there we drove around a bit more of the south, stopping to see the white horses of the Camargue and lots of flamingo's. The scenery is wonderful and the landscape jammed packed with all sorts of wildlife.


When we got back to camp we played on the water slides for a while before setting off for the evenings entertainment. In Aigues Mortes we'd noticed on the front of a local paper a picture of some white horses with a heading '100 Cheval Lunel' and that days date at 7.30pm. Well we were intrigued so we set off to Lunel. Sure enough there were hundreds of people, lots of music and stands with an array of food and drinks. Low and behold at 7.30 100 white horses of the Camargue and their young ran past us! The festival is called La Pescalune and is having lots of different events from 9-17th July, so far we're not too sure what it's in aid of, but we'll continue to try finding out! When we got back to camp we were walking Poppy before bed and heard a loud hooting noise. It was a young owl at the top of a tree hooting it's little beak off! It's mum must have come to the rescue before long as thankfully it stopped before we went to bed!

Saturday morning we decided to visit Arles, the Camargue's biggest city. What a mistake- Saturday morning is market day and parking was a nightmare! As we came off the motorway we noticed people parked on the hard shoulder and thought it a little strange, as we got nearer to Arles all became clear!! After lots of searching we eventually found a little gap to squeeze Skody into It wasn't a parking space, it was half up some steps by the river but lots of other cars had done it- when in Rome! As usual we promptly sighted another naked man (still not sure why this keeps happening), this time it was a tramp bathing in the river. We browsed the markets, then as Arles is famous for Van Gogh's paintings of it's landmarks we decided to do a Van Gogh walking tour,and picked up the route map from the tourist office. It was great as it took us by some of the landmarks, cafés and courtyards that he painted and also had a copy of the his painting by them so you could compare the painting and the place! While undertaking the Van Gogh tour we also got to view some of the medieval (St Trophime Church) and Renaissance (Hotel de Ville) architecture.

We headed back to Skody to lunch by the river and noticed parking tickets had started to appear. Luckily Skody didn't have one and the market was now over, so we moved the car to an actual space before continuing our tour over to the amphitheatre. Arles is a pleasant city, we wouldn't recommend a Saturday morning visit though!

That evening we decided to attend a 'Taureaux Piscine' evening in nearby Marsillargues. We really didn't know what to expect but there was a poster advertising it in reception and we guessed it was something to do with a bull and a pool, so again curiosity got the better of us! There was a bull ring set up in the centre of the town with a paddling pool in the middle, and lots of families on the stands eagerly awaiting the show. Well, what can I say it was probably the most dangerous, ridiculous but quite hilarious thing we've ever seen! The guy on the mic spoke in French but we gathered that the kids (well, teenagers) got money if they enticed the bull to charge at them, jump through the pool or jump over the barrier at the edge. When I say money I'm talking 1-3 Euro's not big bucks! What we really couldn't quite fathom was that the parents were actively encouraging their kids to go and do it! There's a couple of short videos below, check it out. A few of them got proper trampled, especially one poor girl who dove in to the pool to get out of the way! It's apparently a tradition of the Camargue, all be it a crazy one!


Sunday, our last day in the Camargue was cloudy and cooler, weather we've come to appreciate! Although saying that the temperature has been a bit lower since we entered France and came back to the coast. We decided to embark on a wetland walk to spot a bit more of the wildlife- although poppy did get some tellings off for chasing lots of bunnies! 

After lunch we drove to Montpellier and had a walk around the city. The threatening grey clouds gave some of the city's monuments quite a spooky feel! Montpellier is a big city with a large student population. It's got some pretty impressive 17th century buildings and a huge aqueduct, unfortunately we didn't have time to fully explore the city before the rain came. Instead we saw the new Harry Potter film at the cinema. We managed to find the original version so it was in English with French subtitles. Some of the translations made us giggle, especially wand to baguette! Harry waved his baguette a lot!!
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Comments

Mum (Jean) on

Love Poppy's new den! The Camargue sounds beautiful, watched the videos of the bull thing, strangest thing I've ever seen! xxx

Jem on

Looks like an amazing place - shame about th giant bugs though!

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