Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Things to do in the Camargue Area of France

The Camargue is our favourite place in France. I only visited it for a day but it completely captivated me. We had a ride on the white horses, arranged just as we were passing which was fantastic. And then stopped for lunch in Saintes Maries de la Mer. The Camargue is a triangular area of Provence with the town of Arles to the north and the Rhone delta to the east. It is made up of wetlands, pastures, dunes and salt flats. Part of it was designated a nature reserve in 1927 and in 1970 the area was granted National Park status.      

Many of the tourists come to see the famous Camargue horses, and the flamingos which are the symbol of the Camargue National Park.  You can also see the distinctive Camargue Cattle which are black with long horns and are tended by French "cowboys" called "les gardiens", who ride the white camargue horses. It is possible to go for a ride on these horses.

 There are three major towns in the Camargue :
  • Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer (population 2,000)
  • Aigues Mortes (population 6,000)
  • and Arles (population 55,000).
The main road through the Camargue goes from Arles to the north to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, a lovely village on the Meditteranean to the south. If you are here in May you can see the traditional and colourful Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer Gypsy festival & pilgrimage which is one of the major Provence events. Every year the Roma celebrate and worship their patron saint, Saint Sarah in the coastal village of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer in the Camargue region.

Port Camargue
You can explore this area and see the extensive area of marinas and yachts.

Bulls have roamed the marshes of the Camargue since antiquity and form part of daily life in this region. You can go and watch the traditional "Feria Corridas" or bullfighting in the Roman arena of Arles, which take place from Easter up to the end of September each year. Before the Feria, you can view the bulls in the "Espace Toro", and you will be able to find out more about bullfighting traditions in the south of France, Provence region. (Bulls are not killed in bull fights in France).   

The Roman Theatre in Orange is a fantastic building to visit. It has a 65 m long stage and still has some of the original accoustic wall. Following the fall of the Roman Empire, the Roman Theatre was no longer used as a place for entertainment. Restoration only began in the early 1800's. The use of the Roman Theatre as a stage for lyrical and musical performances became prevalent in 1971. All of the world's great lyrical artists have performed there.

Seaquarium Le Grau du Roi (5km)
An aquarium with different sections including seal and dolphin shows and a touch pool as well as Mediterranean and tropical fish.

Aqualand Cap d'Agde
If you have younger children or teenagers with you who would like to have a day in a water park then the excellent Aqualand Cap d'Agde is well worth a visit. This is a large waterpark with an excellent selection of pools and slides. Suitable for toddlers and teenagers. It has over 20 attractions on 4 hectares of beaches and waterslides to suit the whole family. It is quite expensive but it is a fun day out. Mind you if you are like me and you would be too scared to go on any of the flumes etc then it is a bit much having to pay the full adult fee !

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