2020 decidedly, is the year where i discover South of France. After two weeks roadtrip this summer, visiting the Luberon, Verdon and a bit of Riviera, it is safe to say that le sud has completely charmed us. The different landscapes are amazing, the nature is truly beautiful not to mention the warmer weather.
For my birthday weekend, we decided to go back south. Camargue was on my list this summer. Unfortunately there was so many to see within two weeks, we did not make it. So i am happy to come during off season, where the sky is still blue yet the heat is bearable, appreciated even.
Camargue, often called as the “French Indies”, is where nature lives its best. The area is basically composed of a vast natural park (stretches about 850 km sq) and hosts over 400 different birds! They even produce rice (yes i know this because i eat a lot of different type of rice and it surprises me too)
I was mainly intrigued for the pink flamingos and pink salt pan found here.
Then as i research the region, i found more : the bulls, the horses, the beautiful cities...it’s nothing like other regions i have visited this summer.
What to do ?
In total, we spent one whole day in Camargue and half day in Arles before catching train back to Paris. Within a weekend (Saturday to Monday afternoon) we discovered so much without having to run from one place to another.
VISITING SALIN AIGUES-MORTES AND THE OLD CITY
Salin or salt pan, is a large pink marsh located in Camargue. The pink color comes from microscopic algues and the depth is around 60 cm. During the summer, the water would evaporate on some part and the salt would be crystalized then harvested.
To visit this Salin, you can either hop on small touristic train (which we did and paid 10,80€ / person), explore on your own by foot, or by 4x4. The train is the cheapest and fastest option. Plus, there is very good guide explaining the whole area along the way. The tour lasts one hour with two stops. I very much recommend it during the low season, otherwise it must be too crowded and too hot to stay on board for 60minutes.
After the the tour, we visited the old town Aigues- Mortes, which is beautifully surrounded by remparts. Aigues-Mortes is a very cute little town with lively southern ambiance. The bistros were fulled with locals where some would be singing while the others talking loudly...
here, for the first time, i tasted a sweet fougasse ! which apparently is a local‘s specialty. The texture was perfect and airy with a hint of fleur d’orangé.
RIDING CAMARGUE’S HORSES BY THE BEACH
Beside its nature, Camargue is also known for its horses and bulls. A lot of activities can be found in the region (thanks to Google) for all sorts of prices.
I found one proposed by Cabanes de Cacharel with great rating scores and SUPER affordable price for 2 hours horse riding, for just 35€. Their horses are the sweetest, calmest and loveliest. They would let you pet them and even give you casual hugs with their lovely head. They know how to trotted gently. Oooh i just love trotting with them by the beach.
VISITING ARLES AND ITS HISTORIC MONUMENTS
If you ever been to Rome and to Aix en Provence, think of Arles as a mix of the two. On my opinion, i feel as if i were transported to a mini version or Rome but with French southern charm. Arles is an artsy city that host the biggest annual photography festival every July.
The morning before we left, we bought a touristic pass that allow us to visit 4 monuments and 2 museums. Considering it was Monday, low season, during Covid-19, we were alone at most visit and it was amazing. I have visited several arena and that was the first time i actually enjoy and run up and down, exploring the arena (cause no one watching)
My favorite visit was to St. Cloître, where there was a lot of explanation about the monument. What was going on there and how they restore it.
CARNET D’ADRESSE AT ARLES
Stay at hotel Spa La Calendula for a spa with a view of Roman theatre in Arles.
Eat at Epicerie Moderne at Arles for a fresh, homemade food where local would eat.
Eat at Pica Pico at Sainte-Maries de la Mer for fresh fishes (one of the view restaurants that still has fresh fishes!)
Drink wine at Chez Ta Mère wine bar at Arles
Ride horses at Les Cabanes de Cacharel
Shop chocolates at Puyricards
Shop some goodies at Moustiques Arles