the best period
Spring and Summer
Are you looking for a getaway where the rest of the world seems far away? You don't always have to travel very far for a change of scene J I can recommend a little trip to the Camargue! I've tried out a family day out for you!
No other place like it! Wide open spaces as far as the eye can see, delicate landscapes with beaches of fine sand, lakes, reed beds, marshes and meadows where horses, bulls, pink flamingoes and herons live side by side…
Mid-morning, we start with a guided tour of one of the most imposing castle keeps of Mediaeval architecture: la Tour de Constance, built in 1242 to protect the port and the town.
The guide explains to us its incredible internal defence system – so cleverly organised! After the Guard Room, we come to the Knights' Hall, which served as a prison at different times – notably for Protestant women. The most famous, Marie Durand, an iconic figure for resisting religious persecution, was freed in 1768, after 38 years of imprisonment!
The panorama is simply breath-taking, with an unobstructed view of the marshes, the Canal du Rhône à Sète and the salt marshes of Aigues-Mortes!
From up here you look out over the whole fortified enclosure, 1634 metres long and constructed in the 13th century on the initiative of Saint Louis! You have to take a photo stop before starting the tour of the ramparts…
You can visit the Aigues-Mortes salt marshes in a little train or a 4x4, and climb up a twenty-metre-high salt "camelle" (pile) on foot. From the top there is a superb panorama over the town of Aigues-Mortes!
Our appetites sharpened after all that walking, we go back to the town centre for a well-earned rest over lunch.
The menus feature traditional cuisine and local specialities: gardianne de taureau (Camargue beef casserole), Camargue rice, grilled meat seasoned with Camargue "fleur de sel" salt, speciality fish ... and not forgetting to taste one of the unmissable local treats – Aigues-Mortes fougasse (speciality bread)!
Straight after lunch, departure to visit the Scamandre Discovery Centre, at the heart of the Regional Nature Reserve. On the way, a short stop at the Carbonnière Tower, strongly recommended by our guide in the morning: at the end of the 18th century, this imposing square tower was the only access point from the outlying land into the town, and was later converted into a toll station. Exceptional panorama from the top!
3.00pm: we arrive at the Scamandre Centre Built on a 215-hectare site, south-west of the Scamandre Lake, this Discovery Centre organises activities to raise people's awareness about preserving the environment. On arrival, a guide explains how the visit will work, and gives us an itinerary.
There are 3 possible routes. We opt for the Sentier du Butor (Bittern route) and hire an audio-guide. En route there are several observation points organised where you can observe the fauna – especially the birds, of which there are many on the site! Don't forget to bring your binoculars and your camera!
I had made sure to book an evening at the Manade for us in advance! We arrived around 6.00pm, and were greeted warmly by the Groul family, who raise Camargue horses and bulls following the purest traditions and welcome visitors to share their everyday life, and in particular, their passion!
We start with a tour of the property, with the "gardians" on horseback, while we and the other visitors are in a cart, so that we can get close up to the bulls. Jean-Claude Groul, high up on his white horse, explains to us the basics of raising the Camargue bull…
The gardians gallop out to find the herd of bulls, then bring them back to us, in the selection area, to choose several animals. The way that the Camargue horse works and moves to separate out the bull is truly remarkable!
Abrivado (parading bulls through the streets), bandido (taking them back again to the fields), ferrade (bull branding), course camarguaise (Camargue bull-fighting), cocarde (cockade) and the art of the razet (rosette)… by the end of the display, Camargue traditions are no secret to us any more 😉
The day continues with a Camargue evening enjoying a typical regional meal enlivened with gypsy music!
Did you know ?
The "course Camarguaise" began at the beginning of the century: it is a game between "raseteurs" and bulls during which the men try to pick up a cockade fixed between the animal's horns – it's the "art du raset".