The Camargue Horse
Allow me to first claim that these photos are from a trip back in 2006. They clearly show how much technology has improved since that time. While the photos aren’t exactly the greatest, the experience and journey most certainly was.
In southern France is a remote town that is nestled along the Mediterranean sea on a delta flanked by the Rhone River. This 360 square mile delta is strangely barren, with salt flats and sea marshes but teaming of life and color with Pink Flamingos, black Camargue Bulls, and white Camargue horses. The Camargue could be viewed as the French wild west with Provencal cowboys and a rough and tough landscape.
My friends and I reached the Camargue after a four-day long horseback ride from the Luberon Mountains to the flat salt marshes surrounding Saintes Maries de la Mer. The day had grown long and hot, and we were anxious to get back our land legs. We were riding in the heat of the summer, and the drought on the flat lands were clearly evident by the deep cracks in the dirt.
St. Maries de la Mer
Along the dried flat lands.
After arriving to the Mazet de la Grenouillere Hotel we were greeted by a cool pool, and friendly white horses in the front waiting for us to go out and play on the beach.
Saintes Maries de la Mer offers everything in life that I love – beautiful natural scenery, a charming village, plenty of shops with local (say French Provencial) food, wine and handicrafts, fabulous restaurants, wildlife and bird watching and best of all – horseback riding!
It is said that the three saints, Mary Magdalene, Mary Salome, and Mary Jacobe sailed to this area after witnessing the empty tomb of Jesus after his resurrection. The town is now a pilgrimage destination for gypsies who honor Saint Sarah, a dark-skinned saint from Eqypt who is said to have been a servant to the three Marys.
Can you see the Flamingos in the distance?
The afternoon was enjoyed by a thorough gallop along the beach which progressively became more nude . There is nothing like being cussed at by a naked Frenchman because your horse kicked sand in his face !
The evening was spent in celebration for a well-ridden week at the Restaurant Le Delta with a traditional and local dish, Gardiane la Camargue ‘Bull Stew’ which you can make at home with traditional Beef Shanks.
Now time for the final day of our journey in the Camargue. The morning was planned for a three-hour trail ride in the Camargue National Park and Preserve. We were told that bulls and horses run free in the preserve, and is host to over 300 species of birds. The Camargue Preserve is now a Unesco World Heritage Site and covers over 350,000 acres of land.
To get to the delta, a short ferry ride was necessary. Loading people, horses, cars and other random items, all piled onto the small ferry for the quick ride over the river. On the other side is a small soda stand, perfect to refresh from the beating sun and high heat.
After a short break and back in the saddle, we headed out to the sea in search of the elusive black bulls. While we were able to see some far in the distance, they just seemed like black spots to me. Our trail guides prepared a wonderful Provencial lunch for us in the shade and allowed us plenty of time for lunch and a nap.
Church where shrine for Saint Sarah is held.
Working on my tan, although my hands were white when I got home. Gee, wonder why?
Provencial Lunch on the Camargue