Saturday, 13 June 2015
Le Grau du Roi: Back to the Camargue
If you know me you will probably know my love of the Camargue. I visited Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer on my college Montpellier trips in 2011 and 2012.
So taken was I by the Camargue's stunning, bare, evocative scenery; the silver sea and pure white sky, its tendency to sudden storms and the church full of colourful candles, that I used the Camargue as a major location in my YA début novel.
Here are some quotes from said novel expressing my feelings about the Camargue:
Safe to say that it is very important to me. I had hoped to visit while in Perpignan. I did, but it came about very unpredictably and very surreally - quite appropriate for such an unpredictable and surreal place.
It started when I decided to go to Montpellier for the day. I was half-hoping to meet up with someone I knew who was there but if that didn't happen, I would still enjoy a day in one of my favourite cities.
I arrived in the newly redone Montpellier Station - last time I was there they were redeveloping part of it. I strolled down what I think is a new walkway, which took me to my beloved Place de la Comédie.
I had a look at the market stalls and admired the beautiful-as-ever Fountain of the Three Graces.
I contacted my friend and it turned out they were at Aigues-Mortes, a commune in the Camargue which I'd long wanted to visit as it includes salt lakes with deep pink water. Look it up on Google Maps on satellite/Earth. It is stunning.
I couldn't miss this opportunity to go. I asked at the Montpellier Tourist Office and was told there was a bus that goes regularly to the Camargue.
I took the tram to Odysseum (another place that features in my novel!) where I was to catch the bus. It was nice to see good old Montpellier again, flashing by. I caught the bus and we swung out of Montpellier, along the motorway and into the countryside.
Soon we reached the sea and travelled through several towns and villages before arriving at the final stop at Le Grau de Roi. There was a bus from there to Aigues-Mortes but it would be a long wait.
I arranged with my friend that we wouldn't meet up today as I might not be able to get back to Perpignan that night. Instead I would stay in Le Grau de Roi. I was keen to explore another Camargue town.
The first things that caught my interest were these horses.
This is a good example of how the three animals of the Camargue, white horses, black bulls and flamingoes, are deeply admired.
I have mixed feeling about the bulls: they are beautiful and I love to see them; however they exist primarily for two purposes of which I do not approve - bull-fighting and bull-running. I wish they could just live a happy life in the salty fields of the Camargue.
I indulged in my well-documented love of ice-cream. The cone I bought was lovely. Eating it, I drifted down to the sea.
The thing about the Camargue is its light. I've been to many beautiful, natural places and I have never seen light anywhere like light in the Camargue. I won't speak too much about it; I'll let the pictures tell the story.
The Camargue Cross, shown here in the middle of the mosaic is, like the animals, very much integrated into the local culture.
I love the story behind it, which again is incorporated in my novel. The three-pronged fork represents faith and the farmers, the anchor is hope and the fishermen and the heart is for charity and the various saints of the Camargue.
There are the three Saintes Maries after whom Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is named and Sainte Sara, the black saint of gypsies and the Camargue. I am intrigued by Sara and even have written a song about her.
The mosaic also includes the local winds, like a compass.
I love this statue of a woman and girl looking out to see and to the future.
As I walked back inland the sea began to feel like a canal - it was like being in a far rawer, nicer Venice.
The afternoon was turning to evening only as it can in the Camargue as I headed back to the bus stop.
I saw a nice blossomly tree, which was like one final farewell and "come back soon" from my beloved Camargue. I took some pictures, smiled at it and then hopped on my bus back to Montpellier.
What happened that night in Montpellier is a story for another post. I hope you've enjoyed this one: horses, birds, boats, anchors and blossom. The Camargue is a truly unique and magical part of the world.
Thanks for reading,