Wednesday, October 15

Steve: We had been planning to go to a local market here in Provence, but the timing didn't work out until today. Each town has its own schedule for morning markets, usually once or twice each week. Arles has its markets on Wednesdays and Saturdays, so that's where we ended up this morning.

As we approached the area where the market is held, we quickly realized how big an event this is. There's a long road that stretches along the old walls of the city, and the entire road was lined with every imaginable type of product. First is the food/spice/flower section, where we found great quality fruits, vegetables, meat, seafood, baked goods, spices and olives. The next stretch contains clothes and other accessories, including jewelry, hats and shoes. Finally, there's a wide variety of products for the home - kitchen supplies, knives, fabric, tablecloths… even mattresses!

As we walked through the market, it was clear that this is a primary shopping destination for residents of Arles and surrounding communities. The market was filled with people, and many toted special baskets on wheels used to carry their purchases. Surprisingly to us, even the apparel area was extremely busy - many people clearly come here intending on buying clothes for themselves and their families.

We couldn't resist making several purchases including fruit, rotisserie chicken, special Provence herbs that had been recommended to us, and some Tellines, the tiny clams that we had enjoyed so much at one of our recent dinners. The vendors who were here today will pack their vans and move onto the next city for tomorrow's morning market. From what we could see, these guys do great business!

This afternoon Paula and I visited the walled city of Aigues-Mortes, while David and Katie stayed in Arles to relax and catch up on their e-mails and schoolwork. Aigues-Mortes was established in 1240 by St. Louis so that he'd have a port with access to the Mediterranean. This is where the Crusades began in the 13th century. Aigues-Mortes is located just west of the Camargue, and there is access to the Mediterranean through a series of canals leading from the city.

We have seen several walled cities during our travels, but none as well defined and preserved as Aigues-Mortes. The walls form a 1-mile box around the city, and are all fully in tact. There are a series of gates and towers built along the walls, and several of the towers have been used as prisons. As recently as the 18th century, Protestants were imprisoned here.

Aigues-Mortes is so well preserved that it is possible to travel along the top of the ramparts all the way around the city. We walked all of the walls also climbed several of the towers along the way. From here, we got great views of all of Aigues-Mortes, the Camargue and also the Mediterranean Sea in the distance.

Tomorrow we plan to return to the Luberon Valley and visit several more towns in this area.

Distance Walked: 1.57 miles






David's Download - The Camargue Nature Reserve

The Camargue Nature Reserve in Provence has some of the most fascinating wildlife and surroundings in all of Europe. Wild flamingoes roam the marshes and salt water ponds while milk white horses and black bulls graze in the green pastures. The combination of wildlife and magnificent landscapes make the Camargue enticing for people all over the world.

The Camargue is most famous for its flamingoes, horses, and bulls, but it also is a bird watcher's paradise with egrets, herons, and many other species of birds. It contains large salt marshes, sand dunes, lakes, and pastures creating Europe's major wetland area which covers over 346,000 acres! The small and numerous islands are truly unforgettable - both the sandy and pink ones (the flamingoes huddle together for protection against the wind and create small pink islands in the middle of salt marshes). The flamingoes are just wicked cool! Their long necks and legs are unbelievable. I love how they dip their heads into the water and sleep by retracting their necks into their body, which makes it look like they have no heads at all. Adventures in the Camargue have allowed us to see and experience all its hidden marvels of nature.

During our two trips to the Camargue we ventured into its depths by bicycle, car, and 4x4 vehicle. We also walked in the marshland and napped on the windy beaches with fine sand and massive waves. I especially liked our bike ride through the marshes. Our destination was a small lighthouse 8 ½ miles away through rocky and sandy trails. Along the way we spotted many wild flamingoes, egrets, and gulls. We were surrounded by water on two sides which made me feel like I was on a narrow straight in the middle of an ocean. The trail was regularly interrupted by areas of deep sand which we were forced to walk through. Our butts were extremely sore by the end of our trip because of the hard seats and everlasting bumpy trails! This already sounds like a hard ride, but of course it just had to get harder. Right as we started our ride, the mistral (strong winds that run through Provence during fall, spring, and winter) picked up, and turned out to be a wicked force. These winds nearly pushed us off our bikes and made it impossible to keep a consistent speed. We eventually made it through this adventure, and gratefully made our way home.

We also drove through the Camargue on our first stop to check out the area. On this drive we encountered our first flamingoes (which I am proud to say I spotted) and huge mountains of salt from evaporating lagoons. The huge mounds of salt seemed to go on forever past the horizon. Mound after mound after mound, hundreds of them scattered throughout the isolated lagoons. It was amazing!! I then spotted our first pack of flamingoes, which we saw fly off into the distance. They were even more spectacular flying with their thin bodies and bright pink wings. During our next trip into the park, we decided to take a 4x4 safari. It wasn't that great considering we drove mostly on highways and the driver spoke very little English, but still a good experience.

The Camargue Nature Reserve was a wonderful experience for the whole family. We all enjoyed seeing our first wild flamingoes, horses, and bulls. This is just a taste of what I am looking forward to on our trip to Africa!













Next Day
Prior Day