SATURDAY – 3rd June
Erika is with us so we now have a competent driver to battle these French highways and byways. We set out to hire a car for the day to visit the area of the Camargue, south of Avignon. Hiring a car on line was proving difficult as it was a public holiday weekend and the answer was “No Cars” in places tried. The decision was that we would set out at 08:30 to catch a train from Avignon Central to Avignon TGV Station as we had seen the offices of Hire car businesses there. All went to plan and by 09:30 we were on our way in a brand new Peugeot from Hertz.
Erika had planned our day and the first stop was at the charming villages of TARASCON and BEAUCAIRE. It was Market Day in TARASCON and the village and the people were dressed for a special celebration. We enjoyed a coffee as we watched the proceedings and I have to mention the tasty lemon curd muffin. We climbed many stairs in BEAUCAIRE where we had a view over the village and countryside.
The plan was that we would arrive in time to join a paddle boat cruise and, as it happened, we purchased the last 3 tickets for the 14:30 time slot. Two bus loads of German tourists had pre-booked and there were 3 tickets just for us. We left the mouth of Le Petit RHONE River (where it flows into the Mediterranean Sea) and travelled about 6 kms of its 68 kms. The area from the mouth for about 20 kms is designated Regional Nature Park of the Camargue. The white Camargue horses special to this area have the unique characteristic of being born black or brown. The foal turns grey as it grows and when fully grown at 5-7 years it will turn white. It is a working horse, very strong, the indispensable companion of the herdsman and lives 25-30 years. The Herdsman must be a very good horseman and he takes care of the animals all year. The other animal special to this area is the Camargue Black Bull. It has horns shaped like a lyre, weighs between 200 and 300 kgs and is bred primarily for COURSE CAMARGUAISE, a bloodless bull fight. The bull is never killed in the arena. These bulls are reared in total freedom and the herdsman constantly moves the bulls as the pasture is poor – 3 hectares is needed for one bull. We enjoyed the cruise in this area and were introduced to these animals at close range. There was one more highlight for us. Erika had enquired as to where we MAY see Flamingos so after a late lunch/early dinner we took the suggested road first seeing two in the distance, then two flew overhead, then in the lake to one side of the car we saw them. They were still distant but we were delighted.
The plan was to visit Aigues Mortes to walk around the walls of this city but plans had to change when black clouds began to build and there was a downpour. We drove through the centre but the rain was ongoing so we headed back to Avignon and were returning the car just before 20:30 having travelled 205 kms. A DAY TO REMEMBER FOR THE THREE OF US and a rainbow to complete our day.