Horses, pink water and ornitology for dummies

Today I really feel like talking about France and why you shouldn’t miss Camargue, the region between Arles and the Mediterranean sea. It may not be a mainstream destination as far as France is concerned, but it still is very popular among the locals, so if you choose to go during the summer keep in mind that some places can be very crowded.

Anyway, do you need five reasons to go?

1- Horses. Indeed. Sometimes advertising posters don’t lie. You can really drive along a paved road and see wonderful, white horses in the fields left and right. Just remember, don’t stare at the horses while driving! You’ll have plenty of chances to interact with them in one of the many riding schools all around the region.

2- Aigues Mortes. The dead waters. I know how this sounds, it’s after all a swamp right west of the National Park of Camargue, but believe me, it’s a truly amazing place! The city is small and pretty, but the real point is the salt pans that are just a few kilometers away. You will find expanses of sparkling white salt, high dunes that look like snowy hills and that dazzle the view in the sunlight. All around there are large pools of pink water due to a particular seaweed. The salt pans can be visited aboard a small train with a guide or you can choose to explore the area by car. In order to do this, anyway, you need to be well informed because in some periods of the year there are people at work and some places are forbidden to tourists. Try the official site.

3- Birds. You don’t really need to be an ornithology fanatic to enjoy the local fauna. There are some large protected areas in the region, where numerous bird species live free and in peace. I was able to visit only one, La Palissade, a wonderful park where you can observe storks, herons, swans, flamingos and many other species that I can’t even name. Don’t worry though, the park is provided with different informative material so even the less experienced can enjoy the visit. There are two routes, a short one of a couple of hours and a long one of almost five. The trekking is easy, on a very well marked path, but the summer sun is very hot and the only bar is at the beginning, so don’t do like me and bring plenty of water! Oh, keep in mind there are also many nutrias, they mind their own business but I must admit I’m not extremely fond of them.

4- Sea. Forget the Côte d’Azur… well no, don’t. Just know that the beaches you’ll find here really have nothing to envy of their much more famous “sisters”. Personally, I do not prefer luxury tourist destinations, so I found myself more at ease on these wild beaches, where you will rarely find big resorts or other forms of entertainment, apart from simple bars or small restaurants. Here too the sand is soft and white, anyway, and the sea is as blue as the sky. Again, unfortunately, the road can get crowded. The local people seem to love those beaches too so try to avoid the small towns like Saintes Maries, albeit they’re very pretty, and drive directly to the more isolated beaches.

5- Van Gogh. Right north of the National Park there is Arles, one of the few places in Europe that get the honor to be considered the city of Van Gogh. The most important thing to know is that the house where the artist lived is immediately outside the walls, not inside, and nowadays it is a bit disappointing. I don’t know exactly what I expected to find, but that building squeezed between two others, which looks like a trivial little concrete house, made me a little sad. However the city is very pretty and lively and in the center you can see the bar that inspired “Cafè de Nuite“, together with other places that are along a pedestrian path, called of course the Van Gogh Path.