Thursday, May 7, 2009

Arles & The Carmargue: Tuesday 5th May 2009

The Carmargue is an area of South France 40 min from our apartment. On our way there we stopped in the town of Arles.

Arles, like Nîmes, was an important component in the trade routes of the Romans, it lies on the Rhône and was a busy port. Arles also has a superbly preserved Amphitheatre, but not wanting to overdose on Arenas we decided not to go inside this one. Reading the info board outside, in the 16th century the arena had 200 houses built inside it and 2 churches. These were cleared in the early 19th to leave the arena free for bullfights.

An 11th century church, St Trophime, has numerous tapestries on the walls, much decoration in a Romanesque style church and a huge number of relics.

16km further on is the area known as the Carmargue. Between the two arms of the Rhône (Grand & Petit Rhône) is a vast marshland through to the sea. The black cattle native to the area have been used for bull-fighting and the white horses were ‘farmed’ by cowboys (guardians). Today much of the area is a protected regional park. Around the huge Lagoon Etang de Vaccarès there are pink flamingos. Today being exceptionally windy – the Mistral- the water was very rough and we only saw a few at a distance and one close up.

One of the main crops of the area is rice. We were surprised to see paddy fields and initially Paula did not believe Andrew’s pronouncement that it was rice. However with the amount of water at their disposal we understand why this is possible.

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