23rd October 2016. Aigues-Mortes and Castries, France.

We woke up to a raging storm this morning.  The rain had stopped but the wind was whipping up some great waves so I went outside to take some photos from the walkway.  I was shocked to see two people out on one of the breakwaters taking photos of the waves breaking over the rocks on either side of them but even more surprised to see someone way out at the end of the breakwater we’d walked on where people had been fishing.  The waves were crashing right over it.

We drove to Aigues-Mortes and as we drove along the road from Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer I got my first sight of some flamingos as Kathryn had told me I would.  It was very exciting, old ‘eagle eye’ Darren noticed three of them in the water beside the road and he stopped so I could take some photos but it was so windy I couldn’t keep the camera still.   Disappointed we carried on along the road where fortunately we saw a few of them on the opposite side of the road and I was able to open the side window and lean on the window ledge.  It was great, there were only about four of them when we stopped but gradually more flamingos wandered out from behind a bush and I even saw one flying.

Obviously I’m never satisfied so I now want to see flocks of flamingos all in one place!

We saw more white horses and some more black cattle, I’d have liked to have seen the cattle closer but they were in fields well away from the roads (little did she know).  We’ve seen some great sculptures of bulls in various poses, they’re obviously very proud of them in the Camargue.

We parked in a car park outside the town and walked down beside a busy road (there was no path!)  We eventually decided there might be a cut through to the canal and there was.  We could hear a band playing ‘Roll Out The Barrel’ somewhere on the other side of the canal and lots of cars revving up loudly, it was very strange, we walked along trying to guess what on earth was going over there.

As we got to the wall surrounding the mediaeval town we saw lots of stalls set up.  There was a poster saying Fêtes Votives, we had no idea what that meant so we wandered through the gateway and started exploring the town.  Our first task was to hunt down a coffee shop, we succeeded and bought a take away coffee so we could make the most of our time here.

As we walked along one street we noticed it had metal barriers across it so naturally we squeezed through to be with the other people.  We had no idea what was going on but it looked like something was about to happen so we hung around.

A short while later three riders on horses came galloping down the street waving sticks in the air.  We couldn’t decide what that was in aid of but a moment later our questions were answered as a group of guardians came charging down the road on their horses and corralled between the horses were three black bulls.  As the group reached us (is a meter close enough to a charging bull for you Mandy!) one of the bulls stumbled, regained its footing and carried on running, leaving a trail of hair on the road, poor thing.

We thought that was the end of the excitement and began wandering off until we noticed a few people were still hanging around.  Our interest was piqued we waited and a short while later our patience was rewarded when another horseman came hurtling along the road looking behind him (we assume he clears the way by trampling anyone stupid enough to stand in the road so the bulls don’t have to!) followed by another group of guardians galloping down the street, one lost his hat in the rush, again the horses were surrounding a group of black bulls.

They herded them through the archway in the ramparts and disappeared then some more horsemen galloped down, the noise of the horses hooves on the road was amazing and one of them brought his horse to a sudden stop in front of the archway.

Moments later there was even more noise (it was the same sound of revving cars we’d heard earlier and ‘Roll Out The Barrel’ being played again!) and a load of battered cars with roll cages full to overflowing with people of varying ages drove slowly and loudly down the road and into an arena that had been erected outside the ramparts.  They drove round it a few times and went and parked beside the ramparts.

We hoped to be able to go up on to the ramparts to watch the show but the ticket office was closed so we couldn’t go up there.  It looked like it was going to rain so we sat on a ledge in the wall and ate our lunch then wandered back along the canal.  We discovered we could walk almost back to the van that way instead of along the dodgy road.

We couldn’t find an aire further along and because I needed to get the washing done (the weather was too iffy to use my little washing machine) we decided to go to a proper campsite.

We turned up an hour before reception opened so we pulled over to wait so we weren’t blocking the entrance and 10 minutes before reception opened another van turned up.  They stopped in the driveway, wandered round then went and stood by the door.  Needless to say they got first choice of pitch (you snooze you lose, or in our case we snoozed and we losed!)  Mind you I’m glad they weren’t there to hear me trying to speak to the owner who didn’t speak ANY English.

We weren’t expecting to need our passport so Darren had to go and get that while I answered the rest of the questions.  The man couldn’t read our surname on the card so I had to spell it using the French alphabet, I was fine until it came to the letter ‘f’ and I couldn’t decide whether it was similar to the way we said it so in desperation I pointed to the letter on the keyboard!  I was quite proud that I got that sorted out but then I had to ask whether I could use the washing machine in my schoolgirl French.

I bought the washing powder and tokens, he seemed rather surprised that I needed two tokens, I could have done with three but it was already costing €17 to wash and dry everything so I put the whites in with the coloureds for the first time ever and hoped that they didn’t come out grey.  The owner came out with a huge bunch of keys and started trying to open a lock to get some tokens out for me, he was there for ages but he laughed when I commented on the amount of keys (I was amazed that words kept popping back into my head when any other time they do their best to avoid me!).  He showed me how to use the washing machine and left me to it but when I posted the token into the machine it kept turning itself off.  Consequently I had to go in and ask him to come and help me again!  He sorted it by pulling the plug out and then shoving it back in again.

I was pleased to get all the washing done, I’d even managed to go in and ask for a token for the tumble dryer, I’m surprised that the man didn’t hide behind the counter every time the bell jangled.

Darren had had a bit of a time of it too (the art of British understatement) trying to manoeuvre the van in between the trees and our neighbours’ car to get on to the pitch so he was rather stressed when I finally got back to the van.  However our stress quickly dissipated after a cup of tea and some chocolate!

Leave a Reply