A French Summer

It is March. It is getting brighter, but certainly still wet. The first signs of spring are showing, and it is the perfect time to think of summers and trips our vacations. We for one went to France last year! And we totally haven't blogged about it yet - so let's enjoy the memories of warm sun and cold beers, the sound of cicadas and flamingos. Yes, flamingos. In July, we went to the Camargue in the south of France!










The Camargue is the region where the river Rhône ends in the Mediterranean Sea. The river delta is what forms the nature of the region with wetlands and marshes that are protected as UNESCO nature reserves.

We decided to visit the Camargue because of two reasons: wine and cheese horses and flamingos. We are all about animals and this trip was no different. Judith was hoping for a repitition of the wild horses encounter in Greece, and Jonathan went so far as to buy a tele lens to be guaranteed close up photos of flamingos (he is usually more a wide focal length kind of guy).

Spoiler: while flamingos were an almost normal sight at the end of the trip (that is a big of an exaggeration - we still were very excited every time we saw them flap by), we started to believe that "wild Camargue horses" was just a marketing ruse for tourists. If you google "Camargue" every single guide and page will in the first paragraph tell you about the local horse breed that you will be able to see roam about freely.
We did see the horses, but none of them were wild or running free. We did drive around a bit and nowhere was there an area that looked big enough for a group of horses to actually live their live with minimal human contact. So if you have encountered actually wild horses in the Camargue, please let us know!

Animals of the Camargue: the Horses

To Judith's joy, horses were a common view in the region. They were all over the place in people's own stables and paddocks.

And then there were the tourist riding groups. Especially when taking the D570 to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, the road is lined by one ranch after the other offering drop in riding trips through the wetlands.


We hang out at one of the places to drink a coffee and watch the ongoings. If one was going to plan to try such a riding trip ahead of time, other places that require prebookings might be more recommendable, as in this part of the region, the horses were just standing around waiting for anyone who spontaneously decided to go for a ride for an hour.



The Camargue horses - the local horse breed - are typically white and sturdy and were the most common breed seen around.

Animals of The Camargue: the Birds

OMG look, a local bird! A fat bird!


Just kidding, this is just a pigeon. However, the photo was taken with the new awesome tele lens which is why we would get that close. What you're not seeting are the additional pigeons that are hiding in the whole of the branch.

We also saw a random man sitting outside a pub with his white cockatoo on the shoulder. When we asked to take a photo of him, he basically threw the bird on us so we could have photos of ourselves with the bird as well. So here you go, Judith and Jonathan with a cockatoo in France:



However, the real birds of the Camargue are the flamingos. We saw them on and off around the whole region, often flying over us.
Because we wanted to make sure to really see flamingos, we also visited the Ornithological Park of Pont de Gau. It is an ornithological park that mostly contains wild birds that are being lured to the place by good feeding and breeding circumstances.





There were a ton of flamingos at the time of our visit! We came home with a ton of photos of every single flamingo, too! So be grateful you only see these few.

And the other animals

We don't discriminate, obviously we also took plenty of photos of other animals. Like all the cute dogs we met and the ridiculous cute kitten that was so tiny and fragile that you had to be careful not to break it when petting it.




This is a young blue Weimaraner, a breed that we are very passionate about. Even though it still was young, it behaved very well on a guided tour around the castle Château le Cheylard Aujac - until it decided on violence and started chewing on an authentic (?) historic carpet setting everyone in a frenzy.






The Mediterranean is great for street photography in general, and that extends to the animal life. Cats wandering about and dog owners willing to chat with us and letting us take photos of their pets.

Wetlands and salt lakes

The Camargue is a river delta that has been used for production of salt for a long time - and those salt lakes are a famous view of this region.


The ponds are being filled with sea water which then crystalizes because of the temperature differences during day and night time. When all the water has evaporated, the salt flakes get harvested.

The day we took these photos, it was pretty windy in this area and it was a bit painful to get a ton of small salt crystals thrown at you.






The red color comes from a type of alga that grows in salt water.



Most of the salt ponds are obviously company owned and locked off, but some you can get closer to. We mostly drove around by map to find roads coming close to the areas without crossing over to private property.

Navigating by Google Maps turned out to be an adventure in itself, by the way. We were lead through fenced off hospital parking lots as a shortcut and asked to turn onto roads that revealed themselves as being farm paths not used for years. Never trust the voice in your ear telling you to take the third exit in 200m!

Where we stayed: Mas Petit Fourchon

We stayed at Mas Petit Fourchon, a Bed and Breakfast very close to Arles. It is run by Pascale, who was a wonderful host ready to help and chat with us. We were delighted to meet her two dogs that greeted us with wagging tails in the mornings.



Mas Petit Fourchon is a big old house on a big ground and it was amazing to stay there! It has only a couple of rooms and suites and many places to hang out. If you're looking for a place just to relax and read or write some books, not too much exploring? This is perfect. It is quite. You can sit at the pool either under the shades or with your feet dangling in the water. Or on the big grass plane. Or ... There are so many cozy places around! If you sit under the big trees, the cicadas will be screaming their lungs out (do they have that?), though.




Oh, also there were alpacas. And cats. And a group of horses nearby. Did we mention this place was awesome?



Our room in the old house with heigh ceiling and (obviously) air condition.



French breakfast on the terrace.

Mas Petit Fourchon is close to Arles. Maybe not close enough for walking (unless you're fine with a 1 hour walk) but just a short ride by car from the city centre. We never took public transport, so we actually don't know whether that's a possibility.













One of the days, we drove north to the mountains and look at some castles and dams and fly the drone. Like you do.






Have you been to the Camargue? And have you seen wild horses?

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Written by: Judith, Jonathan M. Hethey tagged with blog, travel