After our brief stay near Nice we headed west to find somewhere near the Camargue National Park. 

1 journey

2 journey

We were a bit distracted by these chaps

3 roads

and I think it probably a bit of a bad idea, allowing them to fly over the motorway, although we didn’t actually see anyone crash.

The charming display of village life in one of the motorway service stations caught our attention

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We stopped at at Pont de Crau, just on the outskirts of Arles.

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The Pont in question is a 2000 year old aquaduct and you have got to admire the skill of the Romans.

The campsite was not bad at all.  Tim and I hate shared facilities, but they were clean and there was lots of hot water.  Our only real complaint was about the biting insects there.   When we arrived, there were quite large things that seemed to want to bite us.  As is got cooler they went away and we felt relieved, because sunset was several hours away.  WRONG!!!!  The sun was still shining brightly when the giant Camargue mosquitoes started pestering us.  They are so big that they can cast a meaningful shadow on the tent (I have thought that there was one inside the tent several times when they flew past on the outside).  I had this horrible fear that if too many got to us we could be totally drained by morning.  I kept suffering from the ear worm ‘when I see an elephant fly’. Can’t think why…

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I have always had this romantic picture in my head about the Camargue…..huge herds of pristine white horses running through water with a big splash.  We drove through a pretty large proportion of the area and came to the conclusion that

a) it’s very flat  (one of our best friends would say that the sky is very big there)

14 big sky

but it was pretty

16 wild flowers

b) nearly every horse we saw was white, but they were mostly saddled up and waiting in lines in paddocks to bite tourists (OK, I am scared of horses)

18 white horses

c) a very large proportion of the park is farmed, mainly with rectangular paddy fields

d) it is a twitcher’s paradise, the area is heaving with all kinds of birds, some of which even I could recognise (yeh!, flamingos)

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we could see the black bulls being reared for the bullring

15 star bulls

(although Tim is pretty convinced that they are not killed there, apparently the bulls are the stars of the show and can have quite a long career, peaking at 3 years of age.  If they kill someone they get removed from the lists.  Tim also pointed out that any ‘razateur’ (French version of a matador) that gets killed would also be removed from the lists…..)(we had a very nice Torro casserole for dinner later on, however).  

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We enjoyed visiting the nice and not too dreadfully touristy town of St Maries de la Mare (second largest town in the Camargue)

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We were not too certain what we were not meant to do

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It looked like the fishing industry had see better times

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We loved the decor at the place where we had lunch

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This shop had the most shockingly expensive knife

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at over €800 until you realised the blade was made of Damascas (kind of European Samurai) steel and the blade was carved from fossilised mammoth tusk.

Later we then headed back to camp and chilled for as long as I could bare the stupid mosquitoes and then went out for a meal at the only local bar/restaurant.  We settled in the bar part for a while, drinking kir and pastis and, to our delight, some of the locals started jamming with guitar, voice and ukulele.

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  It was a real pleasure to listen to them and we felt truly welcome.  The meal we had in the restaurant was pretty damn good as well (although we probably ate way too much.)

On our second day we decided to cycle into Arles.  Major decision……it was the first outing for the Bromptons for the whole trip.  (Would it make the whole effort of bringing them worthwhile? All the times they had fallen over, all the space they had taken up?) 

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The first two weeks in France were full of snow.  Nobody (who wants to live until the end of the day) would dream of cycling in Tunisia and Italy is both very mountainous and full of mad drivers.  Oh the heaven of being back in France where no driver in their right mind would get within touching distance of a cyclist (got to love the French law that assumes the driver is always at fault….)(it explains the time I went the wrong way up a one way system in northern France and nobody seemed to mind)

We cycled into the centre of the city with no trouble and had a lovely time, wandering around the old town

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I loved the hurdy gurdy man

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but thought some of the local art was a little weird

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We ended up eating a pretty good meal at Rabanel, a place run by ‘an up and coming young chef’ who only does set menus (strapline ‘we don’t do a la carte’).  (I suspect ‘he is young and has much to learn’ might come in handy here)

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The waiter started out pretty sniffy- it felt like we were in Paris as he spoke really FAST French to us and did not crack a smile until we were nearly ready to leave. 

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The food was both delicious and interesting, despite the extortionate wine list.  The decor in the loos was interesting..

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(never seen astroturf used that way before)

As we walked back through the old town we saw a whole load of children in fancy dress

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These girls looked very cute

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especially as they ran around practicing their Kung Fu kicks.  The local carnival was on its way, but we decided to hightail out of there before it came.  We wobbled back to the campsite very contentedly on the good old bikes.

After all the awful weather we experienced in Italy, it has been delightful to realise that we have had beautifully sunny days ever since Easter Sunday.  It hasn’t stopped the nights being pretty chilly, however!  The dew has been really heavy for most nights in Pont de Crau, with the tent being so wet there were pools of water at the base.  We were hoping for a nice sunny morning on our last day there to dry off the Tentipi, but a really huge RV decided to park right next door to us, so the sun took ages to reach us.

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The tent dried off, eventually, as we fought off the monster mosquitoes, and so we drove on to Agde to spend our last 4 nights camping for this trip.

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