France 106 - Aigues Mortes - Crusaders and King Louis , salt pans, black bulls, flamingoes and white horses

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September 9th 2016
Published: September 9th 2016
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Last night I lay in bed watching the stars through the Heiki roof light. I thought about another thought for the day “We contemplate the clear moon and we reflect a mind empty as the open sky. We lose ourselves in the shadows it casts”.

We woke, breakfasted, I ministered to the huge mosquito bites Glenn has been subjected to. All I am suffering from are red burning knees from the baking sun and a blooming great cold sore which has miraculously appeared giving me gip.

Where are we today? Where is Suzy taking us to? The Camargue a strange land of etangs full of pink flamingos, black bulls, white horses and cowboys. It feels wild and desolate in parts but equally beautiful. We love this area and are headed for Aigues Mortes.

Glenn visited for the first time in the 1970’s when he stayed at a new development at Sete just down the coast. He saw the towers of Aigues Mortes, got out his Michelin Green Guide and went in search of this fairy tale place. I went about 7 years ago. Fell in love with its simple beauty and vowed it was one of those magical places you can return to year after year. Each time seeing something different. This time we planned to perhaps go on one of the silly tourist boats that ply their trade along the waterways introducing punters to the wildlife of the area . The bulls are brought out as the boats pass by. The cowboys ride their white horses to order . Theatrical yes but a good way to see the landscape from the water and spend two hours doing nothing.

Aigues Mortes unlike Carcassonne had not been beautified in any way. What you see is what you get. I imagine the Crusaders turning up and still recognising the place apart from the fact that the sea does not lap up against its front door. It probably looks apart from that little changed. It is too a poor relation to its neighbour Carcassonne. Everyone knows Carcassonne and everyone including the dog visits. Aigues Mortes is special and it is still relatively unknown . For that we are eternally grateful.

So first job find the camperstop. It is in our Sally Sat Nag, we have googled it on Google earth . We know exactly where it is and how much it costs to park. We plan to stop overnight to see Aigues Mortes in a different light. Floodlight. Well that was the plan. The traffic into town was horrendous and each round a bout took an age to get round. Once negotiated we had to get down pencil thin streets lined with fishermens cottages complete with pastel painted shutters. At the end – no camperstop. It had gone. Not a problem. Not a worry we have plan B. There is another one in the shadow of the walls of the town. So round we go – nothing . That too has gone. Plan C follow the damn signs that say there is a camperstop and this takes us again over the bridge, over the slow roundabouts and across town. This time we find it . We take our ticket park up and walk into town following the walls on the outside this time. We have never stood where the sea once stood . The harbour has now silted and navigation impossible. Even so the Crusaders would surely recognise the city walls. They stand high above us and are an impressive sight. So what is the story of Aigues Mortes . Well it was a crusader stop off point and a port which sadly has now silted up. This was the city from which Louis IX twice departed for the Crusades. The Seventh Crusade in 1248 again the 8th left from here in 1270.

We walk through one of the many portes into the town. The walls look equally impressive from this side . It is cooler in the shade of them. We don’t intend walking them. We have done them before and as impressive as they are once is plenty . Our plan is to walk inside and look at the shops and drink cold drinks before heading off on a boat to explore the petite Camargue and Camargue. But that is for this afternoon. As we walk outside the walls they are impressive and impregnable. Inside they look equally so. High and difficult to assail. Inside the little streets meander grid like fashion before we end up in the main tree lined square. We sit amidst the noise of the visitors and the smells from the shops. It is lovely in the sun drinking our coffees before we set off for another cafe to drink fresh orange juice in the sun. It is truly lovely and one of those places you return to time after time and never tire of. The boat trip did not quite pan out as we expected . Sadly they go in the morning and at 3pm in the afternoon . No doubt the cowboys turn up at the allotted time on their white horses and put up a show round up the black bulls. The flamingoes are a bit more hit and miss . Perhaps next time as I am sure we will like Arnie be back.

Our plan for the night is to stay here and see the walls bathed in the spotlights but it was not going to happen as the car park we were staying on was not really the best as it was a car park and cars came in and out all day. So we had to make a decision and headed for the next fairy tale cite. Carcassonne with its pepper pot towers.

Thoughts after a week away: Well we are managing without a fridge . It is not easy and milk and consumables last a short time before they are thrown away . The weather is better than May by a long way. Wall to wall sunshine . Tanned arms and red burning legs. There seem a lot of folk about especially children. We love it though and travelling in Suzy still gives us a buzz we never got travelling in a car .


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