Saturday, July 6, 2013

Off the Beaten Path

Today was a day I had left open in our itinerary so that we could choose to revisit someplace we really liked and/or to go someplace new.  The girls chose to go somewhere new: the Camargue region.  The Camargue is an area along the coast that's unique for its marshy topography, the white horses (or gray, in horse lingo) that are raised and used by the local cowboys, and the flamingos that scour the marshes. It's an area that's not typically visited by American tourists.

We were glad we made the trip.  Once again our GPS took us along some backroads that kept our hearts skipping a beat but that really did seem to cut down the trip time.  Though we had hoped to stop at the Ornithological Park first, we couldn't find the sign directing us there.  Instead, we kept driving along the road and ended up in Stes Maries de la Mer, a charming oceanside town.  Next thing you know, we had parked the car and were heading to the beach with all the locals.

We enjoyed a walk along the very quiet boardwalk.  We passed at least ten coves made for swimming that were separated by man-made break waters.  As we walked, there were fewer swimmers and more Hobie cats and sail boats in the coves.

As we strolled, we noticed odd goings-on at the church in the center of town and decided to investigate.  People were on top of the church and we figured -- why not join them?  We climbed up narrow corkscrews steps to get to the ridgepole....

and saw this panorama.  What a lucky find!  We sat and enjoyed the view, along with the smells of the ocean and the lovely breeze, for almost half an hour.  It was great.   We chatted and sat quietly.  After a bit, my youngest said, "Just sitting here was worth the drive today."  It was music to my ears since it had taken us almost two hours to get there.

We decided to head back to the car (via the oceanside boardwalk, of course) and drive to Arles for some lunch.  We set the GPS and, viola, we were suddenly in the bird park and in flamingo territory!  

There were thousands of them.  Though they walked/trotted away as soon as we tried to get close enough to take pictures, we were still all excited to see them.  They made interesting patterns in the water as they moved, but none of those pictures turned out well; it was very windy and the waters distorted quickly.

We got underway again, urged on by our empty stomachs.  We saw lots of beautiful white horses and even some of the big black bulls raised in the area for bullfights, but there were never any spots for us to pull over.  

And then, our GPS failed us.  It sent us 30 minutes in the wrong direction -- it had the correct street address, but the completely wrong town.   We had been doing so well with our French GPS-man.  At that point, we decided to head straight back to Gordes, bypassing Arles, and to treat ourselves to a late, but delicious, ice cream lunch.  We did eventually pass Arles and it looked lovely from the highway.  Traffic getting into the town, however, looked terrible so it was probably just as well that we didn't make it there.

The drive back went smoothly from then on.  We had exact change for the tolls and I managed to navigate the gas station attendant's conversation to fill the tank myself.  As we entered Gordes for the last time, we stopped to take pictures.

Isn't it lovely?  It's been the perfect home base as we explore Provence.  

We enjoyed our ice cream lunch and, a few hours later, we dressed up for a delicious dinner on the hotel terrace. It's been wonderful to spend this time with my girls.

And now, we are packing up to leave.  Tomorrow is our last full day in France.  We're already talking about what we'd like to see the next time we come.


Anonymous said...

two words.....Loire Valley


Karen L R said...

What a fabulous day!

norma said...

You sure are packing a lot in. What a wonderful adventure and you all look beautiful!