La Camargue Estuary and Le Grau du Roi

The Camargue is an area in the South of France, between Montpellier and Marseilles, famous for it’s salt, white wild horses and black bulls, flamingos and stunning estuary scenery. It’s a rather mysterious area, more natural than urban, with plenty of great places to visit with children. Towns like Le Grau du Roi, on the warm Mediterranean waters, offer shallow waters and sandy beaches which are great for small children.

HOW TO GET THERE : The nearest airport would be either Montpellier or Marseilles, with cheap flights from Paris and other larger airports.

Trains will take you to Arles or Le Grau du Roi, but you will want a car to explore regardless.

Our first stop was for a carriage ride (balade en caleche) through the estuary, at Marais du Vigueirat. We took the tour in the late afternoon and it was rather hot this June day, so I would recommend an earlier morning visit. You will also want to book in advance by calling and arrive a good 30 minutes before to park and pay. Bring a bottle of water, sunhat and sunscreen. It was around an hour long and all in French, but the scenery was incredible and we learned a lot.

It was a surprise to learn important the role of the black bulls are. The course Camargue (bull fights) held in the Camargue are not to the death and the ‘Razeteurs‘ (bull fighters) are less important than the bull. Camargue white horses were less ‘wild’ than I had imagined, all were numbered and tracked. They, like the bulls, play an important role in the life of the estuary and are protected. We also saw flamingos in the distance, but the best view (shown above) was actually in Aigues-Mortes on the side of the road!

Aigues-Mortes, or ‘dead water’ due to the undrinkable water which surrounds the village, is a well preserved fortified village with many cobbled streets, cute shops and rather touristy restaurants. It reminded me a lot of Carcassonne, although maybe less touristic. One of the items we purchased due to the beautiful colors and interesting story, were the Indian print shirts (and dresses) from Indiennes des Nimes which are classically worn by the farmers and horse riders in the area.

Near by is also the local salt producer, which offers train tours of the salt mounds and history of the area by train, Saunier de Camargue. You have probably already purchased some of their lovely salt, widely sold in French supermarkets, packaged in round cardboard containers with a cork top.

We chose to stay in Le Grau du Roi, which is a beachside town on the Mediterranean. Our hotel, Hotel Cafe Miramar, was absolutely prefect, clean and well designed with an incredible restaurant overlooking the sea. Our room had a queen bed and a double soft bed, with plenty of space. The staff was all very professional and friendly as well.

They have a nice wine list, with local wines IGP Sables de Camargue which are well worth a try. The gris (rose in color) I had was so light and airy, prefect with our seafood filled dinner, while watching the sun go down from the terrace. I only wish we had gone home with a case.

Then the waters of the sea, which beckoned our children from the moment we arrived, were so shallow you could walk a hundred meters out and still only be up to your knees. There were rocks on the sides with plenty of small sea creatures to see and large, sandy beaches to lay on…incredibly uncrowded for a summer day.

Overall, it was a wonderful family trip with something for all of us and which made for wonderful memories! Let us know if you go and feel free to share your images with us at aquitaineguide@gmail.com!

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