I will be in Arles on one of the Rick Steve's tours in late June and will have a free afternoon. I was thinking of renting a car and driving to the Camargue. Has anyone done this? Is it feasible in an afternoon? Thanks!
We drove down from St. Remy one morning... had a lovely lunch down near the Mediterranean and saw the "chevalier blanc" and the beautiful white flamingos with technicolor markings... it was doable and wonderful...Just depends on how much time you will have that afternoon...
Yes, it's quite feasible.
The Camargue is the delta between the the Grand and Petit Rhones and the Med. It includes parts of the communes of Arles, but not the city itself. Technically, all you'd have to do is walk across the bridge. Thus concludth the geography lesson and we shall moveth right along to the language lesson. Chevalier blanc (white knight) is a toilet bowl cleaner. Cheval blanc / Chevaux blancs is/are white horse/s. Having finished the nonsense, Aigues-Mortes is a bit more than a half hour away. Mr Steves might not know it exists. It used to be a walled port, but the Med's retreated and the delta's silted in, making it a walled city. It's neat, takes about an hour to wander, and has a couple of good places to eat. It's good enough that you can overlook the touristy factor. The road through the natural park is better than the one through Saint Giles. You'll see eighty-seven gazillion flamingos going through the park and the horses after you come out. Come back the same way unless you want to cut through St Giles and see why it's not a tourist attraction for somebody that thinks all of southern France is St Remy and Les Baux.
Yes, Aigues-Mortes has been forgotten by the US tour books, but it is worth the trip; an unusual place with an interesting history. Try the local special wine. You can taste the salt of the sea in it.
I'll add that the seaside village of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is worth a visit as well. It has a church with an interesting history and nice sandy beaches.
I think it's a great way to spend an afternoon. You could see both the seaside village of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer and Aigues-Mortes. When I was there I saw plenty of white horses. Unfortunately the only flamingos I saw were metal statues in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. Maybe you'll have better luck!
Flamingos are hard to spot. They're not the bright colored ones we have in south Florida, but more of a slightly pink white - - it has to do with what they eat. They're in herds that are always way gone from where you are - - they look like a thin, light line on the other side of the marsh. I'd always thought it was a stop-off on the Africa migration, but I read somewhere a while back that there's a permanent resident population.
I did see flamingos while traveling by train from Perpignan to Paris. I took a picture, but they just looked like a bunch of whitish dots. Oh well...
If you want to see birds, you can stop by the Parc Ornithologique de Pont de Gau right on the west road (D570). You will also see lots of stables with the famous horses and may be lucky enough to see some out in the fields. The Camarque was one of my "must sees" on our trip to France last June. It was well worth the drive, although we didn't have time to explore all of it. The part we saw of this largest river delta in Western Europe is definitely doable in an afternoon. Google says it's about 38km and takes about 33 minutes to drive from Arles to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. But that's without stopping and gawking at the horses, visiting the birds, lunch on the beach, etc. Do it if you possibly can.
I have been there twice and the first time we saw a ton of flamingos right by the beach in Ste. Marie and saw the white horses as well. Second time we took some sort of wagon tour (we had someone in our photography group who loved birds) and we saw a total of two flamingos! My expectations were quite different from the reality... I had visions of beautiful wild white horses running through fields with pink flamingos everywhere...that did not happen. But, it was well worth the trip and I loved the little beach town as well.
Fleur de sel de Camargue makes a cheerful little souvenir. That's sea salt, produced in the ancient way by evaporation. Yes, you will taste the difference. I have the brand Le Saunier de Camargue. The sentimental value is only reduced a little by its recent wide availability in supermarkets back home.
And for a bit of trivia: the salt evaporation flats from which it comes were developed by the Phonecians. Hence the nautical term Old Salt, maybe?