The Bogtrotter

Tag: Camargue

Traditional Les Saintes Maries de la Mer

by on Mar.08, 2009, under France, French Experiences

Les Saintes Maries de la Mer is one of those places whose name alone conjures up images of legends from the past. Set in the heart of the Camargues region of southern France, this coastal town is steeped in history and folklore. The local Camargue culture is infused with gypsy traditions, and the highlight of the local calendar is the annual gypsy pilgrimage to the town in May.

View from the roof of the church

View from the roof of the church

The centre of Les Saintes Maries de la Mer is dominated by the church, which towers above the surrounding buildings. Built between the 9th and 12th centuries it seems more of a fortress than a place of worship, which is probably why it survives so well today. The main attraction inside is the statue of St. Sara, a significant figure in Gypsy cultural tradition, which is found in the crypt to the right of the altar. After visiting the inside of the church, make sure you climb up onto the roof for panoramic views across the Camargues and out into the Mediterranean.
Over Les Saintes Marie de la Mer

Looking out over Les Saintes Marie de la Mer

Surrounding the church are a labyrinth of narrow streets, offering shelter from the mediterranean heat. There are shops selling everything a tourist may wish for, and the atmosphere is typically friendly and festive throughout the year.

For more information visit the local tourist office web site.

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Bull Running in the Camargue

by on Jan.18, 2009, under France, French Experiences

Running the bulls through Le Grau Du Roi

Running the bulls through Le Grau Du Roi

If you have ever wanted to chase a bull down the road then this is your chance!

The Camargue region of Southern France is one of the last remaining wild areas of Europe. Across the salt marshlands you will see jet black horses mingling with the famous white Camargue horses. The area is full of ranches (manades or mas) where bulls are bred for their meat, but also to play with.

All the local villages have an arena, whils Nimes and Arles maintain their impressive Roman arenas. But unlike in Spain, the French prefer not to kill the bulls. Throughout the summer “Course Camarguaise” are held, where the competitors win prizes by grabbing ribbons from between the horns of the bulls.

Before and after these events some of the bulls are run through the streets, guides by the local “guardians” on horseback. The locals have one aim – distract the horses and guardians, and allow the bull to roam loose through the town.

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