The Camargue #1, Rhône Delta, France 12/13
The Camargue – It has a mystical ring for any European. Beautiful wild white horses and Gypsies gathering in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer once a year. The Camargue, the Rhône River Delta, is the largest delta in Western Europe, but it is much more than that: Fighting Camargue bulls, straw thatched white farm houses, dykes, brine lagoons, lakes and reed covered mashes, rice paddies, salt pans, migratory bird sanctuaries for thousands for birds including storks and flamingos.
Our illusions stemming from forever-reproduced photographs about the “WILD” white horses were, as the tourist office informed us with a smile, something like believing in Santa Claus. They are all owned by someone. Many farms/owners offer them for tours in the summer, and yes, there you might be able to splash through the ocean waves on an un-saddled horse…just like the pictures promise, but not in December….
We enjoyed the town of Le-Grau-du-Roi with its canal leading to the tidy harbor decorated in pre-Christmas fashion. Saintes Maries-de-la-Mer was equally pleasant though different. We visited the fortress church dedicated to Mary Magdalene, Mary Jacobé and Mary Salomé who were said to have been the first to come to the open grave of Jesus after resurrection. French legend has it that they left Egypt and arrived here by sea. The dimly lit crypt contains a pagan altar dedicated to the dark skinned Gypsy patron Sainte Sara, who might have been a servant to the other Maries. The Roma (Gypsies) gather every May 24/25 for a religious festival in her honor.
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