Ramblin' On with
Pat Middleton
Author, Pat Middleton continues her journey to find great waterway cruises for greatriver.com travelers!

The Rhone River Delta
The Camargue
Lausanne, Switzerland

The Camargue
Les Gardians


Map of the Rhone River Delta


Visiting the Camargue  at the Mouth of the Rhone River!   

 Part 1 of  5

The beaches of the Camargue are among the least touristed on the Mediterranean.

...Deserted  Mediterranean beaches glow white along a warm sea as the last authentic French steam paddleboat puffs up into the mouth of the Rhone River.

 Brochures taut "Dude" ranches and, yes, cowboys, and bull fights. Dark-skinned women bedecked in jewelry stroll in long colorful skirts and white blouses beside a windowless 9th century church. Brooding Roman arenas, medieval walled cities. Soaring cathedrals and dreamy pink flamingos. In the Etang (or lagoon)  de Vaccares we hear the bill clacking of chimney storks...

I first saw the Rhone's grand valley  when we flew over the Mediterranean shore on our way to Milan, Italy--a broad alluvial valley bordered by cascading limestone bluffs. This was the valley of a truly great river stretching northward past Arles, Orange, Lyons, Geneva, Lac Leman and into the Swiss Alps..  The Camargue is its delta--50 square miles, formed of silt carried from the Swiss Alps, through rich  top soil to the sea. A fragile lacework of sea and sand, a rich treasure of bird life, and unique human cultures born of isolation. I felt even before landing that I knew this place well....

Map of the French Camarguecarte du parc

The capital city of Arles was a celebrated Roman port city, and sits on a stony hill at the point of the triangle. This is the center of Vincent Van Gogh's colorful Provence. The spongy triangle of river delta  (noted in pale yellow on the map)  is bordered by the sea along its broad foot, and embraced by the two arms of the Rhone River (the Petit Rhone and the main channel) along its right and left edges. 

bulls.GIF (16796 bytes)Here, on this damp spit of salty earth that slopes gradually upward to the fresh bath of the Rhone waters, have flourished wild white horses, bulls, and the Gardians and the Manadiers who manage them, as well as  sailors, gypsies, tourists and flamingos.

We spent our first  night at the ***Hotel L'Etrier Camarguais in rural Saintes Maries-de-la-Mer, and a second night at the **Hotel Calandar in Arles, just a block from the Roman Arena.

It was not enough.

We needed another day to spend at the French version of a "dude ranch" where we might have ridden the white horses with the Manade (or bull-breeder), Gilbert Arnaud and his Gardians among the famous bulls of the Camargue. ...And another day to enjoy the uncrowded beach at Stes. Maries de la Mer. A day to meander the shops along the beachfront, the Musee Camarguais, the Ornithological Park, and for visiting the salt pans. 

The gypsies and the Gardians lend great interest to the Camargue, introducing a bizarre cultural  melding of the American west, Dutch Netherlands, and Spanish/Italian bravado.

Continue, Part 2 of 5
"Les Gardians"


[ Camargue Overview ]  [ Map ]  [ The Gardians ]  [The Gypsies
[ Birding ]  [ Agriculture ]   [Travel & Tourism Info ]

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