So we had slept with the windows opened as the husband insisted on doing so. However, with the windows opened, this meant the noise would filter right into our room as it was located adjacent to the roads. Its not that it was noisy but a truck at 6 am doing it rounds was very noisy for me. In addition, opened windows meant the light would flood the room as the sky turned really bright by 6 am. Sound and light do not go down well for me when I need sleep 😥 . The curtains used in hotels in Provence simply do not block light well. I suspect these curtains are used to make the tourists rise early so they would have more time to savour the delights of Provence. 😉
Luckily, we managed to return to sleep! 😉 By the time we were ready to explore Camargue, it was about 9 plus. The plan was then to grab a croissant and head to the tourist office in Arles to get some maps/ information. Took us a long time to find the tourist office as the signage was not clear enough for us. 🙄 We grabbed a nice baguette sandwich from a boulangerie near the tourist office. From the tourist office, we got maps of the Camargue detailing the attractions. I asked about horse riding and was given a few recommendations. The advice was to go there and book a slot for the day and return for the ride later in the day.
Remember the problem with the carpark we had? We took the receptionist’s word and assumed things would work normally now. However, when we inserted the ticket into the machine, again the barrier did not lift and the same error message came up. Luckily we decided to use the gantry nearer to the office and even luckier, there was a staff there. I went into the office and said the one phrase I’m getting really good at. ‘Bonjour, parlez vous anglais?’ ‘Non’, came the reply. So with the benefit of being able to show the ticket and saying ‘problem, problem’, with a french accent of course, I thought I managed to convey the problem we were having. When he replied in French and with his hand gesture, I knew he didn’t get it. From his gesture, it seemed that he thought we didn’t know we have to insert the ticket into the machine. So I said ‘Non, non. Problem, problem’, waving the ticket. So he decided to check our ticket. Ah viola!! There was a problem with the ticket. Seemed like the ticket provided by the hotel was expired, so the kind gentleman gave us a new one. Phew! 😉 And then came the other phrase I’m very good at ‘Merci, merci beaucoup’! And ended the conversation with a very cheery ‘Au revoir’. 🙂
So we decided to head to Aigues Mortes first and if we come across any stables, I had intended to persuade my husband to make a stop. You see, he was reluctant to try horse riding. 😐
There’s a lot of parking space available outside the city wall at Aigues Mortes and the town is very accessible from the car park. After we had parked the car, we decided to check first where the machine for the parking charges was located. We were glad to see it near the entrance of the car park. You see, it is important to locate the machine so we would know if the machine accepts only coins or otherwise. One is most hard pressed for a coin changing machine in France.
So immediately on our right when we walked in the town from the car park, we landed up exactly where we should start our tour. The entrance to the ramparts.
This map shows depicts the entire city wall.
We decided to explore the Constance tower before tackling the ramparts. Thank goodness we did it this way!
There is a short bridge linking the Constance Tower to the main ground and there’s quite some photo opportunities on this bridge.
From this hole, we could see our white car. 😎
The interior of Tour de Constance:
A view to the outside world.
Stairs which bring one up/down from the tower. There’s actually a lift available for use. While all can use it to ascend the tower, all who are physically mobile have to descend using the stairs. While we were going down, there were people coming up the stairs, panting. Something tells me they were not aware there’s a lift available for use as the lift is further into the room while the stairs are immediately visible upon entry.
A tower on top of the tower?
Marvellous views from the tower.
It was a lovely spring day. Skies were lovely, wind was cool and excellent Provencal sunlight for phototaking.
When descending, visitors are allowed to access the upper level inside the tower. Nothing special in the second level but it allows one to see the tower from a slightly higher perspective.
After a short break, we entered the ramparts to start the walk.
View from the rampart at the start point.
We had no idea we were on a path of no return. What this means is to get out of the ramparts, one has to either finish walking round the entire city wall or to turn back and exit from where one came from. For the latter, it is feasible only if one has not gone too far along the walk.
So having no idea what we were in for, we took quite a number of photos at the start of the walk.
From a distance, the purplish water was beckoning for us.
Aigues Mortes is a very organised town. Oh, and the orangey red tiles are a feature of Provencal roofs.
And finally the pinkish purple water was in front of us. albeit separated by a field.
This, by itself, made my day! Feels like nothing short of a miracle. How beautiful nature is! 🙂
We were (still are!) so intrigued as to why the water is so colourful. Aigues Mortes means ‘dead water’, referring to the salty water in the region. I know the colours of the water must have something to do with the high salinity of the water. A quick google search shows that pink algae grows in these salty water, and with no predator living in these water, the pink algae thrives and transforms the water. It is a very pretty sight. And any guesses as to what the ‘white mountains’ are?? They are salt mounds! Camargue, being such a salty region, is of course famous for salt production. In fact, there are factories around, more in the Salin-de-Giraud area, where one could go and check out the salt factories.
To be honest, about 1/3 into the walk, I was ready to give up. It was turning out to be a very long walk. And I was getting hungry too! 😥 There seemed to be only two exit points; one at the entrance and the exit at the end of the walk. As mentioned above, to continue forward was a long way to go BUT to turn and head back to the starting point seemed like an even longer way to go! I did actually head back for a few metres before the husband called for me to continue ahead! 😐 So we walked and walked. And we were rewarded by the view of the pinkish purple waters! 😎
After lunch, we walked around the nearby lanes and I quite liked what I saw. Love the variety of salt the region has, although I have no idea what exactly the different types of salt can be used for. The packaging of the products is lovely, and I’m a sucker for lovely packaging. But I managed to defeat the shopaholic in me and not buy all the salt available for sale. 😛
And there’s this huge cookies/candies store. I think it is rather famous as we saw it in Paris too. La Cure Gourmande.
The cookies and candies were nice. And I couldn’t believe we had spent more than 20 euros for some cookies and candies. 🙄
It was about about 2 plus by the time we decided to leave Aigues Mortes. The next destination was Sainte Marie’s de la Mer.
And I only remembered to take a picture of the city wall while we were driving away. 😯
Come to think of it, the city wall of Aigues Mortes is very similar to that of Avignon. Maybe all city walls are more or less the same?
My plan was to keep a lookout for stables on our way to Sainte Marie de la Mer. I did spot some but the husband always didn’t manage to enter the stables from the road. Hmmm.
When we reach Sainte Marie de la Mer, we were very lucky to spot an empty parking lot. I noticed that the parking lot is in the blue zone and had no idea if that meant we could park there or not. In the end, we decided maybe we couldn’t park the car there as there were cars with decals that had ‘bleu’ on them.
So we drove further into the town and managed to find a lot of parking spaces in an area near a stream. Parking was free and my only worry was the car would be stolen or broken into as the place was a bit isolated.
For us, there was nothing much to do in Sainte Marie de la Mer. It was very touristy and does not really have a main attraction. There were plenty of souvenir shops around and a church. So we went into the church.
There were interesting stuff on the walls, such as drawings of women and child. I think the pictures on the walls are depicting the legend of Mary setting foot on the island. However, there was a musty smell in the church and hence we didn’t linger on.
Of course, there is an area for candles lighting.
Again, we saw salt on sale. 🙂 So if one is desperate for different kinds of salt, one knows where to head to.
After Aigues Mortes, Sainte Marie de la Mer was sort of boring for us. We decided to give the town a ‘last chance’, so to speak. So we headed to the beach.
A roundabout on our way to the beach.
The statue in the middle of the roundabout.
The beach. Hmmmm, we were not very impressed with the beach. But there were people enjoying the Provencal sun. 😉
So we left Sainte Marie de la Mer. I still remembered my aim of horseback riding and after fiddling with the GPS, I finally found Domaine Ricard, and we headed there.
When we reached Domaine Ricard, it was rather empty. It was almost close to 6pm then. So even though the Provencal sunlight is still bright and shiny at 6pm (all the way until 9 plus), businesses were already done for the day. I must admit, I was surprised that businesses didn’t seem to want to make more money with the extra hours of daylight.
Although the stable was closed, we were allowed to wander on the grounds and even head towards the etang where the marshes and wildlife are.
So before we entered the etang, we came across some animals.
The entrance to the etang was easy to find. And we simply walked along the track hoping to spot some animals. Unfortunately, I think the part we were in was more ‘cultivated’ in a sense. This meant we didn’t spot the true wildlife animals. However, along the way further in, we heard the sound of hooves. I didn’t register what the sound was until the husband pointed out there were horses galloping! 😯 It turned out that we were on the walking trail and beyond this trail, there’s another trail meant for horses. And a French cowboy was leading a pack of horse. It was our first time seeing horses galloping in front of us and it was an awesome experience; to take in the sounds, sight and well, dust.
The horses were led into an enclosure where they could graze and feed and perhaps spend the night.
We saw more empty fields than fields with animals. 😦
And suddenly, we felt eyes on us. 😯
Their eyes followed us! 😮
Black bulls! 😎
It was our first time seeing black bulls too! And we were having fun taking photos and saying funny stuff about bulls. We joked about what if the bull starts making the action they do when getting ready to charge. The husband was moving about a lot and suddenly one of the bulls starting sweeping it’s leg. That was the charging action we had just joked about!! 😯
Gosh, I was really worried that bull would come charging at us. And if it did, we would definitely make some headline news because the fence surrounding the bulls didn’t seem capable of stopping charging bulls at all. 😕 I told the husband to stop moving. As I was telling him that, I was moving away from the bulls’ enclosure. But he didn’t take me very seriously! 👿 And he continued moving as if playing with the bulls! 🙄 Anyway, I was determined not to make headline news and kept moving on. Luckily, the husband eventually caught up, without the bull in sight. Phew! 😳
After the bulls, there was nothing very interesting around except for grasses.
So we decided to head back and get back to Arles to find a place for dinner. Upon exiting the etang, we saw an enclosure with two horses. I wondered why the horses were not brought to the field with the other horses.
Back in Arles, we consulted the list of restaurants we got from the receptionist yesterday and decided to go to Restaurant Le Plaza for dinner. The receptionist kindly made a reservation for us. In addition, I showed her the brochure of Domaine Ricard and asked her to please help us make a booking for horse riding. I had wanted the 2-hour session but there were no availability for that. Luckily 1-hour slots were still available. The only condition attached to the one hour session was ‘we could only walk the horse’. Hmmm, walk the horse as in walk the dog kind of walking? The receptionist actually meant we couldn’t bring the horse to faster than walking pace. I understood the part on not bring the horse to say galloping etc but I was really intrigued how the whole thing works. Anyway, I was happy to have the booking done for the horse riding and off to dinner we went.
Some rose wine to enjoy dinner with. We are not quite into drinking and so we took the wine recommended by the waitress. Its a pity we didn’t enjoy the wine for this dinner. 😐
The start of our 3-course meal. I got some sort of mashed vegetable appetiser.
Our mains. Veal for him, fish for me.
Again, my fish was made into some mishy-mashy stuff. 😯 I had just wanted to eat a fish which looks like a fish. And we were intrigued by that little lobster lookalike.
I don’t know how to eat that and there didn’t seem to be any flesh. I wished it wasn’t on my plate. It could have been left to grow. 😳
And desserts! I had some ice cream which I couldn’t finish since I started feeling real cold after a few mouthful while darkness descended onto Arles. He had a nice chocolate pastry.
All in all, the ambience in the restaurant was nice. However, I was hoping for better food since it was recommended by the hotel.
So that’s that for day 2 and our last night in Arles. There’s something so alluring about being in the countryside.
Missing Provence already.