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The Road Trip Part 2

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Ok, story so far: We have arrived in Martigues tired, hungry and feeling dirty from travelling.  So after booking into the Ibis motel and taken a much-needed shower we went down to supper, enjoyed a couple of stress relieving drinks then went to bed. We were woken by the noise of the traffic, now you have to remember that we do not hear any traffic noise at home so what was normal city noise to most of you was loud to us, but it was a good thing as we were able to have breakfast and get an early start.  We headed for Port St Louis which is one of the “gateways” to the Camargue.

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Now this is the place we were originally heading for. It’s a nice little port with a wide promenade and yacht basin and two hotels one at each end of the promenade.  As you can see from the pictures Michael is still fond of his boats, and headed along the pathway by the marina looking at the boats.  We also found the small market where local fishing boats sell their catches, very modern and run by the fishermen’s cooperative.  The boats, yachts and fishing boats were all intermingled including the lifeboat, with the visitors pontoon along the main edge of the promenade, as we sat in the shade of a bar drinking a fanta this one turned up.

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After our walk round Port St Louis we headed for the ferry to cross the Rhone. This is one hell of a wide river and the ferry is obviously  a very popular crossing. There was quite a queue and very busy even taking the odd lorry.  It cost us 5 euros to cross but the experience was well worth it as you can see from the pictures the Rhone is wide enough for large shipping.

Once on the other side we turned right as the map (yes we had one the tourist office was very kind) and headed out in to the Camargue.  Now I have always had this image of the Camargue as being marshy with lagoons filled with wild Black Bulls, White Horses and Flamingos.  In actuality we could not see much of anything in places as the canes and rushes were so high they blocked your vision.

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So our first sight of the Flamingos came suddenly when we came out into a clear part which gave us views of the lagoons. Off to the right was a large lagoon filled with Flamingos but a bit too far for our camera to get a good shot. This made the Navigator a little bit miffed so off she went along this little path that led to a fenced off standing space nearer the lagoon and got her picture. Not as clear or near as she would have liked but a little further on we had better luck. Here there were pull in’s for cars and coaches and as you can see the Flamingos were used to tourists as they carried on feeding despite the oos and ahhs from a coach load of Japanese tourists. Off went my Navigator  to take her pictures returning a happy soul. But although we had travelled quite a way we had seen neither Horses or Bulls then our luck changed……

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As I was driving along a tree-lined avenue I spotted some dark animals moving in the fields, we had found the famous Black Bulls.  Obviously we could not get closer but sat and watched as they munched away moving towards the cover of a small clump of trees.  Now all we had to do was find my horses!

First Glimpse

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First Contact

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Kiss Goodbye

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We were driving along when my Navigator said “Horses! Stop!”  so being a well-trained Driver I did as I was told. (really??)  What can I say, it was wonderful seeing them in their natural habitat. I spent a long time just talking to and stroking this wonderful animal, and watching the others enjoying the shade and their meal. One happy chappy had a wonderful day.  But it was not over yet nor had the weather finished with us.

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By now we were hungry so I headed for the coast and the small town of Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. It’s a pretty little place very popular with tourists and locals alike so we had a job finding a parking space but eventually we found a spot opposite a fish restaurant.  We wandered across and ordered up mussels with a side of chips plus a salad. Boy what a mistakea to makea, oh nothing was wrong with the food it was the amount that floored us.  I was really enjoying the meal when I heard a rumble and looking up I saw the sky was darkening and it began to rain ooops….  you can tell from these photos that my Navigator was trying to ignore all that.

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But we didn’t let it spoil our day we finished our meal and enjoyed our coffees as it poured down. Then we made a mad dash for the car oh these Flamingos? they were outside the restaurant plus this is a close as we got to Flamingos.

On the way back we went through several squalls and managed to get lost in Arles AGAIN….  After taking yet more detours round the area we eventually ended up on the right road and two tired but happy chappies headed for the hotel and bed.

 

(c)  Michael Douglas Bosc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Road Trip – Part 1

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First Glimpse

Now ever since I saw Belle and Sebastian on television I have wanted to visit the Camargue and see the horses for myself.  Living where we do it is only a short drive – 6 hours – but considering I have driven to Bilbao in 8 hrs it should be a piece of cake….. oh yeh??

After doing a few bits and pieces we set off on Monday around 11.30. It was a sunny morning as we headed for the A9/E15, little did we know what was coming.  Driver to Navigator “have you got the road map?” Navigator “What map???” Driver “I put it on the coffee table” Navigator “Oh its going to be one of those trips, just wing it.” so we did.  Nearing Barcelona I noticed dark clouds with lots of flashing lightning not a good omen, we had seen these deluges on TV and they were not to be taken lightly.  But we were, so it seemed, going away from this one – who was I kidding… a bit further on and we couldn’t see the road let alone the vehicles in front.  Lights came on all over the place everybody slowed down but in a few minutes we were out into light rain phew…. This happened not once but three times before we were past Barcelona.

Now although we got through that ok which was a good thing, what we didn’t know was as we went through that squall we had missed the sign telling us to move over. So when I saw a sign that said France – Franca I naturally thought that was the route to take – wrong…. it turns out that these are suburbs of Barcelona. This meant we ended up going through and round the city eventually to be re-directed back the way we had come to join the C32 to Badalona before re-joining the A9/E15 and another squall….  this was to be our lot until we were well past Badalona where in warm sunshine we stopped for a coffee and snack while I tried to find a road map of France (no luck) before going on.  Well that’s the first ‘detour’.

We enjoyed the scenery, crossed the border and after this the journey proved to be straightforward until, that is, we came to Arles.  It was here that we really proved our ability to get lost not once but twice!  My advice is don’t come off the motorway until you hit MARSEILLE!!

Navigator “we want junction 5”  Driver “you sure?” Navigator ” yes that’s what it says here. Its where you pick up the D35.”  Driver “ah, well junction 6 is coming up we’ll come off here!!!” don’t ask…. Now we wanted the D35 because it ran down alongside the Camargue to Port St Louis where I decided to make our base….wrong Michael, (best plans of mice and men and all that).  Arles although a pretty little town is one hell of a place to get lost in take it from one who did – twice.  The road signs are not clear – where there are any – and even when you can see one it does not match the map (oh yes we finally got one in France….).  ‘Detour’ number two.

 

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I drove along roads heading south for some while looking for this bloody D35, stopped, asked directions and finally after driving down avenues of Silver Birches – I do so love these trees – came to the D35.  We now needed to head for FOS.  Suddenly there was this Fire Brigade Landrover heading to Fos (it had Fos written on the side) my Navigator uttered those immortal words “follow that Landrover” so I did.  We had our first glimpse of the white horses, Camargue sheep, lush green fields and the sea.

 

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We went right past the Fos turning and ended up in Martigues a small town on the edge of the Camargue near the mouth of the Rhone.  ‘Detour’ number three, but our adventures were not over, oh no.

When we entered the town I followed the signs for the Ibis hotel, came to a roundabout where all the buildings had the word Hotel on them. So I pulled into the first car park I came to and sent the Navigator to book in….  Not quite the safest thing to do. You see the police station, town hall as well as the Ibis (which was tucked away at the end of a curve) had the word HOTEL before their name so you just KNOW I had parked in the wrong place.  When I went to look for my Navigator I found her laughing like a drain and telling me to go move the car now as the police were about to call the bomb squad because I had walked away from the car after parking it in amongst theirs.  Ok not quite true, as she explained, they were concerned until she uttered the words “your not the Ibis hotel are you”….

Anyway  when they had stopped laughing they kindly pointed us in the right direction. Unfortunately this Ibis was full but they sent us to another one where we booked in, had a meal then hit the hay and slept until 6am when we were woken by the noise of the traffic, to begin our exploration of the Camargue.

(c) Michael Douglas Bosc

 

 

 

 

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