Tag: Camargue

Memories Tour Day 12: A Wine Harvest Finale

How do you cap off an unforgettable twelve day tour of the South of France? By taking part in a wine harvest done the old fashion way, of course.

To make the day extra special, Nick Martin of A Wine Affair arranged for the “sensational sixteen” to visit a fifteenth century Mas and vineyard to experience grape picking and stomping.

Patricia Sands, author and tour leader, tells about the final day which ends with a spectacular dinner party in Arles.

And what a day this was! Have you dreamed of a mas in the south of France like this? Everyone in our merry band of travellers agreed they had.  This was a dream come true (Click here to read more)

Memories Tour Finale

tour south france

Tour South France for White Horses on the Beach

When I heard there were going to be white horses racing on the beach at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, I couldn’t wait to get there. I sent a note to my photographer friend, Alan McBride, and suggested he join me with his fancy cameras. It was an event neither of us should miss!

tour south france

Abrivado Saintes-Marie-de-la-Mer

 

Not knowing what we were getting into, Alan and I determined a meeting place near the seaside town so we could drive together for photos and a story. All we knew from the online promotion was that there was an Abrivado taking place somewhere near Saintes-Maries-De-la-Mer. Since it’s a small town we felt confident that we couldn’t miss hundreds of horses and riders.

Wrong. The town looked deserted.

“Let’s head out the beach road,” Alan suggested, hoping we hadn’t missed it all. (I might add here that neither Alan nor I speak or read French. It’s very possible we’d misunderstood the promo.)

There on the road to the beach we began to see a few people on horseback and others walking.  A few cars were parked towards the far end of the beach road. Apparently we were headed the right way. We followed the traffic of people, horses and vehicles which was increasing as we walked along. Boldly I stopped several “pilgrims” to ask: “Do you speak English?”  Then to query “Where does the event start?” The only answer I got in return was a hand signal “straight ahead.”  So there we went – straight ahead down the road that paralleled the beach.

About this time I was getting concerned about taking photos to show off the event. “If the horses and riders come from in front of us, and the sun is shining on the water like it is now, how can you take pictures straight into the sun?”  Alan seemed nonplussed. “OK,” I said to myself. “He’s the pro. He must have a plan.” We kept walking along with the others.

By the time we were a good mile or so down the road, the numbers of observers increased significantly. Apparently they had gotten the information to approach the event from another vantage point. Never mind. We were on the way … hopefully not too late. Along with the others, we crossed a gully of water and climbed a slight sand bar to get closer to the sea. Once on the beach we saw there were gatherings of kindred folk who had set up viewing spots. As much as I would have liked to join them for a tumbler of wine, we kept walking. Our intent was to get to a point where Alan could take the best shots.

“Are we there yet?” I asked, repeatedly. We kept walking.

Then … straight ahead … we saw and heard a “crack” of light and fire… and hundreds of horses, riders and people were lined up.  They headed our way!

To my surprise there were bulls in between the horses and riders. What was I thinking? An “abrivado” Of course there were bulls! 

As the through of horses, bulls and humans passed, it was exhilarating. “When do they run through water?” I shouted to Alan.

That’s when he made his move.  He’d observed there was another group of horses and riders and bulls at the “starting line.”  Another running of the bulls was ready to take off. In an instant, Alan disappeared. I looked back and watched him head for the beach road.  Up and over the sand bar. Through the water, then to the side of the road.  I ran to join him just before … behind me …the sight I was waiting for… horses in the water! The riders on horses were rushing the bulls through the gully. Splash! The herd followed en masse. They headed for a pool of water at the end of the road.

Oh that I had only known the rules of the game … the course of the Abrivados But … who cares!?? Could there be anything better than this?

I’m not certain how many “runs” were made that morning along the beach at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. Almost as quickly as it started, it was over. The movement of people, beasts and vehicles headed back the way we started — towards town.  Soon we were in a “traffic jam.” Rather than fight the crowd, we did what any story-teller and photographer would do. We watched and took advantage of the photo opportunity.

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Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this tour South France and the telling of the Abrivados at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. Thanks so very much to Alan McBride for making our day so memorable with his amazing vision and his artful photography.

For more about the white horses and the Camargues:

7 Reasons You Should Go To The Camargue

Back to the Camargue: The White Horses

A Most Unusual Place for a French Vineyard

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Wish for France

Inside Aigues-Mortes’ Walls: History, Torture and Transformation

There are hardly more historically significant towns in France than Aigues-Mortes. Within the walled city, legends and facts reveal a rich history of conquering heroes and suffering martyrs. Today the place has transformed into a popular destination for travelers, filled with souvenir shops and sidewalk cafes. Visit with me inside Aigues-Mortes’ walls.

Inside Aigues-Mortes' Walls

Matafère tower[

It all started with salt

From its earliest days Aigues-Mortes was significant for its salt fields and its location bordering the Mediterranean Sea. The Greeks and later the Romans, led by Gaius Marius (102 BC), occupied the land known as “Aigas Mortas,” meaning”dead” or “stagnant water.” Benedictine monks resided in the area in the 5th century and lived off the abundant fishing, hunting, and salt production. So important were the monks and the region to Charlemagne that in 791 he ordered the Matafère Tower to be erected amid the swamps to warn the residents if there were enemy fleets approaching. 

Before you can grasp the significance of Aigues-Mortes to kings and conquerors in France, it is essential to understand the importance of salt in the ancient world. As a trade item it was as valuable as gold. It was used a religious offering and a currency. A landowner who possessed a salty pond was considered a rich man.

In the 13th century it was Aigues-Mortes’ salt fields and the proximity to the sea that appealed to King Louis IX (Saint Louis). Intent on creating a passageway for trade and for his crusades, Saint Louis turned his attention to the spit of land in the marshes. He obtained the land from the Benedictine monks in exchange for property in Languedoc where the monks could plough the soil and grow crops. When the Benedictines left, Saint Louis built the town; rebuilt the Matafère Tower; named it the Tour de Constance; housed his garrison there; and used Aigues-Mortes as the point of departure in 1248 for the Crusade of Egypt (7th Crusade) and for the crusade where he died in 1270 (8th Crusade).

Inside Aigues-Mortes' Walls

King Louis IX

As Louis IX had envisioned, Aigues-Mortes became prosperous as a trade route. The population and town grew on its own, but largely because those residing in Aigues-Mortes were exempted from paying tolls, tariffs and taxes. The Carbonniere Tower (Tour Carbonniere) was constructed as a watchtower in the marshland outside of town. The narrow road beneath the tower was the only land access to the town. Guards were stationed there to control who entered and exited the town and to collect tolls. The passageway continued be used as a toll road into the 1700s.

Inside Aigues-Mortes' Walls

The Carbonniere Tower (Tour Carbonniere)

In 1272, Louis’ son and successor, Philip III the Bold, ordered the construction of the walls that completely encircled the town. The work was not completed until 30 years later. Aigues-Mortes was a busy port in the 13th and 14th centuries, but when Provence was reunited with France, Marseille took over in prominence and prestige.

Inside Aigues-Mortes' Walls

Inside Aigues-Mortes’ Walls: Battles and Torture

From the 14th-19th century Aigue-Mortes was the site of battles, torture and merciless imprisonments. In the 14th century Templars were incarcerated in the Tower of Constance, tortured and burned at the stake. During the winter of the Armagnac-Burgundian civil war in the 15th century, a troop of marauding Burgundians were killed. Their bodies were dragged inside the walls, salted and stacked into the Tower of the Bourguignons (Tour des Bourguignons).

Inside Aigues-Mortes' Walls

Tower of the Bourguignons (Tour des Bourguignons)

Protestants who pillaged Aigues-Mortes in 1575 and took it over as their own were imprisoned there after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685). They remained in prison until their deaths. In the late 1800’s, one of the largest massacres of immigrants in French history took place inside Aigues-Mortes walls. A riot broke out between French and Italian workers who  labored together in the salt fields. Police were unable to contain the riot and, reportedly, up to 150 men were killed — all Italians.

Inside Aigues-Mortes' Walls

“Resist”inscription in the Tower of Constance

Inside Aigues-Mortes’ Walls: Women Prisoners

After religious freedom was declared in France, it is said there were fourteen women prisoners in the Tower of Constance.

They were hidden away in a room deprived of air or of the light of day. The governor of Languedoc, who was on an official visit to the prison, found them there. It is said “they fell at his feet, overpowered with weeping so that they could not at first speak, and when speech came, they all together recounted their common sufferings. He was interested by the story of Gabrielle Guinges, who had given two sons to die in the French wars, yet was permitted to languish in prison. He was touched by the miserable appearance  of Jeanne Auguiere and Isabeau Maumejan, who were eighty years of age, and of Isabeau Anne Gaussaint, of Sommieres, who was ninety years and who had been imprisoned for 36 years.” The most famous women prisoner was Marie Durand who engraved the word “Resist” on the prison wall. Incarcerated at the age of 17, she was released 38 years later.

Inside Aigues-Mortes’ Walls: A Transformation

While Aigues-Mortes is no longer the important port it used to be, salt remains a major product of the region. Compagnie des Salins du Midi, now known as “Salins,” is one of the main salt producers in Europe. It is tourists that have captured the ancient city recently. Aigue-Mortes’ walls seem to bulge and vibrate with all the energy.

If you plan a visit to Aigues-Mortes, please stop by the tourist office and take a guided or audio tour. You can read about the history, but there’s nothing quite like hearing it from an expert. Time and money well spent!

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More reasons you should visit Aigues-Mortes? The Camargues!

7 Reasons You Should Go To The Camargue

Back to the Camargue: The White Horses

Day Trip from Uzes: Arles, Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer and the Camargue

A Most Unusual Place for a French Vineyard

 

Inside Aigues-Mortes' Walls

Back to the Camargue: The White Horses

White horses, bulls, pink flamingos, rice, salt, culture, and the economics of the Camargue region are all interconnected in this surreal geo-triangle in the south of France.

The “Camargue” spreads over more than 360 square miles of pastureland and wetlands formed by the two branches of the River Rhône and the Mediterranean. The largest river delta in Europe, the Camargue is a thriving center of agriculture and tourism.

Camargue region

Wetlands and grasslands of the Camargue

While the area appears to be a “natural” wilderness, it is in fact, “manipulated” to maintain its sophisticated biodiversity. Most specifically, in the last century alone, enlightened promoters of the Camargue have demonstrated how the creative and sensitive management of water levels can create a rich environment for man and living creatures instead of a desolate, salty wasteland, good for nothing but the extraction of salt.

Camargue region

Homes in the Camargue are for residents and popular as vacation rentals

Camargue region

A ferry carries passengers between two areas of the region every 30 minutes.

Camargue region

Ferry over the Rhone

Camargue region

The distinctive symbol of the area. The Camargue Cross.

White Horses of the Camargue

Camargue region

White horses of the Camargue

The breed of “white horses” found in the Camargue are believed to have appeared in the Paleozoic era (Solutre horses).  They are thought by some to have come from the Steppe grasslands of Eurasia that run from modern Hungary to Mongolia along the Silk Roads.


Camargue region

Nomad horseback riders from the Steppe are typified by Genghis Khan, leader of the Mongols; and the Huns, led by Attila. Steppe warriors migrated south seeking better lands and waged war with inhabitants on the way, including the Romans. Along with them, the nomads brought their strong horses that have ruled the marshes for centuries.

The horses have large hooves for walking in muddy waters and white coats to endure the sun.

Some who believe in mythology say the white horses were a gift from Neptune, “Poseidon’s Horses”, given to man as his faithful companion and put on earth to share the everyday riches.

Camargue region

Image by Walter Crane of Neptune’s horses

While the Camargue horses appear to run free, they are well-managed by “cowboys”  or “les gardians”.

Camargue region

Camargue Cowboy

Stallions roam the rocky grasslands.– a tradition that has been respected for generations.The rustic breed only eats grass from the soil — no additives.

Camargue region

Bred properly, a Camargue mare produces only one foal a year — by natural childbirth. There is no help from vets.. Mares are “quarantined” one year after giving birth to allow time for rest.


Camargue region

Those who know these animals recognize they are very intelligent. They are suitable for all types of requirements — for work or show. They must be treated gently but firmly. The trainer or handler needs to be in charge.

Visitors to the Camargue who wish to ride the white horses will find numerous stables and excursions available for all ages of riders. Entering the area is like a vacation playground with horses as one of the main attractions.

Camargue region

A hotel with stable for horseback riding in the Camargue

If you have a few minutes, take time to watch this video I found on YouTube. The majesty of the magnificent creatures and the accompanying music will make your day.

More on the Camargue:

7 Reasons You Should Go To The Camargue

Day Trip from Uzes: Arles, Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer and the Camargue

A Most Unusual Place for a French Vineyard

Tour South France for White Horses on the Beach

 


Camargue region

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7 Reasons You Should Go To The Camargue

It’s hard to say when the Barefoot Blogger will ever get her fill of visiting the Camargue.

The preserved area south of Arles,  the Parc naturel régional de Camargue, is between the Mediterranean and the Rhone river delta. One-third of the Camargue is marshland, lagoons and lakes. The rest is cultivated fields brimming at different times of the year with rice, grapes and grain.

The ecology of the area is unlike any other place in the world. White Camarguais horses roam on open fields with Camargue bulls and all feed only on natural feed and grasses. Salt mines that create pink-tinted lagoons and canals produce some of the world’s finest salts.  Shrimp that thrive on the algae in the pinkish waterways feed flamingoes that gather in ponds and pools alongside the fields and roads. The shrimp diet colors the birds’ feathers pink.  It’s all a grand circle of life.

The Camargue Safari

The most recent jaunt to the Camargue was with my guests from the States, including 10-year-old McKenna. While her mother and I thought a safari would be a huge thrill for McKenna, we all totally enjoyed the 4-hour tour by jeep. It wasn’t just because of our adorable and multi-lingual guide, we learned there are at least 7 reasons this place is so amazing … and so popular for tourists. 

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Reason #1: The Camarguais horses

 

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visiting the camargue

 

Reason #2: The Camargue bulls

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Camargues Bulls

 

Reason #3: Flamingos

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Flamingos in the Camargue

 

 

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Flamingo

 

Reason #4: Salt mines

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Salt processed in the Camargue

 

 

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Balin Salt brand from the Camargue is exported worldwide

 

Reason #5: Rice

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Rice fields in the Camargue

 

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Reason #6: Wine

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visiting the camargue

 

visiting the camargue

 

Reason #7: The culture

visiting the camargue

A home of a Gardian, or “rancher”

 

 

visiting the camargue

The Camargue cross is a symbol of “faith, hope and charity” to dwellers of the region

 

For more about the Camargues, please see these earlier posts:

Tour South France for White Horses on the Beach

Back to the Camargue: The White Horses

Day Trip from Uzes: Arles, Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer and the Camargue

For your own Camargue Safari, contact Nancy McGee at southernfranceluxury.com

 

visiting the camargue

 

Trip Ideas You Can Steal From a 10-Year-Old’s Visit to France

Special friends are on the way to visit the Barefoot Blogger, including my dear 10-year-old McKenna. Planning the 7-day visit has been easier than you’d think.

McKenna and I have always had a closer-than- usual relationship because we share the same birthday date. We both agree, that makes us “twins” of sorts.  Almost every birthday since she was born, we’ve spent the day together. Her mother and I are friends from IBM. This past birthday, McKenna wanted her theme to be “Paris” in preparation for her upcoming visit to France.

Paris themed birthday party

Paris themed birthday party

 

Here’s the 7-day itinerary. You’re welcomed to steal!

My guests are arriving the end of this week and we’ll be taking off for an active tour of southwest France.

Day one: Pick them up at the TGV station in Avignon and take a walk around the Pope’s Palace.

Day two: Saturday Market in Uzes. Of course, it’s my favorite thing to do! Trek in the Vallee d’LEure and take a swim at the public pool. Dinner somewhere fabulous in Uzes.

Day three: Pont du Gard tour followed by a visit to Nimes to follow in the footsteps of the early Romans.

Day four:  Morning tour and lunch in the walled city of Aigue Morte. An afternoon “Safari” tour of the Camargue, starting from Grau de Roi. Drive to Sete and spend the night at my favorite Airbnb apartment.

Day five: Breakfast at the city market in Sete followed by an afternoon at a beach club in Sete on the Meditterean.  Catch an early evening train to Carcassone in time to check-in our Airbnb “converted bar” lodging. View the Bastille Day fireworks display in Carcassone, along with 40,000 other tourists.

Day six: Guided tour of Carcassone and shopping (along with thousands of other tourists.) Catch the late afternoon train back to Sete. Drive two hours to Uzes.

Day seven: Say goodbye and scurry to Nimes for an early morning flight.

Collapse. Sleep. Repeat.

(Yes, there will be posts and pictures of it all. Stay tuned!)

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La Grande-Motte: A Thoroughly Modern French Holiday

Just an hour down the road from Uzes, near Montpelier, is the beach resort, La Grande-Motte. At first glance, it’s a bit like seeing a piece of contemporary furniture among French antiques.

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By all descriptions, La Grande-Motte is a modern, planned, vacation home community. I wasn’t expecting to see such a place in this part of France. Perhaps around Nice. But not so close to Montpelier, a city that is so splendid and classically elegant.   Nevertheless, the manicured walkways, golf courses and harbor at the holiday site are very appealing.

Le Grande-Motte

Le Grande-Motte

 

 

 

 

A sailing regatta was underway the day I was visiting. Many of the famous boaters of France were participating.

Sailing regatta at La Grande-Motte

Sailing regatta at La Grande-Motte

 

A walk around the property leads to the promenade with shops and restaurants.

Promenade at La Grande-Motte

Promenade at La Grande-Motte

 

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Dejeuner offers a wide selection of local fare.

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La Grande-Motte, which boasts seven miles of sandy beach, offers a wide choice of accommodations. In season, I understand the resort is filled to near-capacity.

Accommodations and parking at La Grande-Motte

Accommodations and parking at La Grande-Motte

 

I mean, who can resist a walk or bike ride along this beautiful shoreline?

 

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Biking at La Grande-Motte

Biking at La Grande-Motte

 

One of the best features to  me is the proximity to one of my favorite places — the Camargue. Catamaran tours and 4×4 “safaris” into the marshlands of the Camargue are once-in-a-lifetime adventures that make La Grande-Motte a stop on my tour list.

 

 

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Arles’ Feria du Riz: Bullfights and Fanfare

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If you haven’t noticed, I’m deliberately attending as many types of events that feature bulls as the main attraction as possible. It’s becoming an obsession.

Someday soon I’m going to write a post about a bullfight. Right now I’m trying to sort out all my emotions about the controversal pastime that’s such a rage in this part of France.

Arles

 

The Feria du Riz in Arles was the perfect opportunity for me to do more research on the subject. Not only was there a bullfight, or “corrida,” there were also bulls running in the streets, an abrivado.

 

Arles

Running of the bulls – abrivado

Now that I’ve witnessed a few abrivados this year, I’m catching on to how they’re staged. Most importantly, I’m  finding there are certain vantage points that are better than others if you want to actually see the bulls.

It works like this.

Both sides of the street are lined with metal fencing. That keeps out people who wouldn’t get near the bulls anyway because it’s easy to squeeze between the bars of the fencing.  At the starting place of the abrivado there’s an enclosed truck that’s filled with bulls. At the opposite end of the route, in Arles, a flatbed trailer truck was stationed between the two sides of fencing.

 

Arles

 

For my first abrivado/bandido, I watched from the starting point when the bulls ran out of the truck. In Arles, I wised up a bit and went to the opposite end to get a better view. That’s where the bulls and horses turn around to run back to the starting place.

At the beginning of the abrivado, men and women on horseback — bandidos — start the spectacle by riding in tandem along the route, which is usually the main street of the town or village. These “cowboys” proudly parade their white Camargue horses before an appreciative crowd.

 

Arles

 

Arles

 

After the horses and riders parade past a few times, the bulls are released.The bandidos run along beside and in front of the bulls to keep them herded together.

 

 

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Arles

 

When they reach the end of the course, they all turn around and race back up the street. 

 

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That’s when all the kids in town chase after them all.

 

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Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

 

 

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Now, if that sounds boring, it’s not. It’s exhilarating — for me, at least. Let’s just say, it beats watching grown men run back and forth for hours chasing a football. (Sorry sports fans!)

The arena and corrida

Anything that takes place in Arles is going to be a unique experience. It is an ancient city where the present and the past intermingle seamlessly.

Arles

 

When walking down the street, on several occasions, it took my breath away when I realized I was standing beside a Roman forum, or strolling through a park Van Gogh had sketched.

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The arena in Arles is not just a shrine to the Roman days of Gaul, it’s a lively gathering place for local events, including ferias and rock concerts.

 

Arles

 

During the Feria du Riz the steps of the arena were the stage for a “battle of the bands.”

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The inside of the arena is a vision straight out of a history book. Having attended events at both the arena in Arles and in Nimes, I’m surprised there has been so little “modernizing” of either structure. These facilities would be off-limits to visitors if in the States. Getting up and around in the seating areas in the arenas is treacherous, even for the able-bodied. I’m not complaining… just saying .

Arles

 

Arles

 

Seating in the arena is on stones. Some sections have wooden seats over the stones. Depending on how close you want to get to the “action”, the price of seats runs accordingly. The most expensive spots are less than midway up the side of the arena and out of the direct sun.

Arles

 

 

As mentioned at the start, more detail about bullfights is yet to come. I’m finishing up Hemingway’s novels on the subject.  He studied bullfighting with some of the greatest matadors of all times. Next my mission is to learn more about the modern corrida and the local controversies.

Stay tuned.

 

Arles

 

For  more posts on bulls, bullfighting and events, check these out:

Arles’ Feria du Riz: Food and Fashion

The Bulls are Here!

The Fete Votive 2014 Finale: Bulls, Belles, Bands and Bubbles.

Uzes’ Fete Votive: The Psychedelic and Bizarre

Back to the Camargue: The White Horses

 

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Arles: Feria du Riz Food and Fashion

In Arles there seems to always be a party going. Arles’ Feria du Riz is one of the best.

Arles, a town less than an hour down the road that’s mostly famous for being one of Van Gogh’s “hangouts”.  The Feria du Riz, the annual Rice Harvest Festival, celebrates one of the region’s top crops — rice.

Rice in Arles

Arles is on the northern edge of the Camargue which has been the subject of a few earlier blogs. Just as bulls, white horses and flamingos are indigenous to the area, rice has been produced in the Camargue since the Middle Ages. Today there are some 200 rice producers in this small area, representing about 5% of rice production in Europe. Camargue’s “red rice” is a popular local souvenir.

 

The Feria du Riz is, interestingly, a very Spanish celebration to be in France. The food and the fashions are straight from Spain.

Before I get much farther, though, let me set the scene for Arles’ Feria du Riz

When you drive into the old city of Arles, there’s a long avenue with cafes and shops that leads to a lovely park with a walkway that leads to the ancient areas of the town — the arena and the amphitheater. For the Feria, the avenue is spread with carnival-like booths with food vendors and souvenirs.

Arles' Feria du Riz

 

Arles' Feria du Riz

Arles' Feria du Riz

At cafes along the way, the ohm-pah-pah bands are warming up the crowd for the afternoon festivities.

Arles' Feria du Riz

Road barriers lined the street for the running of the bulls scheduled for the early afternoon.

Arles' Feria du Riz

Since this is a Rice Harvest Festival the food booths along the way were showing off their take on  — a Spanish favorite that matches with the theme of the Feria.

I was starving when I hit town and this was the first paella stand in line, so it was my pick.

Arles' Feria du Riz

I sat on the steps of a fancy hotel and restaurant and gulped down the serving of paella with a bottle of water. It hit the spot on the already hot day.

Arles' Feria du Riz

Arles' Feria du Riz

As I walked down the street, I wasn’t certain the place I stopped was the best choice. It all looked so good!

Arles' Feria du Riz

These photo-perfect folks were putting out some fabulous kebab dishes.

Arles’ Feria du Riz is about food

One popular food offering was kebabs — in all varieties. There were kebabs in sandwiches and kebab “stew” served over frites (french fries). The kebab mixtures were steaming away in huge pans, just as the paella.

Then there were the fish specialties — a Fisherman’s plate with calamari and pots of steaming moule (mussels).

Arles’ Feria du Riz is about fashion

My favorite stop of the day was a sidewalk shop with the Spanish dresses, skirts and all the frills. I had to hold myself back from buying one of the skirts. Imagine a holiday party wearing one of these!

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Arles’ Feria du Riz is about the scenery

Beyond the vendors I walked to the entrance to the park and walkway to the old town.

Arles' Feria du Riz

Arles' Feria du Riz

When up the steps and around the town building, there lay before me the beautiful village of Arles, with buildings and roadways centuries ago. People were everywhere, in every square, eating and enjoying festivities and socializing the warm September Sunday.

One of the famous squares in the city, during the Feria, is a showcase of artisans and regional foods.

Arles' Feria du Riz

To my surprise, one of the new products being displayed was barbeque sauces. In France? I could hardly believe my eyes. Of course, I had to strike up a conversation with the owners to tell him I’d been to Memphis in May — the barbeque event of the year. He knew it well and hopes to make it there someday himself.

Arles' Feria du Riz

 

After spending most of the afternoon walking around the town and checking out the food stands, it was time for the bulls running in the street. This time I knew how to get up close and personal. For the next post, though. Along with all the fanfare that surrounds a bullfight in the south of France. Stay tuned!

 

Arles' Feria du Riz

 

The Fete Votive 2014 Finale: Bulls, Belles, Bands and Bubbles.

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The Fete Votive in Uzes 2014 has come to a successful end. Although the weather could have been better for some of the events, the spirit of the crowd was hardly dampened.

Bulls in UzesFinal days and nights of the annual festival were filled with the  more bulls, horses, men and young boys and girls running through the streets.

While the opportunity for disaster was always possible with the huge animals galloping down the crowded road, it was amazing how there were no injuries to man or beast.

It makes me wonder about the running of the bulls in Pamplona. Is it tamer than we think? If so, would it draw the crowds?

 
Bulls in UzesSaying I was in the middle of the road waiting for the bulls to rush at me, it’s not a joke.

Guess it was fool’s luck that there wasn’t a wayward bull that pulled away from the herd.

Has this given me the courage for Pamplona next year?

Only time will tell.

 

 

 

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It takes a whole village

During the Fete Votive there are activities that all the town’s people and visitors enjoy.

 

(The photos in this slide show courtesy of the town of Uzes website)

 

Memorable moments

Attending all the Fete Votive activities would have been difficult for anyone. I squeezed in.as many as possible. As you may recall,  my top priority is to LEARN FRENCH by December. That means I have lessons almost everyday

That said, my favorite events were the crowd scenes — the running of the bulls, the parades, and the brass bands that appeared  almost everywhere you’d go around the village.

 

Brass Band in the Street

 

 

 

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Brass Bands on the sidewalks.

Brass Bands on the sidewalks.

 

More brass bands in the street

More brass bands in the street

 

People cheering the brass bands

People cheering the brass bands

 

 

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      Brass bands playing in your ear.

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Brass bands heading for the watering hole.

Brass bands heading for the watering hole.

 

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The crowds

The crowds

 

 

The flashback to early times in Uzes

The flashback to early times in Uzes

 

 

The artists

The artists

 

The art

 

 

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The little girl blowing bubbles

 

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                                    The welcomed cleanup

 

 

 

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… and the best part?

It comes again next year!

 

 

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Holidays in France

Holidays in France: Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer


What I love about living in Uzes is the opportunity to enjoy holidays in France and the chance to re-learn history. I never expected biblical folklore.

Who knew, for example, that Lazarus and Mary Magdalene ended up in France? According to Provencal tales, which I learned upon my recent day trip to Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer, Jesus’s friend Lazarus; his sister, Martha; Mary Magdalene; Mary of James, sister of the Virgin; and a servant girl, Sarah the Egyptian, all arrived in the south of France around 40 A.D. Albeit under less than desirable circumstances.

Legend has it that after the Crucifixion, while Jews continued to be persecuted in Jerusalem, the extended “family” of Christ was cast into the sea in a small boat equipped with neither oars nor food. Miraculously they landed safely here, now Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer, where they erected a small chapel and dedicated it to the Virgin. The two Marys and Sarah remained at the church while Mary Magdalene and Martha went on throughout Provence preaching. Catholic tradition says that Lazarus was the first Bishop of Marseilles. In the 11th century the chapel became a church and was reconstructed as a fortress.  

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Miracles attributed to the Saints are shown in paintings displayed inside the Church at Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer.

Holidays in France

Sainte Maria dela Mer

Sarah the Egyptian: Revered by Gypsies

St. Sarah is highly venerated by gypsies. Around the 15th century the nomadic groups from Spain and other regions began annual pilgrimages to the church. In a colorful procession, the gypsies would carry the statue of St. Sarah and immerse it in sea. Modern day pilgrimages honoring St. Sarah take place in May and October. The events are celebrated with horse races, parades of costumed ladies from Arles, and “the running of bulls”, staged by herders from the nearby Camargue. Gypsies march the statue of St. Sarah to the sea.

Blessings While on Holidays in France 

While visiting the Church, I was sighted and stopped by a gypsy woman who pinned a religious symbol on my shirt. Looking straight into my eyes, she placed a finger on my forehead and gave me a blessing. As I thanked her and started to walk away, she stuck out her hand… for an “offering”. When I kept walking, she quickly removed the pin from my shirt. Oh well… guess “blessings” come at a price.

 

Next: The Camargue

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