It’s been a fantastic Easter weekend and the sun has been shining most of the time, albeit windy in our first taste of the mistral!
After leaving our wonderful wild camping spot at Lac de Pareloup, we drove to explore the opposite side, as it is facing east and had the sun from early morning till evening, but the only access to the beaches there was through the campsites, which seemed to be closed this early in the year. So now we know for future reference.
So we took the small roads D993 and D30 to Millau, where we tried to find the motorhome aire to stop for coffee, but it wasn’t signposted and we just drove through the large town to the south side on the D809, bought a baguette and cake and stopped at Le Larzac between junctions 47 and 48 on the A75, with very strange rock formations to distract us, on our way to Portiragnes to visit Adonis’ mum and dad.
We avoided the expensive Millau viaduct (€10.10) and we enjoyed the FREE motorway all the way, which was nice for a change.
We were in Portiragnes just after midday and it wasn’t long before Bramble got into a fight with Huntley (in-law’s dog) when he tried to eat his food, resulting in Huntley biting Bramble’s ear and piercing it in 3 places: perhaps we should put studs in them and make him fashionable.
We sat by the pool for the rest of the day, sheltered from the wind by the east wall of the house: a real sun trap, which required sunblock, sunglasses and hat!
Saturday was also very leisurely spent, with just a quick trip to Carrefour for food and beer for the next few days, enjoying more sunshine by the pool, even though the water wasn’t warm enough to swim in it yet.
The day ended with a magnificent meal a Le Cep d’Or in Béziers, where we enjoyed a delicious 3-course meal for €17.50 each, which included sardine croquettes, salmon mousse and goat’s cheese gratin for starters, lamb stew (similar to Shepherd’s pie), fillet of plaice with roast potatoes and roasted chicken breast with vegetables for main course and for dessert we had gallette Bretonne, Crème Catalane and assorted cheeses. The service is very friendly and efficient in a small and intimate setting, which also has tables on the terrace, but the weather wasn’t up to sitting outside (perhaps when we return in the summer).
Unfortunately, the wind brought the rain and we had to make a quick run back to the car, as we were all wearing summer clothes and only had one umbrella between us that I’d taken as a precaution.
I felt very tired when we got back to the house and went straight to bed, for we wanted to leave early on Sunday morning and beat the traffic on our way to Arles.
This time we decided to bite the bullet and pay the motorway tolls in order to make good time and joined the A9 at J35 at a cost of around €20 in total, paid in 3 different stages, but at least we were in Arles for 11 am and found the free motorhome aire/car park right on the quay of the river Rhône and walked into town to be greeted by a very lively Easter Fiesta, with various brass bands performing at different spots in the town, huge paellas being cooked outdoors and people dancing in the streets and generally having a good time.
We managed to drag ourselves away from these merry celebrations and visited the Espace Van Gogh (Hotel-Dieu), where the artist was sent after assaulting Gaugin and cutting his ear off. This is now a cultural centre and has recreated the beautiful courtyard flower beds according to his paintings. I also loved the yellow arches and arcades, where some Art and souvenir shops can be found.
We spent some time admiring the doorway of the Cathedrale St-Trophime in Place de la Republique with its magnificent 12th century Provenҫal stone carving depicting the Last Judgement.
But the most impressive event of the day, and indeed to whole weekend has to be the jaw-dropping show of the Camargue horses and their riders (or guardians) running the bulls up and down the Boulevard des Lices, the riders trying to contain the bulls in the middle of a group of horses and young men alongside the bulls, grabbing their trimmed horns and tails to keep them under control. We’d never seen anything like it before and were suitably impressed.
After lunch and a quick rest, we walked along the river walls where Van Gogh used to walk with candles on his hat. This portion of the walk is marked on the ground with tile gravings depicting the artist and it also has red street lamps along the river (impossible to miss).
We enjoyed more bands playing outside the amphitheatre to a huge crowd of people and noticed these were getting merrier and merrier and louder and louder. Back in la Place de la Republique, we delighted listening to a very young and entertaining brass band, bought some gifts in Espace V. G., had a drink in the busy Boulevard and finished with a pizza late in the evening, admiring the sunlight bathing the town from the opposite side of the Rhône: the perfect room with a view and a great ending to a most enjoyable day.
This morning we drove looking for Van Gogh’s Bridge and followed the signs from the outskirts of the town, but they soon left us on the D35 south of town and ended up driving about 3 km before we realized it couldn’t be that far and did a u-turn. Sure enough, just entering the town again, we saw a sign that wasn’t visible at the roundabout from the opposite direction and found and photographed the famous bridge.
After filling up with diesel, we took the D570 southwest to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer on a very well maintained road which made easy travelling and got here for 10.30 am.
We are at a huge campsite – Camping de la Brise – with just a hedge and a fence between us and the beach, Plage Est. It’s been very sunny and warm all day, but the wind’s still blowing (that’s how the campsite got its name, I expect).
I’ve just taken Bramble for a long walk around the bird sanctuary in the Etang dit L’Impérial and admired the majestic and striking pink flamingos and other wading birds.
We look forward to an evening and another day in the sun: hopefully the wind will drop…