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The Camargue is a marshy coastal region in southern France famous for its (formerly) wild horses, birds, and salt marshes. We LOVED Arles (see post) and had a decent time in Aigues-Mortes – it was a fine place to visit, but one trip was enough. There are flamingos, but we saw more further east, outside of the Camargue. Horses are everywhere; if that’s your thing there are many hotels waiting to cater to your horse-petting and riding desires.

Aigues-Mortes

The medieval walled city of Aigues-Mortes was built by Louis IX, the future Saint Louis, as a port of departure for the Crusades after struggles (particularly taxation) using Italian ports or Marseille for transporting troops to the Crusades. It’s not exactly at the sea, rather a marshy area they built canals too. The smallish walled town built in the late 1200s is rather spectacular, in very good condition.

People come to this area to see the walls – a worthy short stop – and to see horses, flamingos, and the salt marshes. I’d give it about 3-4 hours, unless you stay at ​​**Villa Mazarin, which was quite lovely. We worked hard to see everything we could, but paired with a truly lovely, elegant room and pool time in a fairly private courtyard, it made for a good overnight. Food was fine, not remarkable.

Sites and activities

  • Our second dinner at *Les Arches was fine. Not particularly good, though bonus points for a quiet location away from the extremely touristy center.
  • Walking the ramparts was fine. Very hot, views as you’d expect into the city. Probably needs to be done but not delivering any surprises.
  • **Les Salins d’Aigues Mortes was very good. We didn’t book early enough (several days ahead) to take the petit train, but I didn’t regret it – walking at our own pace without a group, even on a hot day, was quite pleasant. It’s very scenic in an electrically colored way.

Taking a *boat tour of the canals is not worth it at all. We were getting bored of the town at this point and it didn’t really help, a very low key event.

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is a surprisingly sprawling holiday destination (second only to Arles for population in the district) – miles and miles of condos that eventually reach a sandy, fairly calm beach. It’s popular with French families, and has a cheerful, downmarket party vibe. We visited to see the (fairly unexciting) church. Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is named after the Three Marys — in French Marie Madeleine, Marie Salomé and Marie de Cléophas — a group of three women closely linked to Jesus, the first witnesses of his Resurrection. According to medieval tradition, the Three Marys escaped Christian persecution in Judaea and traveled across the sea by boat, eventually landing here on the coast of France.

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