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We are finally on the coast. The French Mediterranean of all places, and it is bliss. The Camargue. We’ve spent the majority of our travels in the mountains so it’s a welcome change to be able to soak up some sun and relax on the beautiful empty beaches. After all, it is almost winter time. Luckily for us it is still fairly warm.
The campsite here is big and there are many facilities including a common room, swimming pool (too cold to go in though) and lots of other stuff. The pitch is not so great, it is basically dust on rock. We are few minutes walk away from the beach which is just incredible. We are so happy!
The pitch is so tough that it’s almost impossible to get the pegs in by hand. Whilst struggling to get them in, a friendly voice pipes up and asks if we’d like to use his mallet. Hell yes!
Sue and Michael left their jobs and lived in Australia. Now they are travelling Europe in a caravan. They’ve been going since 2017 and also have a blog. They’re super friendly and very interested in us, they couldn’t believe that we just turned up with our huge rucksacks and all our camping gear and pitched next to them. We had a good laugh about it!
The first order of duty on a new campsite is charge.every.device. Electricity is a luxury, our pitch is equipped with it, but only if we can find a caravan adapter thing. Oh and we will need some duct tape to carefully stack adapters. Some might say a work of art.
Next chore is to wash our clothes, we’re running out of socks. There is no dryer so we need to hang our clothes up. We do have some rope, but the wind is blowing pretty strong so we need some pegs. Luckily our German caravan neighbours to the other side come to the rescue!
Hitchhiking for over three months, carrying all of your belongings and shelter in your rucksack requires a lot preparation and money. After spending many, many smackers on equipment, from a tent to a french press (Girl needs her coffee!), only to discover in the process that so many more items are needed, you have to […]
We’re on the road to Salzburg area – it’s only our third time hitchhiking and we’re apprehensive – the last time didn’t go so well. We want to get to a campsite on Wolfgangsee, a beautiful lake in the Salzkammergut region of Austria. There are two ramps on to the Autobahn in Schladming and we’re not sure […]
Lucerne is our end destination after a day of epic hitch-hiking-road-tripping through Switzerland. We’re exhausted, hungry and tired but also immensely grateful for the experience and soon doze off. Feeling refreshed the next morning, we get ourselves ready for a day in Lucerne. This takes a while. After all, we’re in a city now and […]
In the heart of the Pyrenees, we wake up from a cosy nights sleep in our tent, it was cold but not excruciatingly so. Wide awake, freshened and energetic to explore. We came to Espot to experience the mighty Pyrenees mountains. We decided randomly on the national park Aigüestortes i Estany of Saint Maurici. Well […]
By the time all of our chores are done, the sun begins to set and out come the mosquitos. I’m a magnet for mosquitos but we have no spray because, well, we’ve been in the mountains basically the whole time we have been travelling. Of course, the Aussies have our backs.
Mosquitos at bay, we relax and attempt to enjoy the evening. Only the wind keeps getting stronger. We check the weather, yup, gale force winds for the next few days. Awesome, just what you need on the beach, razor sharp sand blowing in your face. We retreat to the tent, wondering on which island we will wake up.
It seems the weather quite often gets the better of us! Here too, oh and here.
Waking up happily still in the Camargue, we settle on a bike ride for the day’s activity. Our second bike ride this week! The Camargue is a huge area and in order to see it we need to be able to get around. It’s just too far to walk so a bike is the next logical option. We want to see flamingos and the beautiful wild horses.
If you have seen pictures of the horses in the Camargue, you will know what we are talking about. Incredibly majestic and powerful, the Camargue horses are an ancient breed which are indigenous to the area. You will often find them ploughing through the delta in magnificent scenes.
We decide to ride to Domaine Paul Ricard, a place where hopefully we can see horses. We will ride around the lake Étang de Vaccarès. The ride is about 16KM each way.
But first we need to find some bikes to rent at a decent price, which will be in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. A small fishing town about a 3KM walk from the campsite. We decide to walk across the beach, our first time on this trip! Needless to say we have a lot of fun!
By the time we get to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer the day is already getting on and we’re beginning to get hungry. Being vegetarian in France is not so much fun. Your options are usually limited to boring cheese sandwiches. We kill another hour trying to find something a bit more interesting, to no avail.
We rent bikes from The Bike Saintois and since we’re late, we only rent for half a day which is €12 each at the time of writing. The bikes are quickly checked over by the bike mechanic and we are good, off we go!
Immediately we feel the gale force winds. It makes riding the bike about 10 times harder than usual. The area is so flat that there is absolutely no cover anywhere. We are distracted though, as soon as we spot the lake and notice all of the flamingos. It’s incredible. The first time we’ve both seen wild flamingos and there are hundreds, all just standing and fishing in the vast expanses of water. We deviate off course and head for the shores, the trail becomes ever more muddy so we abandon the bikes and go by foot.
It’s not possible to get super close to the flamingos, as they will begin to move. A zoom lens is definitely necessary to get good photos. These photos are terrible but better than none! After admiring the beautiful creatures for a short while, we ride on. The search for the Camargue horse continues.
In typical fashion, when we finally arrive at the farm/stables, the horses are being rounded up and taken away. We are too late, we have missed them. Gutted. We haven’t seen any wild horses and now we haven’t seen any of the domestic ones. We’re also too late to ride them. The Camargue is not going to plan! You can’t always get what you want… 🐎
In retrospect our problem was lack of time. To enjoy the Camargue you need much more time than the two days we had, and you need transport, for example a car, in order to get the most out of it. It is so huge it is almost impossible to get around it by foot, or even bike in a short space of time.
Before heading back we grab a cold fizzy drink from the cafe, despite the wind, it’s incredibly hot for almost winter. On the way back we did see some of the huge black bulls which are also native to the area. Much like the horses, they are majestic beasts.
After a very hard ride back we deliver back the bikes only 20 minutes late, luckily no one really notices. We grab a much deserved beer and head for the beach. We need this.
A new day and new complications. Caroline has some university deadlines and therefore cannot take part in any activities today. Instead she utilises the camp site common room which weirdly doubles as a kids play room to do some work on her masters thesis.
I on the other hand want to visit the salt marshes. Bright pink salt lakes where flamingos wade and well, they just look out of this world. It’s one of the main reasons I wanted to visit the Camargue. However, we didn’t do all that much planning because we’ve been hitchhiking and camping, many nights without internet and we didn’t want to plan the trip 100%. We wanted it to be dynamic and also it had to be. Hitchhiking is uncertain, plans have to change.
In this case research would have helped. It turns out the salt lakes are not really close to where we are. They are close to Aigues-Mortes. You can find the exact location here.
As I begin to read, it turns out the lakes are private. They are used for salt production and are therefore shut down to the public. Well, until you pay for a tacky fake train ride around the lake at €10 per person. Reading about it makes my heart sink due to the complaints. Apparently the train does not even stop, so it is impossible to take decent pictures.
For me to get to the salt lakes I would have to rent a bike again and ride over 60KM in one day. It’s not possible. I sulk in the tent and by the beach for the rest of the day.
Evening comes and Caroline finishes her work for the day. We decide to head back in to town and have a date night at a nice restaurant, to compensate all the failures. We find a lovely pizzeria, Chez Mario where we order some delicious veggie pizza’s. We really recommend this place, it was a bit away from the main streets, but absolutely wonderful. A great find.
Not wanting to break tradition, on exiting we grab some beers to go. Another exquisite sunset awaits.
Our time in the Camargue has not gone entirely to plan. Well, actually it didn’t go to plan at all, and we didn’t really get to see any of the things we wanted to. However, we have had a great time still, being at the beach is priceless and never gets old. Hopefully you’ll be able to do things properly when you get there – we’ll give you all the information below!
After spending only two days at the beach we are heading back to the mountains. We are running a tight ship now, we lost some days in France from hitchhiking problems and getting ill, so we have to move on. Now we are heading to the Pyrenees via Nîmes, and we are not sure how long it will take to get there.
One last mission before we leave though, get up at sunrise and scour the beach for shells before the pesky kids take them all. Collecting shells always brings me back to my child hood, happy days on wet beaches in the UK, picnics in the car and salt and vinegar drenched chips.
If you want to experience the Camargue to the fullest, follow these suggestions:
First you need to decide where you are staying. Most likely in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer or Aigues-Mortes.
For Aigues-Mortes you will want to get to Nîmes first. From there you’ll get on to the C32 bus which takes you direct to Aigues-Mortes. You can find the bus timetables here. The website is incredibly complicated though so I would use Google Maps, it has the bus schedules on it.
For Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer you need to get to Arles first. From there you want the A50 bus from Arles train station. Check the official French only timetable. Or in English via Rome2rio.
There are absolutely loads of things to do in the Camargue, so choose wisely.
We stayed at a campsite just outside of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. Budget options are few and far between, so camping is probably the best bet.
Bring lots of mosquito spray! It’s mosquito heaven here. Probably cover up too.
Rent a car to get around at your own pace and explore the Camargue properly.
Make sure to be outside when the sun is setting. Get ready to witness fantastic sunsets! Have your camera ready!