A family day exploring the Camargue
I have tried it out for you!
- Major Camargue site in the Gard Département
- Aigues-Mortes, fortified town of Saint Louis
- Scamandre Regional Nature Reserve
- Discover Camargue traditions
The CONSTANCE tower
We arrive in Aigues-Mortes, the Town of Saint Louis, mid-morning, and start with a guided tour of one of the most imposing castle keeps of Mediaeval architecture: la Tour de Constance, built in 1242 to protect the port and the town. The guide explains to us its incredible internal defence system – so cleverly organised! After the Guard Room, we come to the Knights' Hall, which served as a prison at different times – notably for Protestant women. The most famous, Marie Durand, an iconic figure for resisting religious persecution, was freed in 1768, after 38 years of imprisonment!
Panorama from the top of the ramparts!
We finish by climbing the 190 steps up to the terrace! The panorama is simply breath-taking, with an unobstructed view of the marshes, the Canal du Rhône à Sète and the salt marshes of Aigues-Mortes!
From up here you look out over the whole fortified enclosure, 1634 metres long and constructed in the 13th century on the initiative of Saint Louis! You have to take a photo stop before starting the tour of the ramparts…
You can visit the Aigues-Mortes salt marshes in a little train or a 4x4, and climb up a twenty-metre-high salt "camelle" (pile) on foot. From the top there is a superb panorama over the town of Aigues-Mortes!
Find out more
Stop for a local lunch
Our appetites sharpened after all that walking, we go back to the town centre for a well-earned rest over lunch.
The menus feature traditional cuisine and local specialities: gardianne de taureau (Camargue beef casserole), Camargue rice, grilled meat seasoned with Camargue "fleur de sel" salt, speciality fish ... and not forgetting to taste one of the unmissable local treats – Aigues-Mortes fougasse (speciality bread)!
Leaving Aigues-Mortes, several boats are on offer for you – take the time to cruise the Canal du Rhône à Sète, explore the Gard Département Camargue from the water.
The Carbonnière towwer
Straight after lunch, departure to visit the Scamandre Discovery Centre, at the heart of the Regional Nature Reserve. On the way, a short stop at the Carbonnière Tower, strongly recommended by our guide in the morning: at the end of the 18th century, this imposing square tower was the only access point from the outlying land into the town, and was later converted into a toll station. Exceptional panorama from the top!
CAMARGUE FLORA AND FAUNA
3.00pm: we arrive at the Scamandre Centre Built on a 215-hectare site, south-west of the Scamandre Lake, this Discovery Centre organises activities to raise people's awareness about preserving the environment. On arrival, a guide explains how the visit will work, and gives us an itinerary. There are 3 possible routes. We opt for the Sentier du Butor (Bittern route) and hire an audio-guide. En route there are several observation points organised where you can observe the fauna – especially the birds, of which there are many on the site! Don't forget to bring your binoculars and your camera!
At the Manade
At the end of the day, a surprise! I had made sure to book an evening at the Manade for us in advance! We arrived around 6.00pm, and were greeted warmly by the Groul family, who raise Camargue horses and bulls following the purest traditions and welcome visitors to share their everyday life, and in particular, their passion! We start with a tour of the property, with the "gardians" on horseback, while we and the other visitors are in a cart, so that we can get close up to the bulls. Jean-Claude Groul, high up on his white horse, explains to us the basics of raising the Camargue bull…
The Camargue bull has been awarded "Site remarquable du Goût" (Remarkable Taste Site) status.
Now it's time for the show!
The gardians gallop out to find the herd of bulls, then bring them back to us, in the selection area, to choose several animals. The way that the Camargue horse works and moves to separate out the bull is truly remarkable! Abrivado (parading bulls through the streets), bandido (taking them back again to the fields), ferrade (bull branding), course camarguaise (Camargue bull-fighting), cocarde (cockade) and the art of the razet (rosette)… by the end of the display, Camargue traditions are no secret to us any more ;-)
The day continues with a Camargue evening enjoying a typical regional meal enlivened with gypsy music!
The "course Camarguaise" began at the beginning of the century: it is a game between "raseteurs" and bulls during which the men try to pick up a cockade fixed between the animal's horns – it's the "art du raset".
- By car : A9 via Lyon - Nîmes: Gallargues exit (no 26) - Aigues-Mortes les plages. A9 via Montpellier: Montpellier Est exit (no 29) - Aigues-Mortes les plages
- By train : Regular daily links from the Gare de Nîmes by TER (express regional train)
- By bus : Coming from Nîmes: Service C32 Edgard Transport. Coming from Montpellier: Service 106 Hérault Transport