We camped at Saintes Maries de la Mer on the Mediterranean coast in the Camargue. It looks and feels remarkably Spanish – it is a huge water/marsh area with lots of semi-wild horses and bulls, lots of gypsies, shops that sell saddles and flamenco dresses, and a virgin that gets paraded around town during festivals. Donâna by any other name. Though Saintes Maries de la Mer hasn’t the charm of El Rocio, it is a lovely low-rise little holiday resort and – unusually for us in France – it is fully open and bustling. Perhaps this is partly down to the fact that it is the weekend, and partly because the weather is hot and clear – 28oC yesterday and it didn’t cool down until a decent breeze came along at sunset.
We went for a walk along La Digue to see the birds. Lots of Flamingos, Little Egrets, Grey Herons, Black-Headed Gulls, Yellow-Legged Gulls, one solitary Common Sandpiper and a pair of Purple Herons. Some Cormorants in the distance and a couple of flocks of small waders too fast to identify. The Flamingos are pretty when just standing there, but stunning when flying – you see much more of their red colouring. Yesterday we saw another water rat in the lake next to the Aire.
We stayed in one of two Aires (€8 per night with access to water, waste water disposal, Turkish bogs which double as chemical toilet disposal) both of which seem to be full. In addition, some ‘wild’ camping further along La Dique was also fairly packed (there may have been a charge here as well – we saw a man on a quad bike who looked like the rent collector). See picture below to see just how close you can park to the water.
Our Aire is close to a small Spar supermarket and a bread shop, and only ten minutes walk into town. The aire is on the opposite side of the lagoon shown in the picture above. Just about the only drawback is the Turkish lavs. Their use requires some preparation – you have to empty your pockets to make sure nothing vital slips down the hole – and a certain sense of balance, otherwise you might fall down the hole. Altogether not a pleasing experience and I can only imagine that the French persist with them because they are easier to clean – a decent hosepipe and a stiff brush does the trick and you can swill everything away without getting too close to the nasty stuff.
After the aire we shifted to the Clos du Rhone campsite next to the beach, so that we could get some washing done, have a shower, clean the van, get on the internet and charge up all the things which need mains. And get the TV going again – which it did with surprising ease.What was a shock was the price, 27 euro a night and this was the low season.