Return to the Camargue

At the International Congress on Photosynthesis in Montpellier in August of 1995, my wife and I were among about 2000 attendees, and one day we all packed into a fleet of buses and went to the Manade Jaques Bon in the Camargue country, south of Arles. The link shows a map of the property. We were divided into two groups, each with different colored baseball caps, and entertained by a brass band and a demonstration of cow-branding, French style. This is a very efficient operation, which quickly subdues the animal, ties its legs, and permits the quick application of the branding iron. The cowboys expertly ride the famous white horses of the region – or rather those that have been domesticated. We then proceeded to an arena to witness a French bullfight. This is very different from the Spanish version, as this Youtube video by Rick Steves shows. No attempt is made to kill the bull. Instead, a tiny ribbon is attached to the bull’s head between its horns, and fleet-footed young men in white attempt to snag this ribbon with a hand-held tool and then race for the barriers, leaping over them to escape the angry animal. People in the stands put up money to encourage the boys, and the sums are announced via loudspeakers. Sometimes nobody manages to get the ribbon and the bull trots out of the arena, a winner. In addition to this, there was a lot of trick riding. Then we went to a banquet hall for an abundant Provençal dinner.

In 2017 we left Arles and headed southward into the Camargue, but did not stop at the Manade. We did see some of the famous wild white horses, and also an enormous salt mining operation, the famous Salins de Camargue. The link describes the operation in detail.

"Wild" Camargue Horses
Wild horses of the Camargue

 

Salt farms in the Camargue
Salin de Camargue – a mountain of sea salt, likely part of just one summer’s production

 

The bus took a ferry across the Rhone afterward and we headed off toward the eastern part of the Cote d’Azur, bypassing Marseille and Cannes to visit Nice and finally Menton.

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