About a month ago, I decided to plan a spontaneous weekend trip to the Camargue region of France! I made the conscious decision to keep my travels within France while the global pandemic and while I think that was a good choice, I was feeling a little stir crazy. A break was much needed. I love the French Riviera and I spent lots of time snorkeling and exploring sealife, but I was really wanting to see more of the beautiful French wilderness. I heard about natural marshlands in southern France that are full of flamingos, wild horses and bulls, pink lakes, AND a roman arena all within a one hour radius of one another. Uhhh, sign me up, please!
Planning The Weekend Trip
Even though I wasn’t leaving my country, I was still driving a few hours away and decided to take extra precautions in order to protect myself and others. What a strange time we all live in, huh!
The plan was to drive on a Friday and arrive in Arles, a beautiful town in the Bouches-du-Rhône department. My hotel was located there and Friday would be spent playing tourist! Arles is known for Van Gogh who lived there for a short while, a Roman amphitheatre, and the Church of St. Throphime. Saturday consisted of seeing Camargue in all of its beauty, exploring the Ornithological Park of Pont de Gau, and discovering the local wildlife. Finally, Sunday’s plans were driving less than an hour to Aigues-Mortes, a fortified city, and checking out their beautiful pink lakes and the salt mines.
My first impression of Arles was that it is an absolutely beautiful, ancient town and I was a fan right off the bat! It had a pleasant, laid-back atmosphere about it and while the people of Arles were exceptionally kind. I stayed at the Hôtel Porte de Camargue and the location was perfect. 10/10 would recommend them. It felt safe, every attraction was within walking distance, and the room was comfortable and clean!
The first thing I absolutely had to do was check out the arena! I’m not sure when I’ll be able to travel to Rome, so the fact this town had an arena was an absolute MUST for me. I swear I spent a few hours admiring the work of the Romans. I don’t understand how they were able to build such majestic pieces of architecture back then! Below are some fun facts and highlights about the arena.
- Built in 90 AD.
- Housed 20,000 spectators.
- Bullfights and chariot events.
- In the medieval age, it became fortified and four towers (three remain today) were built.
- In the 1800’s, a small town was built in the middle.
- Now a UNESCO Heritage Site.
- Still actively used today for events.
Buying a ticket to the arena also got you entrance to an ancient Roman theatre and vice versa. Sadly, I didn’t have enough time to go inside, but I was able to see it from the outside and snap a pretty cool photo! 🙂
The Church of Saint-Trophime was breathtaking and full of relics. They also had quite the large collection of reliquaries. It was built between the 12th and 15th century (quite the gap, right?!) and has lots of Romanesque characteristics and structures.
As for food, if you’re a meat lover, you’ll be thrilled because every restaurant has a large amount of bull and steak options. Chicken isn’t too common, while vegetarian or vegan (I don’t remember seeing anything vegan where we looked) options are even harder to come by. Make sure to plan the food ahead of time! I really struggled to find something that I could eat here and about skipped dinner the first night! Grand Café Malarte, however, was a real treat! They had the best café gourmand that I’ve ever had in my life so far.
Ornithological Park of Pont de Gau
Okay, this was probably one of the best days of my life, and for sure the highlight of the weekend trip. Located a short 20-30 minute drive from Arles is the Ornithological Park of Pont de Gau. This park is marshlands and full of wildlife; mainly birds. Flamingos, to be specific and guys, I love flamingos. They’re my second favorite animal next to foxes! I’ve never seen one in the wild before. Camargue flamingos don’t migrate, but I was still so scared that it was too late in the year to see them. Hundreds and hundreds of flamingos later, I realized the time of the year was irrelevant and it was truly magical. The birdies don’t care about humans and just live their best bird lives! I saw herrons, egrets, ducks, ibis, ciconia, coypu… The list goes on and on!
On my way back, I also saw wild Camargue horses and bulls (the bulls were too far away to photograph) on the side of the road! It. Was. Magical. If you enjoy nature and natural beauty, Camargue isn’t even an option, it’s a must for a weekend trip (or longer)!
Last, but certainly not least for this little weekend trip, was the Salins d’Aigues-Mortes. I went to the salt mine before visitng the town and anxiously walked down the pedestrian path in order to see this pink water. A good 5-10 minutes of walking, and I finally arrived… The PINK LAKES! You guys, they’re actually pink! It was magical and the lakes went on and on! They do allow you to climb on top of a salt mountain, so I can now cross that off the old bucket list! The view from the top was pretty impressive. Head over to my Instagram Reels if you’re interested in seeing some video highlights from this beautiful area.
The town itself was charming! It really felt like you were going back in time since it’s fortified and the shops in the area seem to follow the medieval theme. I really wish I had more time to spend here, but I had to drive home. 🙁
Weekend Trip Final Thoughts
Going to Camargue for a few days was a dream and I highly recommend it to you guys when we can all travel again. I know Paris is the most popular destination in the world, but don’t sleep on southern France! The beauty is almost too much to take and it was one of the most beautiful locations I have ever visited, and I’ve been to Canada in the fall! 😉
What do you guys think of Camargue? Did you prefer Arles, the park, or Aigues-Mortes?