Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cruise on the Med and King Louis the Saint

07.06.11 Cruise on the Med and the small Rhone to meet a handsome cowboy; the French King who launched two crusades and became a saint.
Let me start with a small piece of advice. If ever you come to St Maries de la Mer in the Camargue intent on a boat cruise, then be sure to get a seat on the right hand side. The cruise we took this afternoon takes you out on the Med for 15 minutes and up the Petit Rhone for 30 minutes to see the wild black bulls (with their ear tags!) and horses.
Camargue cowboy. More pics here
And you do get to see them – all arranged. A small herd is driven to a clearing on the bank where you have a good view of animals and the cowboy (known here as a Gardian). You will also see a share of bulls and horses at rest in the scrubby riverside pastures and some birds, mainly herons, on the wide river. The return trip costs a reasonable 12 euro.
In the morning, we had visited the 13th century fortress town of Aigues Mortes, originally fortified to increase trade. That didn't work and so there was no real incentive to maintain the sea access as the Rhone silted up and the town became somewhat detached from the sea. Nowadays, many private boats use the Rhone-Sett? Canal and tie up alongside!
Saint Louis, as he was to become, built it as his only port on the Med; he didn’t command all of France at the time. It was an inhospitable spot and people had to be bribed to come. But the king did launch two crusades from here. Neither crusade could be called successful but his efforts and, in between, in the Holy Land, earned him the gratitude of Rome.
Despite being breached once, during the 100 Years War, the ramparts are intact and you may walk them as we did. The distance is about a mile and there are some great views. You start the tour at the Tour de Constance, the biggest and most impressive of a string of towers which have seen much history. Now they see many tourists.


Being Tuesday, some of the local restaurants were closed for the day but Le Moulin de la Grasiho was open again. Started with a tartare of Advocat and Salmon Thai style, with lime (9.00). Delighted with it and happy also with the main course of Lamb Chops with a Pistachio and Pinenut Crust (20). The Chocolate Mousse (7), with a cocoa sauce and broken bits of white chocolate, was okay but nothing to write home about, so I won’t. A pichet of very good Cotes du Rhone cost me €6.50. Quite happy overall.