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Aigues Mortes in the Camargue

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Jul 19th, 2013, 10:29 AM
  #1
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Aigues Mortes in the Camargue

A lot of people drive along the Mediterranean coast of France between Languedoc and the Côte d'Azur (or vice versa) but a surprising number of them miss the quite exceptional town of Aigues Mortes, not far from Arles. It is yet another of France's walled cities, which is not exceptional in itself, but it was the first port created by France on the Mediterranean under Louis IX (Saint Louis, to you people from Missouri). The reason it was forgotten was that a few decades later, Marseille became part of France and Aigues Mortes was forgotten.

However, it is totally charming and is absolutely worth a visit. I was there just a week ago and made this report: http://tinyurl.com/aigues
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Jul 19th, 2013, 12:19 PM
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Charming report and great pictures. It looks improved (walls appear whiter) since when we visited in 2009.

I love little less-visited places like this that seem to have stood still over time. Makes me want to go back.

Thanks for sharing.
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Jul 19th, 2013, 01:05 PM
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Thank you. I've never forgotten my first sight of Aigues Mortes.
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Jul 19th, 2013, 01:52 PM
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Merci, Kerouac. We had dinner there one night - delicious but I can't recall what we ate. The drive through the Camargue was lovely with the wild white horses and those birds. I thought Aigues Mortes beautiful and so well preserved - a perfect setting for a film about the Crusades and Middle Ages, eh?
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Jul 19th, 2013, 02:23 PM
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Well, they will have a lot of TV antennas to erase digitally.
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Jul 19th, 2013, 03:35 PM
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We went there also when we vacationed at Le Grau du Roi, one of my favourite place, when I visit France..La Camargue is a beautiful region.
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Jul 19th, 2013, 04:27 PM
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Reminds me of a flat Dubrovnik: crowded buildings, too few trees, a circuit of the walls, roof tiles, though the new ones on Dubrovnik -- courtesy of the Serb and Montenegran siege -- were made in Toulouse and are very bright red orange. The old ones are lovely like these.

Have been interested in going since we were in Arles a few years ago. Lucky you!
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Jul 19th, 2013, 08:54 PM
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I never miss a chance to visit Aigues-Mortes when in the area; I think the place is magical, even when in the baking sun aand swarming with visitors. I have eaten bull several times at places on the Place St-Louis pictured in your photos. Delicious!
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Jul 19th, 2013, 09:07 PM
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I spent a week in Uzes in 2012 and never got to the Camargue; returning in Oct., and it's on my must-see list.
Great report on the area, K!
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Jul 19th, 2013, 09:25 PM
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I agree - a great place. We were in Aigues-Mortes in 2008 and again in 2012, and by sheer coincidence on both occasions we struck their local version of "running the bulls". I'm probably mis-naming the event, it's not the great public bull run like Barcelona, but a small group of horsemen charging at full speed behind a single bull, time and time again, down the narrow straight streets of Aigues-Mortes - which are even narrower on the day because of thousands of people (and bands of musicians) lining the streets. A wonderful spectacle!
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Jul 19th, 2013, 09:26 PM
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I agree - a great place. We were in Aigues-Mortes in 2008 and again in 2012, and by sheer coincidence on both occasions we struck their local version of "running the bulls". I'm probably mis-naming the event, it's not the great public bull run like Barcelona, but a small group of horsemen charging at full speed behind a single bull, time and time again, down the narrow straight streets of Aigues-Mortes - which are even narrower on the day because of thousands of people (and bands of musicians) lining the streets. A wonderful spectacle!
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Jul 20th, 2013, 07:07 AM
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I was introduced to Aigues Mortes by my city planning professor in 1972 and spent Christmas of 1973 there. It most definitely hadn't been "discovered" yet.

We went to midnight Mass at the 13th Century Notre Dame des Sablons, from which King Louis IX (later St. Louis) set off on the 7th Crusade (which arguably set the stage for the "French Mandate" in the Levant hundreds of years later.) According to my then-wife, who spoke passable French (mine was basically smiles and nods) the priest, who appeared old enough to have waved good bye to Louis, basically harangued the full house about sin and wickedness and the need for obedience blah blah. We were in the back, surrounded by party-ready teenagers standing and smoking and making snide asides while the priest scolded their parents up front. Had to be there, didn't want to be there.

The next morning I figured the town would be deserted, but ha - the bars were hopping, packed with families engaged in celebrating Baby Jesus' arrival with cigarettes, coffee and shots of evil-colored liquor, while lotteries for prizes including Christmas hams and other food items (also booze, duh) were conducted by the innkeepers.

In the afternoon we walked around the town walls and I observed a large collection of men playing Petanque (a type of boules) at the base of the ancient stones, their shadows growing long in the winter light. That night we had a stunning Christmas dinner - turkey in a garlic/Provencal sauce of some kind, little cakes. Magic.

Old photo of the players - http://flic.kr/p/fd4x9g
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Jul 20th, 2013, 08:05 AM
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Thanks for another great trip report and pictures! And thanks for a few memories re the pods. I was pretty sure that they were wisteria. There was an old wisteria at my great aunt's. We used to gather the ripe pods when we were kids.
We kept them in a tobacco tin and used them to play tiddly winks and other games that we made up.

Once my aunt had gathered some and laid them on a shelf in the pantry. While we were eating lunch in the kitchen the pods burst open with quite a loud sound and the seeds exploded out onto the floor. We kids thought that was terribly funny.
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Jul 20th, 2013, 08:30 AM
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I spent two nights there and had a fantastic time
was serenaded by a Gypsy King wannabe
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Jul 20th, 2013, 09:00 AM
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Excellent photo of the pétanque players, Gardyloo. When I was little, it seemed as though almost all French men over the age of 40 had a casquette tightly pulled down to their brows, and your photo validates the impression.
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Sep 25th, 2013, 12:41 AM
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Thanks for posting the information and the pictures of Aigues- Mortes. I'll be in Arles in two weeks and really wanted to make a day trip. Rick Steves guide says skip it, but I saw a documentary on Amazon Prime and it looked like an interesting historic site. Your post made the difference and I'm going.
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