The Camargue is a land beside the sea which is famous for white horses, black bulls, flamingoes and rice. It is a landscape of marshes and fields. It lies between two tributaries of the Rhone river in southern France and is part of Provence. Here the reeds grow very tall like papyrus.
The flamingoes were white today because they haven’t been eating their shrimp. From a distance it is hard to tell the difference between a white flamingo and a heron. I thought I also saw swans.
The seagulls are rather huge and sturdy and look more like Seahawks.
The ocean washed off all the airport ju-ju and I feel sparkling and new. The water is flat and calm and refreshing. The beach is very accessible.
The story is that three Maries arrived here on a rudderless boat.
The town is therefore called St Maries de la Mer.
The three Maries were Mary Magdalene, Mary Jacoba and Mary Salome. The word ‘Mary’ is a designation, or title, given to someone of exalted rank such as a High Priestess …… much later it became used as a Christian name
They would have noticed the papyrus reeds and felt at home.
The story continues …
…. that they were either accompanied by a child called Sara, or the child called Sara was born after arrival, and she was Mary Magdalene’s child, the daughter of a High Priestess and a very special child indeed. St Sara is honoured here as the patron saint of this town ….. she is also the patron saint of the gypsies who are so called perhaps because of an ancient connection with Egypt.
St Sara is depicted with dark skin.
Perhaps she had Nubian blood, descended from the great priestesses and queens of old. Do you remember Nefertari, whose name means the most beautiful in all the land and who was the Queen of Rameses the Great? (we met her and the Nubian Queens in Egypt last year). In heiroglyphics Nefertari is depicted with certain insignia to demonstrate that not only was she Queen she was also High Priestess.
Others say that St Sara is a depiction of the great Mother Kali from India, another ancient land connected with the gypsies
We went to the building which is her church. It was also built as a refuge for her townsfolk against pirates ( the beach being so accessible to boats ….. ). There is a steep winding staircase that was built for skinny people which leads you right up on to the roof from where you can see out over the town to the surrounding countryside and the beach
The town is cheerful and friendly. Here they raise cattle and they specialise in a form of bullfighting in which they don’t kill the bull. I like it here. You can buy handmade cowboy boots, lots of merchandise and memorabilia decorated with white horses, and more types of rice than I knew existed ( I had to put all the packets back when I realised how many kilos overweight my luggage would be ). The food is yummy.
There are rows of campervans pulled up along the seashore and a lot of very relaxed people. Tomorrow we go for a horse ride with the famous white horses. We saw herds and herds of white horses and black cattle from the window of the bus as we drove into the Camargue region.
I am having difficulty uploading photos because the wifi is struggling. I will send photos in a later post but meanwhile you could find excellent pictures if you Google “white horses of the camargue” then go into “images”.
The place we are staying is a spa. I am torn because all the ladies have descended upon the spa for treatments in our free time and I would love to join them but I can’t keep away from the sea. The sun has just come out, the ocean is sparking blue, there is a big rainbow arching across the sky, and I am plotting another swim …
PS the lovely painting was by a local artist and for sale at the hotel, it is of St Sara