In the south of France lie two excellent destinations for the traveller in France the ancient town of Arles and the marshy delta area known as the Camargue.
Arles, like it’s counterpart Nimes, was an important base on the Roman trade routes. The town of Arles (population 52,000), lies on the Rhône and was a busy port. Arles has a superbly preserved set of Roman buildings the Amphitheatre, the Roman Circus, the Theatre and a Triumphal arch.
The Amphitheatre has played an important part in the long history of the city. After its original incarnation under the Romans the amphitheatre fell into disuse. Then in the 16th century it became a ‘suburb’ the arena had two churches and 200 houses built inside its walls. These were cleared in the early 19th to leave the arena free for bullfights. Today there is a resurgence of interest in Bull-fighting in France and the 20000 seat arena is usually full. The Bull-fighting season runs from February to October.
On the Place de la Republic sits both the Hotel-de-ville and the 11th century church, Cathedral St. Trophime. The church has numerous tapestries on the walls, much decoration in a Romanesque style church and a huge number of relics. This was added to the UNESCO world heritage list in 1981.
The friendly tourism office is always happy to help Arles Tourism
16km south from Arles is the area known as the Camargue. Camargue Information Between the two arms of the Rhône river (Grand & Petit Rhône) lies a large marshland which extends through to the sea. This area is unique in France; this landscape won’t be found anywhere else.
The black cattle native to the area have large horns and are used for bull-fighting. These semi-wild cattle are ‘farmed’ by cowboys (guardians) who often ride another of the local fauna the white Camargue horse. The horses are born brown or black but at about 4 years they turn white. The horses also run semi-wild living in small herds, living outside all year around.
Today much of the area is a protected regional park. The huge salt water lagoon Etang de Vaccarès is famous for its extensive birdlife with over 400 species found in the area. The most famous of these are the pink flamingos. While the tourists love the elegant birds the local rice farmers are not fans of the birds that trample the young rice crops.
One of the main crops of the area is actually rice. With the amount of water available in the large number of lagoons in the area, it is not a surprising crop. The Camargue rice is red and is known as Riz Rouge.
Well worth a day’s visit, tourism can be easily combined with some walking on the many tracks around the lagoons. Arles and the Camargue provide a dose of history and nature in a compact area.