24 September 2012


An almost-obligatory part of a visit to Provence is a tour of the Camargue. We went in a 4x4 and the guide spoke English and patiently answered questions. We learned a lot about irrigation and rice cultivation - the harvest is about to start -
Jean-Michel works as a "gardian" during the winter and can spot wildlife when it's just a speck amid the distant reeds, so we saw the inevitable white horses -
 We learned that the traditional houses are thatched with reeds and rounded at the north end because of the wind -
And we saw flamingoes -
and lots of the camargue bulls, including a herd (manade) on the move -
and the grave for the famous bull Rami (1963-1987), at the Mas de Bernacles, a farm that was a stopping-off point on the road to Santiago de Compostela. Camargue bulls (their horns curve up) can live to a ripe old age because they go into the bullfight only once a year for 15 minutes, we were told - any more would stress the bull too much. Unlike in Spanish bullfights, in the Provencal bullfights the bull is not killed or wounded. Spanish bulls (their horns curve down) have a maximum lifespan of six years, though. (And that's just about all I want to know about bullfighting, thanks.)
Rami was buried as is traditional for bulls: on his feet, and facing the sea. The upright marker was salvaged from "old stones" somewhere, and is topped by the symbol of the Camague, containing faith, charity, and hope.

Among the 400 or so species of birds are egrets, which pick parasites off the bulls and horses -
Less spectacular but my own discovery, flocks (bevvies?) of darting dragonflies at the edge of the salt marsh -
The mistral was blowing on the day, which was a touch chilly but fortunate in terms of keeping the notorious mosquitoes away.

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