Visiting La Camargue, The Heart of Provence

Visiting La Camargue, The Heart of Provence

The AUCP classes of Aix and Marseille came together to visit La Camargue Saturday. Led by Provence Through Literature and Film professor Marie-Anne Rossignol, the outing highlighted the subjects, history and landscapes described in works by prolific 19th and early 20th century Provençal author-poets Joseph d’Arbaud and Frédéric Mistral.

Croix de la Camargue The Camargue is:

  • Western Europe’s largest river delta.
  • Known for its white Camargue horses (camargais), Camargue cattle ( taureau) and its traditional gardians,  Provençal cowboys!
  • Home to more than 400 species of birds, including the flamingo.
  • Symbolized by the croix de Camargue: faith (the cross), hope (the anchor), charity (the heart) and the cattle guardians (the tridents at the end of each cross).
  • Where Fleur de sel de Camargue, a prized and delicate sea salt, is harvested by hand.

The outing began with a visit to the village Les-Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, where students visited the local church, built between the 9th and 12th centuries. The church is a highly central element of the small coastal village, and served as a watchtower in the past. Students visited the crypt that houses the statue of Saint Sara, today an important figure in local Gypsy cultural tradition. After a leisurely lunch of moules-frites (mussels steamed in white wine, served with French fries) for some and a picnic on the beach for others, AUCP students headed up to the rooftop ramparts of the church for a birds-eye view of the village and the sea.

In the afternoon, AUCP-ers boarded a miniature train to get a glimpse of the Camarguais marshland flora and fauna – wild horses, bulls, herons and more. The exploration of the marsh continued on foot under the setting sun.

We had read several of Joseph d’Arbaud’s poems and Frédéric Mistral’s writings about the Camargue in the Provence class with Professor Rossignol, so we were already familiar with the history of the region. One of my favorite parts of the day was the visit to the marshlands, because it reminded me of natural landscape in South Louisiana. We saw a bunch of animals, even a few flamingos from afar – definitely unexpected in Provence! – Mark, Tulane University

Photographs of the day, below!

For more information on AUCP regional excursions in the South of France, visit our website, or see other excursion-related blog posts!