Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sainte Marie de la Mer

Sainte Marie de a Mer lies a scant 38 kilometers south of Arles but seems worlds apart.  Whereas Arles is gritty in a city sort of way, the Camargue, a sea level marshland, grows rice and grapes, raises black fighting bulls called Taureau (pronounced like the Spanish Toro) and its famed white horses. Though agriculture and salt production still exist the Camargue’s financial mainstay has become tourism.
Promenade du Cheval
The Camargue is cowboy country.  Outlying hotels offer horseback tours and next to each property you’ll find a corral with the short, muscular white or beige Camargue horses for hire.  The cowboys called “gardians” look a lot like the American variety and are imbued with similar mythology so many a western has been filmed near Sainte Marie. No kill bull fighting is practiced in the Camargue.  These contests pit man against bull where the objective is for the “raseteur” a sort of matador in white attire and sneakers to grab an “attribut” strung between the bull’s horns with a dull hook called a “crochet.”  In this decidedly egalitarian French bull game bulls can achieve as much glory as their human counterparts.  Seems fair to me.
Chevals du Camargue
Chevals du Canargue
Chevals du Camargue
Sainte Marie’s town center is dominated by the twelfth century Notre Dame de la Mer church that reputedly can be seen from six miles away which seems entirely plausible since the marshes and ponds called “etangs” are crepe flat as far as the eye can see. 
Notre Dame de la Mer
Centre Ville a Nuit
Street Scene
National Pastime
Dinner of Rouget and Rose
The Plage at Dusk

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