It is barely 8:30 if we already have a ride of over an hour on it. We have some tourist spots on our schedule and want to be ahead of the big flow of tourists, with covid19 in mind, trying to avoid large masses. We are also worried about the increasing number of infections in our home country about which we are receiving news.
We are even too early to visit the local church that opens at 8:30pm.
Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is a coastal town, but also a place of pilgrimage. Two Mary's, Marie Jacobé and Marie Salomé, the women who were present at Jesus' crucifixion and visited him at the grave after his death to embalm the body, would have arrived here by boat and lived their further lives. Mary Magdalene, Jesus' alleged wife, would also be docked here. She would then have moved on to preach the gospel.
The first two Mary's were buried here, too. Later they built a church, dug up the remains and got a special grave in a niche of the church. (Above the altar you see that niche.)
But it's still very early when we get there. The pictures in the church were taken a little later.
The fishing boats are just bringing in their cargo for sale, which starts at 9:00.
If you drive from Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer a short drive back towards Arles, you will reach the Bird Park of Pont-de-Gau.
It is a 60-hectare park that allows visitors to spot waterfowl from the Camargue in the wild. For 7,50 euros you are inside and you can follow kilometers of long, mapped out hiking trails while seeing herons, storks and flamingos descend around you.
You can see the animals, which are completely free, up close by via birdwatching huts and hiking trails along the swamp areas.
The park is also a care center for sick birds of these species.
Highly recommended for the animal lover or nature photographer! You can also find the camargue-horses if you're lucky. We get there very early again, so there are fewer people walking around.
The next city on our programme is the fortified city of Aigues Mortes, with its fortified walls and towers one of the best preserved defensive examples in history.
Louis IX built the fortified city as a base for the Crusades. He was also the first French king to have a port on the Mediterranean Sea. He left there in 1270 and 1348 on a crusade.
The city is still fully walled to this day. You can go through the tower of Constance (see photo below - taken from the fortress wall across the street - buy entrance ticket) and walk down the walls around the city.
Please note that by covid19 you have to keep a mouth mask on the whole walk and it is forbidden to return. So you have to walk all the ramparts.
Recommended: we ate a 'plat du jour' in one of the quieter side streets connecting the central square with the fortress wall. We ate at Le Dit Vin. For a 'plat du jour' this was a very nice menu!
From day 1: