Our 2012 Cathedralquest to France day 17 took us to Aigues Morte .

FRANCE 2012

Day 17, Wednesday, September 19

Marseille to Aigues-Mortes

It is hard to believe that this time next week we will be home.  After breakfast, we packed up and checked out.  Our concern has been how we were going to get our suitcases to the car since the car was parked in a garage, four stories down on the other side of the Old Port.  The hotel desk person said that they would keep the suitcases; we could bring the car in front of the hotel and double park long enough to load them into the car.   Kathleen decided she wanted to go with me on the walk to the car garage, so I wouldnít get lost.   We found the car easily and got out of the garage onto the street across the port from our hotel.  Traffic was slow because of the construction, but we made it and got our luggage.  

Our TomTom(GPS) had a little trouble getting us out of town because of the Old Port construction, but we made it.   We certainly enjoyed our stay in Marseille.  It is a very large city, and where we were staying was wonderful, the view from our hotel was spectacular.  We didnít close our curtains at night, falling asleep looking up on the hill at the very well lit Notre Dame de le Guarde and the lights around the Old Port, and when we woke up we saw the same beautiful scene.  I would like to come back some day when the area around the Old Port has been restored.

 We headed north back towards Avignon and Arles.   It was another beautiful day, but we encounter the Mistral Winds again, which made it hard work keeping the car from blowing off the road. Our first stop on our journey today was in an area south of Arles known as the La Camargue.  It is an area that has been largely preserved in its natural state as a botanical and zoological nature reserve.  It consists of 328 sq miles.  Of particular interest to Kathleen was the Parc Ornithologique du Pont-de-Gau, a bird sanctuary.  We stopped to explore it. 

 It would take several hours to go through the suggested tour but our main interest was the flamingos.  We walked some of the nature trails and saw hundred of flamingoes standing in the marshy waters.  They were beautiful.  We saw several other specimens of birds in large caged in areas.  We spent over an hour there.

How would you like to sleep like this?

This preserve is about 4 miles from the town of Les Stes-Maries-De-La- Mer. Legend has it that a boat abandoned to the waves in the year 40, landed on the shore.  It carried Mary, the mother of James, Mary Magdalene, Martha and Lazarus, Mary Salome the mother of James and John.  Later the two Marys were buried here thus the name Les Stes-Maries-de-la Mar.  We drove into the town which has a population of 2,300, only to  discovered that a bull fight was going on.  There was no place to park with campers everywhere.  We wanted to see the Mediterranean but there was a high wall around the city, eventually saw a parking lot and entered it for 3 euros and drove out to a beach.  It was beautiful.  We tried to find the famous church but the roads were blocked and there was no place to park.

About 15 minutes away was our destination for the day, the ancient town of Aigues-Mortes, which stands for the city of "dead waters". In the midst of swamps and lagoons, Aigues-Mortes is France's most preserved walled town. In the early 13c, the French King, Louis IX (St. Louis) possessed no Mediterranean seaport as such.  In 1240, he acquired land from some monks and built a fort and a sea port. In it was from this port that Lewis IX sets sail on the 7th Crusade to conquer Jerusalem. In 1248, 35,000 men launched 1500 ships towards Cyprus. The Crusaders arrived in Cyprus 23 days later and met with some success before being defeated. The king was captured in 1250.

Our hotel, Hotel Canal Aigues Mortes, is on a beautiful canal just outside the city walls.   We settled in and then decided to walk to town.  Between our hotel and town was a bridge over the canal.  Kathleen didnít like this bridge, so we thought the evening was in jeopardy, but she summoned the courage to run across the skinny bridge, and all was saved.  After a five minute walk we were inside the walls. 

 The whole interior of the city walls seems to be shops and wall to wall outdoor cafes.  

 

 

 We walked and around explore the church of Notre Dame des Sablons.   The exact date of   its construction is unknown. It was probably built before the walls were erected, around the middle of the 13th century, at the time of St. Louis. Its style is Gothic.  The fall of the bell tower in 1634 caused extensive damage, that made it unusable for nearly a century.  During the French Revolution, the building was used for barracks and for salt deposit. It becomes Catholic Church in 1804 and was restored in a style classic neo-baroque. From 1964 to 1967 the whole setting disappeared, including coffered ceilings, giving way to the church much more sober and the medieval spirit that we see today. 

In 1991 Claude Viallat,  a contemporary artist , designed and installed the modern stained-glass windows, which give the building a light and extraordinary color.

About 6:30 we decided that we might as well take advantage of all of these cafes.  We have decided that all the French do is eat.  We had stopped at one of the rest areas before Arles and had quiche for lunch.   We looked at all the menus and choose a seafood cafť called ĖRestaurant La Gardiane.  We were the first ones to sit in the large outdoor cafť on the square.  Most French people donít start eating until after 8:00, in fact most restaurants donít even open until 7:45.  The two previous nights in Marseilles, we were the first to appear in our restaurants. Every town that we have visited has had hundreds of outdoor cafes and they are always filled with people eating. We decided to have a starter.  Kathleen had a goat cheese and bacon salad.  I had a pot of mussels- I couldnít eat the all because I had a main course coming.  For the main plate we both had a seafood cabob.  It was delicious.  By the time that we started our main course, every table was taken.  It must have been a favorite as other places had a lot of empty tables.  Today has been very hot in spite of the winds, so I didnít think of wearing my jacket or sweater when we set out.  It got more windy and rather cold.  We finished dinner early and went back to the hotel. 

 

NEXT DAY

Day 1 - Paris

Day 2 - Sens

Day 3 - Vezelay 

Day 4 - Abbey Fontenay, Semur-en-Auxois, Vezelay -

Day 5 - Beaune

Day 6 - Beaune, Autun, Citeaux, Chateau du Clos Vougeot-

Day 7 - Cluny  

Day 8 - Cluny 

Day 9 - Paray-le-Monial and Clermont-Ferrard

Day 10 - Le Puy-en-Velay 

Day 11 - Avignon 

Day 12 - Avignon to Nimes

Day 13 - Avignon

Day 14 - Marseille

Day 15 - Marseille

Day 16 - Marseille

Day 17 - Marseille to Aigues-Mortes

Day 18 - Carcassonne 

Day 19 - Carcassonne to Toulouse  (posted 10/6/15)

Day 20 - Toulouse

Day 21 - Albi

Day 22 - Toulouse