Sunday, April 5, 2009

la camargue

Yesterday I took a day trip to Camargue with the people in my program, The Camargue is near the city of Arles, but situated more south on the base of the Rhone river. It is mainly agricultural land - the area is famous for its production of rice and salt. In the center and south of Camargue it is a National Park with tons of marshland full of various wildlife. Supposedly the area is abundant flamingos - but I only saw a few unfortunately. They also have beautiful white horses! Although, because of previous brave attempts to conquer my fear of horses (near death experiences with Tony and Ashley in PA), I did not participate in horseback riding. But hey I took pictures of my friends doing it!?!? Instead of trekking through the marsh on smelly and dangerous animals, we went to a little town in the Camargue called Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. This town is famous because the three Maries' - Mary Jacobé, Mary Salomé, and Mary-Magdalen supposedly were expelled from Jerusalem on a boat that landed on les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. The Gitans are a group of gypsies who come every year in May for a pilgrimage to this little town. The town was really charming, and right on the beach! I checked out the church, grabbed a baguette, and relaxed in the soleil. It was a great afternoon!

The Camargue is also associated with le guardiens, which are bull rearers. There are tons of bulls in the Camargue ! We went to a see what the bulls were really like. Although I had no idea what to expect, we went to les arenes in a little town to watch a bull show, called la course camarguaise. The town was absolutely charming, and we were the only tourists there! All these old men with dark provencal skin were welcoming us and teaching us the rules of the game. There was a live band playing music from the opera Carmen as we walked in. The rasteurs are the men who try to pull these little strings off of the bulls' horns using a crochet, which is a spiky weapon they hold in their hands. It was one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen, when the bull was attacking them they ricocheted themselves off the walls and grabbed onto the side banisters to avoid the bulls horns! I have never seen anything like it. I happened to fall in love with one rasteur, Matthieu Marquier! What a stud. Agile, athletic, and a bull-fighter! What more could a girl want?

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