We visited a few places in the Bouches-du-Rhône department of France while we were in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. Despite the distance in mileage seeming reasonable, because we were traveling on mountain roads, it took longer for us to reach these destinations than we anticipated. Still, they were nice to see and added to the variety of sites (and sights!) we saw on this trip.
I wanted to visit the Parc Naturel Régional de Camargue because it is known for its “wild” horses, their cowboys, pink flamingos, bulls, and other wildlife. We went, but I failed to research enough in advance and I now know that we probably didn’t go to the best spot to enjoy the park, and definitely only saw a fraction of it.
We went to Le Musée de la Camargue site which has a museum and hiking trails. We didn’t go into the museum, but we did enjoy a 7 km hike past rice paddies, a field of bulls, an area where the horses might have been (but weren’t), and a bird watching area where we thought the pink flamingos might have been (but weren’t). I realized eventually that this wasn’t the best spot to potentially see the horses or flamingos, and that the coastline was not accessible from here. Still, it was a nice nature site. Also on the plus side, I got to play with a new wide-angle camera lens my husband gave me for my birthday, so at least I had fun with that! If you visit, be sure to pack plenty of water or beverages of choice, because there are none for sale at this site.
I realize now that we would have been better off visiting the Domaine de la Palissade, le Parc Ornithologique de Pont de Gau, or any of the many other spots recommended on this map (English version, other languages available here). I am really kicking myself on my failure to prepare in advance on this one. I would’ve loved to have seen the horses and visited the museum about them, and to have seen the lighthouse and the Mediterranean coast. Pretty big “fail” on my part, but we had planned to visit Arles that same afternoon, so we had to move on. If you visit these places and get to see these sights, please share with me so I can live vicariously!
Arles was one of three cities we considered visiting to see Roman ruins in Provence. The other two cities were Nimes and Orange (and the Pont du Gard in-between them). Arles made the most sense for us based on location and our schedule.
Our first stop in Arles was the Arles Tourist Office to pick up a city map. We were only there for an afternoon, so we didn’t purchase a city pass, but that might be an economical choice for you if you plan to stay awhile in Arles and visit many monuments and museums.
We walked by the ruins of the Roman Antique Theater, Amphitheater, and Thermal Baths. The amphitheater was the most impressive. We did not go inside. They were preparing for bullfighting later that day. We opted not to view the bullfighting because, unlike the bullfights in Nimes (at least according to Rick Steves), bulls are fought to the death in Arles. Not something any of us wanted to see.
We enjoyed beautiful squares and quaint shopping streets in Arles. I bought a Panama hat because it seemed like a necessity in this region. We found a place for ice cream and I tried a lavender flavor that was delicious.
We walked to the River Rhone and were surprised to find crews raising a half-sunken boat just off the shore. That was interesting to sit and watch for a bit, especially for our son.
There were a lot of museums, monuments, and other sites in Arles that we didn’t visit. Rick Steves describes it as a grittier city than others in the region, but I found it charming and think it would be a nice place to stay if you prefer being in a city when you travel.
Aix-en-Provence is one of the bigger cities in Provence, and would also be a nice place to stay if you prefer being in a city when you travel. We passed through it for a few hours on our way to the airport on our last day in town.
It is a university city, which showed in its youthful vibrancy. It was also clearly a popular tourist destination with a lot of shopping. We did some shopping of our own because we needed an extra bag to carry home all the lavender gifts I bought earlier in the week!
We enjoyed more lovely French architecture throughout the city before grabbing one last taste of ice cream and beverages before heading to Marseille to fly home.
I loved everything about our visit to Provence, except for some of the public restrooms! It exceeded my expectations and I will always think back fondly on our time there. Here are the rest of my blog posts about this trip:
- Provence, France (part 1 of 4)
- Provence, France (part 2 of 4): Alpes-de-Haute-Provence
- Provence, France (part 3 of 4): Vaucluse
Enjoy, and if you choose to put Provence, France on your travel bucket list like I did, I am sure you won’t regret it!