The next afternoon after sleeping in to recover from a great Sting and Shaggy concert we headed out to the French National Parc marsh lands of Pont du Gau. Our hour trip once again came to a stand still due to road works in Avignon. Once out of Avignon we hit the sunflower trail which went on for kilometres. This was a breath of fresh air. Huge armies of sunflowers hung their heads away from the afternoon warm sun.
Finally after a 2 hour drive we made it to Pont du Gau. It cost around 7 euros each to get into the marsh lands. They only accept cash which was interesting. We just had enough to get in as we try not to carry a lot of cash on us and there are no ATM’S!!!! Our 2 hour drive could have been for nothing!!!!
We hit the nature trails which were full of hundreds of beautiful lanky flamingos waddling in the shallow marsh waters. They congregated in packs all over the many marshes dunking their heads under the water in search of food. Many squabbles took place as they sorted out their pecking order which included neck barging to push each other out of the way.
We also saw a variety of other wetland birds as well as an otter who just so happened to swim straight past us in his busy schedule.
What did we learn about Flamingos….?
• There are 6 species of flamingos in the world. Found in South America, Andes, Caribbean, Galapagos, South Eastern Africa and the flamingo species called, The Greater Flamingo are the only flamingos found in Europe on the Camargue. This is the ones we saw!!! Lots of them.
• Flamingos they possess a gland which allows them to expel salt out their nostrils when feeding. This allows them to live in high salinity areas.
• Flamingos eat larvae, eggs, seeds and aquatic plants.
• A female usually only lays one egg around April. This is kept warm by both parents.
• They raise their young in a crèche. Parent can identify their chick from all the other chicks in the crèche. There are high mortality rates in the first year.
• A Flamingos can live up to 30 years. In captivity some have doubled their life expectancy and lived up to 60 years!!! Lucky ones…
• What looks like the Flamingo’s knee joint is actually its ankle as they walk on their toes.
• They have more colourful plumage in winter than in summer.
• Males are larger than the female. You can’t tell the difference by colours as they share the same plumage.
• Their pink plumage is due to carotene in their food.
• The cry of a Flamingo sounds like honking geese. We thought we were back in the Netherlands.
A favourite was a rescued owl which cannot be released back into the wild as it would not survive.
On our way home we drove the sunflower trail looking like bowing soldiers. The flowers were bigger than my face.
We stopped in a town called Arles to admire some more Roman history in the region of Provence. The town of Arles is very charming in the late evening with its pastel coloured facade, timber shutters, window gardens and many cafes and restaurants spilling out onto the shady streets.
Our main reason for visiting was to step foot inside the Roman amphitheater. It was built in 90 AD for chariot races and bloody gladiator battles. It is a two tier arena which holds 20 000 people. It is still used today for concerts and bull fighting.
All we wanted to see was the inside of the arena but we became spectators of a cruel sport. We wandered into the Arena to see 10 men dressed in white called – Raseteurs running one after the other across the Arena to torment a bull. They madly jump over the fenced barriers to escape the bulls horns. We did notice blood on a few torso which chalks a few points up to the bull. Hey!!! Not a traditional sport Rob and I enjoyed watching. Here in Provence the bull is not killed unlike in Spain. Thank goodness for that!!! Here in the Camargue the bull is highly respected and is the star of the fight. In Spain the matador is the king.
We were also hoping to visit the 2000 year old Roman theatre in Arles but it was closed to visitors as it was holding a concert. Streams of French people lined the streets going around the block waiting to head into the concert. Summer is a great time to visit Provence if you love music, festivals and concerts as these festivities are in every town to mark the holiday season.
Arles was a beautiful town to explore in the late afternoon. It houses many cute antique shops.
We wandered down to the peaceful waterfront.
Then we viewed the Thermes de Constantin. These baths were build in 300 AD and are excellent examples of daily life in Roman Arles.
Arles is a town that has many pretty street to wander and explore.
We found the beautiful Church of St. Trophime but we had to just admire the entrance as it was closed.
We wandered through the stately square where there is the town hall but our eyes were drawn to the centre monument in the centre of the square. This is a Roman 4th Center obelisk that stood in the spina in Arelate’s circus.
We ended our visit of Arles at an old vintage merry go round.
The street lights just came on as we drove out of the town signalling that the night was young.