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The flamingos, or flamant rose, are the most captivating birds in the Parc Ornithonologique, location at Pont du Gau, in the heart of la Camargue. But a visit to the parc, just a few minutes north of Les Saintes Maries de la Mer (and the Mediterranean coast), has a few surprises. Continue reading
Visit the photo gallery and read more about Camargue’s natural bird habitat.
Yesterday was Halloween in France, but that’s not the national holiday that had everyone NOT working. Today is All Saints Day (which is, of course, where Halloween has it’s origin). Can you believe All Saints Day is a national holiday? You can add this one to your international holiday list. And it’s big–festivals everywhere. In the South, any holiday means bulls run in the street (Abrivado). I wonder if they run the bulls at Christmas, too?
Oh, wait. Did I forget to mention that no one told me that today is a national holiday?
People stopping by unexpectedly is normal. (Remind you of living in the South U.S., Laura?), but I wasn’t expecting a steady stream of people yesterday. And in France, when people come to your home, you don’t just offer a coke or cup of coffee. No, you provide an aperitif, which includes a drink and a salty snack. And it seems they have a habit of showing up (unexpectedly) at mealtimes, or they stay so long it runs into mealtimes, and then you feed them. And if you read my blog, you’ll learn that a French meal is always at least 5 courses. I’m not exaggerating. When I”m alone during the day, I can eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but this is not acceptable, at least in our house, at other times. Normally, even “quick” meals consist of: aperitif, entre, plate, fromage (cheese), and dessert. (See previous blog on French food.) I’m convinced there is no such thing as a quick meal in France, unless you go to McDonalds or the French equivalent of McDonalds: Quik. Yes, that’s what it’s called–Quik.
And so, let me conclude by saying that I had a minor melt-down yesterday evening. An unexpected holiday is nothing to have a melt-down over. It was the proverbial straw…. After several weeks (let’s say months) of the stress of getting my residency documents, getting attacked by a dog (I”m still taking antibiotics for that one), trying to open a French banque account and buy a cell phone, and numerous other daily life stresses of being a “foreigner,” I just lost it. I mean, why didn’t someone do the small courtesy of telling the American it’s a holiday in France? You would think my husband would have thought to mention it? (And yes, Marion, French husbands are no different than American husbands.)
I’ve discovered that one of the greatest stresses of living abroad, for me, is that feeling of “lostness,” never knowing what comes next.
Next year I’ll be expecting All Saints Day.
Looks like a postcard, doesn’t it?
It is. But I’ve been there. And I’ll be there again in two weeks.
This is les saintes maries de la mer, a village on the Mediterranean, at the mouth of the Rhone, in the South of France, about 30 miles south of Arles. I’ll be living about 10 minutes north of here.
Saintes Maries is in Provence, in the region of Camargue. It is home to the Gypsies, the flower market, the flamingo, the toro, the bullfight, the Camargueiss horse, and the Abrivado-the running of the bulls through the streets.
Traditionally, it is known as a place of pilgrimage, named for Mary Jacobe and Mary Salome, mothers of Apostles, who arrived on the shores of this place. They were exiled from from Palestine and evangelized this once Roman-controlled provence. Sara was their companion and in the tradition of the Gypsies, she was gitan. She is known as the Patron Saint of the Gypsies. Some say Sara was the servant of the elderly saints. Others say she welcomed them to this shore and collected money in Camargue for support of this small Christianized community.
The tower of the Church of Saintes Maries de la Mer overlooks the sea. In May each year, the Gypsy Pilgrimage brings swarms of gitans to the this place where the statue of Sara stands in the Crypt.