Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Le Grau de Roi

On his way out to sea from Aigues Mortes, Saint Louis would have first had to navigate a narrow inland channel, called a grau. Along the way, his view would probably have been similar to the one that modern visitors enjoy. Riverside reeds provide a habitat for feeding flamingos. Camargue bulls graze on dry plains between the marshes. Farmers store their sea-salt harvest in tall mounds. With the exception of some sprawling harbor communities near the city, local managers have done a good job of preserving the unique natural habitat.


Finally the waterway, cuts through le Grau de Roi, so named in honor of Saint Louis’ first passage, and spills into the Mediterranean. Today, the city is a major tourist destination. The canal through town is lined with restaurants, offering the day’s freshest catch. Further inland, the city streets provide a menagerie of traditional tourist trinkets and apparel. The rows of Slushie machines reminded me of Bourbon street.


An expansive sandy beach stretches for miles along the coast. However, except for the ocean channels dug to allow the fishing fleet to exit to the sea, the water level is low. At low tide, it’s possible to walk all the way out to the breakwaters, several hundred meters out from the boardwalk. Developers have seized on the opportunity to build along the beach and erected all sorts of odd pyramid and wave-form shaped time-share buildings.

Fortunately, we visited on an off-season weekend. This allowed us to stay in an excellent high-end hotel (3 Logis lamps!). But, most importantly, it meant that the traffic and crowds were manageable. Given the vast numbers of condos, I could not imagine visiting in season.
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This work by Ken Maschke is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.