If I am to be completely honest, I would say that a visit to the Camargue, and a horse ride in the beach, was the primary purpose of flying halfway across the world for 3 weeks. The rest is merely details.
Of course, to justify this as the sole reason is a little frivolous, so I padded it with other bits of bucket list that exist in the same country. And possibly an adjoining one.
But to stand on top of the church (literally, on the very top of the stone tiles), and survey the marshes and beach, the town and Mediterranean, it was another one of those moments when everything was exactly as you expect it to be. And it was gorgeous.
It was also hot and sticky, and took an hour and a half by train and bus to get there, but we did.
Let me just say one thing about information centres in France: unless it’s specially for the immediate locale, and you’re not asking for something remotely complex, like, where the bus stops are, or, which stable you recommend for treks on the beach, you’re fine. Otherwise they’re utterly useless. The fiasco that was getting the Orange SIM card and sorting out the Internet Max on it has been invaluable for booking accommodation, maps, transport times, you name it.
But back to this ride I was determined to do. We ended up leaving Avignon about 2 hours later than I would have liked, which means I had to sacrifice the Pont de Gard (next time), and we would be riding in the heat of the afternoon.
Tickets booked, we had 2 hours to kill, and while James sat and wilted in the heat (I think he has travel fatigue from Barcelona), I explored the shops and the church and discovered yet another pilgrim site in the crypt and shrine to Saint Sarah, who has several conspiracy theories attached to her.
Finally the time arrived, and we headed off to the stable. James was not all that keen, not enjoying his last horseride, but he soldiered on, through heat, and flies, and mosquitos.
And I have now ridden through two of the most beautiful places on earth: Paradise, Glenorchy in the South Island, and the Parc naturel régional de Camargue. Both bucketlist items: done.
It was lovely. The weather was brilliant, there were birds galore, fish jumping, and I got to gallop a stretch of beach (before the horse decided that that was more than enough of that at halfway, and cantered the rest). So lived that dream.
And it was completely and utterly worth it. Tomorrow I go dance on a bridge and visit the Palais des Papes before bidding Avignon farewell. It was a good day.