After our first stop in Saint Marie de la Mer, we continued our exploration of the Camargue and Rhone Delta areas, visiting the fortified city of Aigues Mortes and its Salt Works, seeing plenty of pink flamingos on the way. Aigues Mortes literally means "Dead Water" because of the salty marshes that rule here since ancient time.
Salt Works of Aigues Mortes
Salt Works, easily visible while accessing the town. It's a salt plant active since Roman era, and from that time almost nothing changed in the process of salt production. There are a series of very shallow ponds where sea water is pumped: during its way to the exit, the water is evaporating because of the sun, that is increasing the concentration of the salt. The salty water introduced at the beginning, has to travel almost 60 km of channels, before being completely transformed in salt: the entire process takes a few months. Eventually the salt is mechanically collected in big mounds, visible on the side of the road.
The view of the salty pools is very interesting because of the unnatural colour of the salty water: a pink tonality, given by micro-organisms growing in this environment. Not only bacterias, but the water pools here are also welcoming over 200 different species of birds during the year.
It's possible to take a small train to visit the Salt Works with a French guided tour, but we found it expensive (9€) and preferred not to invest our money. Actually when we hitchhiked from Le Grau du Roi to Aigues Mortes, we were given a ride by the driver of the touristic train! So we were hoping for him to invite us for free, but unfortunately he didn't. We ended up visiting the shop, were it's possible to buy every kind of salty souvenir you can imagine of.
Fortified city of Aigues Mortes
From the Salt works, it's a 15 minutes walk to reach the Fortified City of Aigues Mortes. The "bottom layer" of the town is really touristic and filled with souvenir shops and attractions, so sometimes it's difficult to enjoy and see the interesting and historical part of these streets. We were disappointed also to see all of these cars parked in some of the alleys, and we couldn't understand why not to make it completely pedestrian: it would gain much more in beauty and atmosphere.
That's why to enjoy at the maximum the beauty of Aigues Mortes, we had to raise one level: that means visiting the ramparts and the towers, and covering the 1650 meters in all of their length. From the top it's a completely different view and we strongly suggest to make this part of your visit. The interesting part is not the fortified construction itself, it's more about the view over the town on one side, and over the Salt Works and the landscape on the other side: a perspective full of contrasts mixed with a feeling of calmness that we couldn't find at the ground level. From here it's possible to appreciate the perpendicular structure of this fortified city with its medieval streets , built in the XIIIth century as the first Mediterranean port of France. Aigues Mortes actually doesn't have a direct exit on the Mediterranean sea, but it's connected to it through a canal nowadays, and through canals and ponds in the past.
Pink Flamingos in the surroundings of Le Grau du Roi
On the way back to Le Grau du Roi, a big touristic town full with campings and luxuriousresidences, we still stopped to admire once more the most known inhabitants of the Camargue: pink flamingos. We were surprised to see how close they were approaching civilization and humankind without any fear. In a pond right on the back of a gas station pink flamingos were staying in a group, as they use to do being a very social animal, practicing what is apparently their only hobby: staying in one leg and sticking their beaks in the mud searching for shrimps and food. Eventually I probably got too close to take photos and they flew away. But that was a last present showing us the pink flamingos flying in all of their majesty, before we would leave to the next adventure!