Stes. Maries-de-la-Mer, Camargue – Country Roads of France
This is the seaside resort in the Camargue where a large gathering of Gypsies takes place once a year, unfortunately not when we were there (it’s held in May). A pleasant little fishing village Stes. Maries-de-la-Mer is quite compact although not particularly picturesque. There’s a convenient white sand beach close to the centre, just behind the bullfighting statue. Plenty of shops in the narrow streets but beware, they’re very shut in the middle of the day, although there are lots of cafes and restaurants available.
The main attraction is the church of Notre Dame-de-la-Mer, where the gypsies gather to honour their patron saint, Sarah, and when you go inside and down into the candle-lit crypt (very dark and hot!) you’ll see many thank you plaques and offerings. Note: the church can be shut in the middle of the day too, and has limited opening hours.
On the way to the town, you can see “ranches” (called manades) where both the black Camargue fighting bulls and the white horses are bred. We didn’t see any of the famous Camargue cowboys though, but there were some flamingoes!