We are in Saint Gilles at the end of our Rhône River ride.
From Avignon we rode South to Arles, then continued South into the Camargue (the large delta where the Rhône flows into the Mediterranean Sea). We spent two nights in the Camargue in the small town of Salin de Giraud, then did a long ride through the Camargue yesterday, passing through the town of Les Saintes Maries de la Mer, to end our Rhône River ride here in Saint Gilles, an old pilgrimage town. Tomorrow we’ll do a short ride back to Arles where we’ll catch the TGV to Strasbourg early Monday morning.
While Arles is a tourist destination with an ancient Roman coliseum and theatre, famous as the place where Van Gogh painted, it didn’t really click for us. Busy, touristy, rough and run-down. What I found interesting is that Arles is a centre for photography—it has the national photography school plus numerous galleries and exhibits.
The Camargue did click for us. It is a vast area of lakes and marshes with salt and rice production, farming, some vineyards, and a large part of the land and water protected as fish and wildlife habitat. It is famous for wild horses (now domesticated but still running free) and birds. We enjoyed the open space and solitude, even though some of the riding was on rough and muddy gravel roads. We also enjoyed a dip in the Mediterranean Sea on a sandy beach.
Today we are loafing in Saint Gilles, a town with an abbey founded in the seventh century, a pilgrimage destination in its own right and the first stop on the pilgrimage route from Arles to Santiago. It is an odd feeling to see pilgrims, pilgrim hostels and scallop shell emblems when we are cycling, not walking.
It has been a good ride.