La Grande Motte, a resort area on the western side of the Camargue in southern France, has a championship course, a shorter “executive” course and a 6-hole par three course in a pretty, flat seaside setting with large trees and sky that goes on forever. On this early June spring afternoon the course was in great shape and the weather perfect – dry, mid seventies with a light breeze. For added interest, nutria – looks like a beaver with a rat tail – lurk around the water features. It’s a Robert Trent Jones resort style layout, walkable with pull carts for rent. As with most resort courses, there are plenty of safe options and limited trouble from the forward tees, but the many doglegs and water hazards add some real challenges to those playing the back tees. We were told that the course used to host the European PGA Tour qualifying tournaments. So the golfing was great, but what really made the day spectacular were those unexpected gems.
Your first sighting of a lavender field in full bloom is one of those memorable sights. Driving to the golf course we had no idea that there might be lavender this far south and then there it was, an intense blast of purple. The plants from the distance are indiscernible, just a solid plane of purple. On the way back home we had to stop to take pictures (D61 just south of Lunel, on the left as you drive south.) Not satisfied with pictures from a distance, we drove through the maze of back roads trying to get closer. Amazingly, Don finally found the field. It was peak rush hour on tiny roads with barely enough room for two cars to pass let alone park. Don had to keep moving the car while I snapped a few, OK a lot of shots. More impressive than the sight is the smell. The moment you open the car door you are hit with the intoxicating perfume of lavender filled air. Definitely on my list now is to see the lavender fields of Provence in bloom. Unfortunately that’s not for another month or so, long after we leave the region. Next year perhaps.
After golf but before returning to photograph the lavender field we visited the Camargue’s quaint walled town of Aigues Mortes, home of Baleine sea salt. Cute town with a great wall you can walk around and lots of tourist-type shops. Our two favorites were of course food related. First there was the ice cream shop, Le P’tit Palais on Grande Rue just off the main square, Place St. Louis. Both the lemon and cassis had intense fruit flavor, the chocolate was super creamy and the pistachio was the real stuff, not the artificial bright green kind. Second, Nayraval Boucherie et Charcuterie at 3 Rue Pasteur makes a great house made Camarguaise sausage, a mixture of taureau (bull meat) and pork, well seasoned but not spicy. We also picked up some fresh taureau for stewing. See Camargue Taureau Cooked Two Ways for recipes.