Aigues-Mortes – dead water and flying sand

Europe

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     When I asked my friends about recommendations on things to do near Montpellier, a lot of them recommended Aigues-Mortes. A strange name for a city as it translates to “dead water“, due to the fact that the marshes and ponds have stagnant water which is not potable.

We decided to make a little detour to Grau-du-Roi (“king’s pond“) which supposably has some really pretty beaches. The plan was to spend around 2h at the beach and then move on to Aigues-Mortes. But as soon as we got off the bus, a violent wind greeted us and blew sand into every little crack and gap, including our eyes. Not pleasant.

We hid in a small street waiting for the tourist office to open and find a way to escape this weather-madness. Besides, I had heard about a saline between Grau-du-Roi and Aigues-Mortes where you could visit the production site and buy some local produce of Fleur du Sel.

In the tourist office, we were told that we had exactly two minutes to make it to the bus station, so we sprinted through the streets and made it just in time (thanks to the typical Southern French delay). The friendly bus driver even pointed out the way to the saline as he dropped us off in the middle of a busy motorway. Finally, we made it in one piece to the saline but it was closed due to the storm. No luck this time.

At least it was not too long a walk to Aigues-Mortes where we enjoyed lunch and climbed onto the medieval city wall. It became the first French harbour at the Mediterranean sea in the 13th century when King Louis IX bought it from the monks in the area. Which is funny because Aigues-Mortes does not really lie by the sea, but is connected to it through a system of canals and ponds.

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From the city wall, you can overlook the Petit Camargue (an area of marshly land) and the saline where large hills of salt rested beside the purple water (due to halophil cyanobacteria that live in the salty water).

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