• 2018 Southern France - Part I

    Scott and I took a nonstop flight to Paris

    and then the TGV train to Avignon, then a van to Arles. Why don't we in the US have the luxury of superspeed trains with bars in them?..reclining chairs...so very nice. Why??
    Provence is the southernmost region of France. It is famous for its warmer weather, its beaches, its ancient roman history, its olive and fruit/nut orchards , vegetable agriculture and vineyards, its rice, its seafood, and its "air". Artists like Cezanne and Van Gogh loved painting here, preferring the lovely light and air to the dinge of Paris. 
    Traveling about Provence with excellent birding friends was a glorious experience, staying in Arles and Avignon, visiting some of the scores of enchanting small villages, and, of course, birding the Camargue.
    The Camargue is the estuary of the two arms of the Rhone, and is a famous, watery, marshy area known by most international birders.
    This photo was taken from our quaint little hotel just at the gate of the medieval wall that still stands around this part of Arles.  We found that Avignon where we stayed later has a wall that extends ALL the way around the city.

    This is the Arles River along which we often walked...just two blocks from our hotel. 

    We met these Camargue horses on our first morning out. These horses used to run wild in the Camargue, and later were domesticated. They are small, but strong and durable. They are famously used by Provence cowboys to herd the black bulls used in the bullfights. They are beautiful horses!

    We did some marsh birding on our first full day and soon found a large number of birds...here are some of them:

    Turtle Dove

    Black-headed Gull

    In some light the head looked brown rather than black.

    Bee-eater These birds travel in flocks and on one day we hit a large flock of about 50 Bee-eaters, but we were not allowed to park for pictures.  These captures were taken at a different time.




    In a cage was an Eagle Owl

    and in another cage....not sure...a Black Kite?

    Pair of Purple Herons

    Purple Heron looking dashing in the dark. I'm not sure I really appreciated the beautiful purple lore until I looked at these pictures

    Purple Heron in flight...yellow feet like Snowy Egret

    A Grey Heron...very like the North American Great Blue Heron, but different species

    Sometime while we were still at Arles we visited the cute little town of St. Marie-de-la-Mer. It is a beach destination on the Mediterranean Sea at the southern end of the Camargue. 

    Again with the bullfighting

    We had lunch

    Lady serving paella

    Spring is a nice time to go to Southern France

    Greater Flamingos

    Greater Flamingos against beautiful blue

    Greater Flamingos

    This is my best close-up of a flamingo...not bad..given my struggles with my new camera lens.

    Black-winged Stilt

    Yep, those wings are black

    Eurasian Spoonbill

    Eurasian Spoonbill

    Common Tern and Little Tern

    Common Terns copulating

    Common Shelduck

    Pied Avocet

    Spotted Redshank

    Spotted Redshank

    Crested Lark

    Crested Lark

    Kentish Plover

    Yellow-legged Gull

    Yellow Wagtail

    (Eurasian) Oystercatcher

    In the evenings we had the most fun of all....dinner together
    This Erlenmeyer carafe for the French wine got us chuckling.


    ...and sometimes we walked the town. Arles has a Roman arena that is still in use...for bullfights, I think. Bullfighting is still very big in southern France. The bull meat from the bulls is served in local restaurants.

    And many narrow dark stone streets

    There is a lot of history here.

    This is a main square

    On the way to the park near the market

    I loved visiting the open-air market...it was HUGE!!!, blocks and blocks.

    A few spices from Africa...actually there were a LOT of products from Morocco and probably other African countries...just across the Mediterranean Sea, you know...not so very far away.

    Many narrow streets to walk


    We ate at a cafe where Van Gogh used to eat, and visited the pool room upstairs where he was known to hang out. Some of the group took the walk around Arles that showed you places where Van Gogh painted. 

    Stay tuned for Part II...

    dunh dunh dunh!....it wasn't all roses.
















  • Comments on this post (8 comments)

    • Michelle says...

      Loved reading about your trip!! I love the flamingo and bee eater pictures!

      June 28, 2018

    • Carol Blackard says...

      I am so gratified to find that my friends find this blog on the European trip to be satisfying or interesting. Thank you for following and for making these kind comments.

      June 23, 2018

    • Jeanne says...

      Carol I just love your commentary and you continue to be such a fine photographer. The birds are beautiful and I just love European towns with all the richness of history. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

      June 23, 2018

    • Marcia says...

      Lovely pictures Carol. Thanks for sharing. Would love to go to Provence.

      June 23, 2018

    • Michael Bowen says...

      Loved all the photos, Carol, but especially the Spotted Redshank. I’ve never seen that species in breeding plumage. Just exceptional!

      June 23, 2018

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