As if that were not enough, I learned that there was also a historic link to Gypsy Culture with a yearly festival in honor of Sara, Patron Saint of Gypsies and Sainte Marie, the namesake of the town Ste Marie de la Mer.
In May of 2007, with my French husband and a couple of American friends, I made it to Camargue, timing our trip to coincide with the Pilgrimage of Gypsies from all over Europe.The hotel I had chosen, outside of town, was made up of thatched-roofed, white-walled round huts, built in the tradition of the herdsmen, or Guardians of Camargue, scattered around a flat property, interspersed with waterways and clumps of reeds. I had asked for the accommodations furthest from the rest, on the edge of a briny, inland lagoon, where there were perpetual movements of feeding flocks of Flamingos and other water fowl. There is something mythical about the presence of a wedge of hundreds of white swans in the early dawn light; first the noise and then the sight of them flying in to land, en masse, preening, feeding, conversing; a whiteness of swans. The contrasting fat black moor-hens, or coots, adding their toc, toc, toc percussion to the sound-track of the rising day, as they called to their punctuation-point chicks to hurry up.
The horses of the Camargue are sturdy descendants of Spanish Barbary Stock. They are taller than I had expected. Born black they turn white as they mature into adulthood. In May there were many white mares with black foals at heel.
I did participate in the cliche of riding a white horse through the ponds and lagoons, which foamed around our horses knees as we gently eased through large groupings of flamingos. I don't regret a minute of it.
My blissful moment was experienced at a greater rate of speed than would normally be desired as our guide had told me that my steed enjoyed lying down and rolling in the water any chance he got, so forward motion was very much on my mind. Giddy-up Silver!