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Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

• Bouches-du-Rhône (13460)   • Population: 2,232


Gallery of 20 photos for Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

Ste-Maries-de-la-Mer was a fishing village, built on an island in the heart of the Camargue, where the Petit Rhône joins the sea. The original village was grouped around the Notre-Dame-de-la-Mer church, spreading out as it grew. The town is not picturesque in the style of the medieval villages of the "back country". Today it's a compact seaside resort town, full of shops and activities oriented for the tourist trade. Ste-Maries-de-la-Mer has a wonderful location, on the sea and in the Camargue, and the atmosphere in the busy seasons is festive.

Aerial view of Place de l'Eglise You can visit Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer (and the Camargue) year-round. Summer has the warmest weather, the crowds, the activities and music. Off-season has the feeling of the sea, with long empty beaches, the cry of the seabirds, and a relaxing solitude. The gathering of the Gypsies in May is an exciting and famous period. During off-season holidays, such as "Toussaints" weekend, it's less crowded and the weather is cooler, but there's still plenty of activity.

Shopping, Dining

Leisure and terrace dining on Ave The center of Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer has some nice squares and several long streets reserved for pedestrians, and many, many shops, cafés and terrace restaurants. Although it can get very crowded in the Summer, there are sufficient number of services to cater to the visitors.

The main themes of restaurant menus are beef (taureau) or seafood, but there are plenty of other styles to choose from as well.

Church Rooftop Visit

Precarious view from the roof of You can climb to the top of the fortified church for an amazing 360-degree view across the town, countryside and seaside. The climb to the top is already an adventure, with 53 narrow steps in a tight spiral inside the corner tower to the roof.

At the top you can walk around the entire perimeter just inside the crenelated walls. Or, for a bit more (mild) adventure, you can clamber up across the thick tiles of the slanted roof to the ridge for an even better all-around view.

Entry cost is 3€ adults, 2€ kids 6-12 years (2017).

Rooftop Romance

Rooftop romance, marriage proposal at the On a recent visit (2017) to the church rooftop in Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer we were treated to a touching and romantic sight. With just a few hardy visitors here, high above the rooftops of this Medieval seaside town, a young man knelt and offered a ring to his true love. From the lady's reaction (pictured), she accepted — with a bit of applause from the other visitors.

Beaches

Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer beaches Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer has several kilometers of fine sandy beaches.

Plage des Arènes is directly beside the town, on the sea-side of the arena (our photos). Plage des Amphores extends east of Plage des Arènes, still accessible from the town center. These two beaches together are 1 km long.

To the west, just past the small fishing port and marina, is Plage Crin Blanc, going all the way to Plage du Clos du Rhône at the mouth of the Petit Rhone. About 1-1/2 km of uninterrupted beach.

Plage Est (East Beach) begins just past Plage des Amphores and extends effectively several km past the seaside dunes to the area called Beauduc. This is the most isolated beach area of Saintes-Maries. although there is some lifeguard service here during the summer. In the eastern part of the Plage Est are the local Naturists Beaches.

Ancient Town Hall

Ancient town hall and Baroncelli museum A narrow building in the very center, topped with a sundial, was the Town Hall in the 19th century. This also housed the Musée Baroncelli in the end of the 20th century (we visited during a 1996 tour of Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer — our photo) but is now closed (2017).

Pilgrimages

24-25 May. The saint's day for Mary Jacobe is 25 May, and 24-25 May is the largest pilgrimage and celebration, and the annual gathering of the gypsies (gitans), who venerate their patron saint, Sarah. The gypsies, who start arriving during the preceding week, use the time of gathering for marriage requests and baptisms.

Oct 22 (nearest Sun). The saint's day for Mary Salome is celebrated by a weekend of festivities and events, including the procession to the beach for the blessing of the sea.

Arena - Bull Fights

The Camargue-race toro <i>Garlan Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer has an arena, at the edge of the beach, for course camarguaise bull fights with the black Camargue bulls. In the French style, the bulls are not killed.

The taureau named Garlan was renowned for his calm, his intelligence and his ability to anticipate his human opponent. In a 10 year career with 73 course camarguaise, Garlan won many trophies. In Nov 2015 he retired to a local ranch (manade).

Another bronze statue in front of the arena honors VOVO, a taureau that fought in all the arenas of the area from 1946 to 1955, when he retired to a more "productive" life style for another four years.

Camargue Tours

Ranches nearby to the town offer horseback tours of the Camargue, or sit-down tours in an open wagon-trailer driven around the Camargue in the area. Camargue "safaris" by 4x4 "jeeps" are available from agencies in the village. The Office de Tourism, by the seaside near the arena, has lists of the current offerings.

Le Petit Train Camarguais is a rubber-tired tourist train common in many towns, but with a difference. Instead of a tour around the town, this Little Train takes you on a 13-km (50 minute) tour of the surrounding Camargue. Its route is through the Camargue wetlands, along canals and rice paddies, with promised views of flamingos, black bulls, white horses and the rest of the local wildlife. The tour is commented, including local history.
The "station" kiosk is on the south side of Ave Van Gogh, beside the Office de Tourisme. The cost is 7€ adults, 5€ kids (2017).

Favorite Sons

Vincent Van Gogh visited Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer in June, 1888, where he gave drawing lessons to Paul-Eugène Milliet.

History of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

Name

First record, 12th-c: Sancta Maria de Ratis; 13th-c: Villa de Mari; 15th-c: Notre-Dame-de-la-Mer; 17th-c: la Ville-des-Trois-Maries; 1838: Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

The Provençal Legend:
Around the year 40, a boat was launched from Jerusalem, without sail, oars or supplies, and drifted across the Mediterranean until it drifted ashore at this site. The refugees in the boat were: Mary Jacobe, the mother of James and the sister of the Virgin; Mary Salome, the mother of the apostles James Major and John; Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary Magdalene and Martha; St Maximinus; Cedonius, who was born blind and cured and Sarah, the servant of the two Marys.

After landing safely, the group built a small oratory to the Virgin. The disciples wandered off their separate ways, Mary Magdalene went to Ste-Baume (map 06e), and Martha went to Tarascon. Marie Salome, Marie Jacobe and Sarah remained in the Camargue, and were later buried in the oratory. The tomb of these three saints became a cult object, and has been the attraction of pilgrimages for the past nineteen centuries. They were reburied beneath the chancel during the Barbarian invasions, and then removed and enshrined in 1448 by Good King René.

Medieval:

The Church. In the 9th century, the oratory was replaced by a fortified church, the Notre-Dame-de-la-Mer. In the 11th century, the monks of Montmajour established a priory here. In the 12th century, the monks rebuilt the church, incorporating it into the town's fortifications. In the 14th century, the projecting machicolations were added to the top, allowing boiling oil and dropped projectiles to be used against attackers.

Anecdote: In the year 869, when the original fortified church was being built under the direct supervision of the Archbishop of Arles, the Saracens raided the town and carried him away. The people of Arles quickly raised the demanded ransom, the Saracens returned with the Archbishop, set him up on the throne with great respect, and parted with the loot. The grateful people only then discovered that the prelate had died while in custody, and the Saracens had respectfully returned a corpse to the throne.

Tourist Office


Tel : 0490 97 82 55; Fax: 04 90 97 71 15
Web: www.saintesmaries.com/
Email: info@saintesmaries.com

Dates

Market day: Mon, Fri. Summer only

Brocante: Every Tue
May - Gypsy PILGRIMAGE - Pèlerinage des gitans
June - Festival de la Camarge, Delta du Rhone
July (Mid) - Festival du Cheval /Feria (around the 14 July)
July - Feria du Cheval - Corrida
Aug (15th weekend) - Grande Féria - Camargue Pluriel - Bulls and horses, with Abrivado, lots of jazz on all 3 days, and ending with fireworks.
Oct - SAINTES PILGRIMAGE - Pélerinage des Saintes
Nov - Festival d'Abrivado - 200 gardians and 1000 horses on the beaches of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, all day
Nov-Feb - Creche Provençale, Camarguaise
Dec - PILGRIMAGE - Pèlerinage de décembre

Hiking

• GPS: 43.552133, 4.429159

Refer to the Camargue page for hiking information.

Dining

This is a French seaside town, so be sure to sample the wide variety of fish and shellfish dishes. "Terrines à la Provençale" is made with tiny clam-like shellfish. There's a Spanish influence here, too, and good paellas are a specialty.

The "western" flavor of the Camargue, sometimes called the Texas of France, is based on the raising of the black bulls (taureaux), so there are good steaks for the carnivores among us. The "Gardiane de Taureau à l'Ancienne" is the local version of a beef stew, similar to the Provencal "daube".

The arrival of the Marys and Lazarus is commemorated by the "navette", a small pastry baked in the shape of the boat (navette) they arrived in.

Fun - Amusement - Kids

Pont de Gau Bird Park - Parc Ornithologique de Pont de Gau

Parc Ornithologique de Pont de Grau
  • Bird park, bird zoo and museum in the Camargue.
  • Location: Main D570 road, 4.5 km north of Stes-Maries.
  • Tel: 0490 978 262

Sports

Other sports available for visitors to Ste. Maries-de-la-Mer are sailing, skin-diving, swimming and fishing.

Tours Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

Manade des Baumelles

Explanation of the manade followed by tour in tractor-pulled trailer.

Location: Cabanes de Cambon. 10 km from Stes-Maries.

Tel: 0614 894 985, or 0490 909 414

Web: www.manadedesbaumelles.fr

Individuals (with reservation) and groups.

Manade Blanc

Promenade en chariot tracté (tractor-drawn trailer). Visit the manade, brandings (ferrade).

Location: Domaine de Paulon. 46 km from Stes-Maries on east side of Camargue; 20 km south of Arles.

Tel: 0687 014 308, or 0490 909 773

Individuals (with reservation) and groups.

Cabanes de Cacharel

Camargue horseback tours - 20€ 1hr, 30€ 2hrs, 40€ 3 hrs. Calache tours (tractor-pulled trailer) - 15€ 1 hr, 22€ 2 hrs.

Location: Route de Cacharel, D85A. 5 km from Stes-Maries.

Tel: 0490 978 410, or 0611 115 475

Web: www.cabanesdecacharel.com

Individuals (with reservation) and groups.

Manade Cavallini

Visit the manade. Train of tractor-pulled trailers.

Location: Mas de Pioch, Rte d'Arles. 9 km from Stes-Maries.

Tel: 0490 975 006, or 0490 909 551

Web: www.manadecavallini.com

Individuals and groups.

Manade Layalle

Location: Mas de Layalle, Route d'Arles. 6 km from Stes-Maries.

Tel: 0490 979 481, or 0603 039 605

Web: masdelayalle.camargue.fr

Individuals (with reservation) and groups.

Manade Paul Ricard

2.5 km walking paths (free). Bicycle rental. Horseback tours. Train tour - Le petit train de Méjanes: 3.5 km, 25-minute tour (5€ adults, 4€ kids 5-10 years).

Location: Domaine Paul Ricard, Mas de Méjanes. 28 km from Stes-Maries.

Tel: 0490 971 062, or 0609 095 594

Web: www.mejanes-camargue.fr

Individuals (with reservation) and groups.

The "Camargue"

Sea trips and trips on the "Petit Rhône" to discover the Camargue. Departs from Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

Location: Sea trips and trips on the "Petit Rhône" to discover the Camargue.;

Entry: 12 €m 1h30 trip

Tel: 0490 978 472; Fax: 04 90 97 73 50

Email: contact@bateau-camargue.com

Web: www.bateau-camargue.com/

Tiki III

Trips on the "Petit Rhône" to discover the Camargue.

Location: Le Grau d'Orgon - D38 ; 13460 Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

Entry: 12 €m 1h30 trip

Tel: 0490 978 168, or 0490 909 122; Fax: 04 90 97 99 47

Email: tiki3@tiki3.fr

Web: www.tiki3.fr

Decouvertes de la Camargue en 4x4

Nature et Decouvertes de la Camargue en 4x4 (Jeep)

Location: Mas d'Icard - Route d'Aigues-Mortes; 13460 Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

Entry: From € 35 for 2 hours, in personalized groups, with route adapted to your needs.

Tel: 0612 446 474, or 0490 909 539

Email: jerryho@hotmail.com

Web: www.visite-camargue.com/

Speaks French, English, Spanish

Le Gitan Safari Photo du Delta

4x4 (Jeep) safari tours of the Camargue, departing from Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.

Location: 17, Avenue de la République; 13 460 Les Saintes Maries de la Mer

Open: All year, every day

Tel: 0490 978 933, or 0676 769 793; Fax: 04 90 96 31 55

Email: info@camargue.com

Web: www.camargue.com/

Safari 4x4 Gallon

4x4 (Jeep) tours of the Camargue, departing from Arles or Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.

Also horseback tours, ferrades, and farmhouse dining.

Location: Mazet de la Montlong - Villeneuve; 13 200 Arles

Entry: Safari 4x4 per person: 1h30 €20, 2h30 €33, 3h30 €48 (2012)

Tel: 0490 936 031; Fax: 04 90 96 31 55

Email: safari@camargue.com

Web: www.safari-4x4-gallon.camargue.fr/

Transportation Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

Arles, Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer Bus

Department 13, Bouches-du-Rhône Buses

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