5 Things To Do In Saintes-maries-de-la-mer
Located on the Mediterranean coast, in the heart of the Camargue Natural Park, the village of Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is a land of tradition and pilgrimage. We have listed for you 5 things to do there, in this commune generally considered as the capital of the Camargue.
1- Visit a manade
Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer would not be what it is without their manades, that is, their bull and horse farms.
Throughout the year, many manades open their doors to visitors and offer a variety of activities.
You will be able to discover how a manade works and admire the know-how of the gardians, these riders who breed horses and wild bulls.
Some manades also organize, in their 'bouvaoù' (small wooden arena), games of
gardians and Camargue races.
2- Go for a horse ride
If you love nature and wide open spaces, you will love the preserved landscapes of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.
To discover the local wildlife and admire the ballet of birds, you have the choice of walking, cycling or horse riding.
The manades generally offer horseback rides to discover the Camargue for an hour, a day or several days of horseback riding.
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced rider, let yourself be guided through the Camargue lands and their preserved nature.
3- Immerse yourself in local traditions
The manades of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer can also, in some cases, host you.
You will then be able to get closer to the famous Camargue herdsmen and their livestock.
Some manades even offer you the opportunity to initiate yourself into the life of a gardian, through immersion courses.
This memorable day ends to the rhythm of a gypsy concert and around a table of Camargue specialties such as gardianne de taureau, tellines or marinated eels. A change of scenery guaranteed!
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4- Go to the abrivado festival
On November 10 and 11, 2018, will be held in Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer the abrivado festival with more than a thousand horses and bulls.
On this occasion, horses and bulls will tread the beaches of the village to offer an exceptional parade.
To note: the abrivado is a Camargue tradition that means 'arrival' in Provencal. Approximately 1,500 horses start from the eastern beach to reach the bullring by walking along the beaches of Saintes Maries de la Mer, which are exceptionally open for the occasion to the hooves of the horses and bulls.
5- Attend a pilgrimage
Since the 12th century, the Saintes Maries have been a major place of pilgrimage.
Legend has it that at the dawn of Christianity, the shore welcomed Mary Jacoba, Mary Salome and their servant Sara, persecuted Christians fleeing Palestine in a rudderless boat.
To immerse yourself in this atmosphere of great religious fervor, you can visit the church of Notre Dame de la Mer.
This beautiful 14th century Romanesque church houses the relics of the two Marys, Mary Jacoba (sister of the Virgin) and Mary Salome (mother of the apostles James the Greater and John).
In the crypt, you can see a shrine containing the bones of Saint Sara, the maid who became the patron saint of gypsies. Next to it, you can admire her statue, dressed in multicoloured robes and jewels, which is taken out during the processions.
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Be sure to climb up the church's walkway and roof to enjoy the view of the surrounding area.
If you can, head to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer during a pilgrimage.
The best known is the Gypsy Pilgrimage which takes place on May 24 and 25: the statue of Sara is carried by gypsies to the sea, then the procession returns to the church to the joy of cheers, musical instruments and the sound of the church bells.
A second well-attended pilgrimage takes place on the Sunday closest to October 22. A pilgrimage of the local people, it attracts a crowd of worshippers and visitors.
Finally, the December pilgrimage is held on the first weekend of December to commemorate the Translation of the Relics. On the program: a torchlight procession on Saturday, a solemn mass on Sunday followed in the afternoon by the ceremony of the Remontée des Châsses.