To Aigues-Mortes - Three Seasons Around France: Autumn - CycleBlaze

November 5, 2022

To Aigues-Mortes

A month of nights, a year of days / Octobers drifting into Mays / You set your sail when the tide comes in / And you cast your fate to the wind  

Cast Your Fate to the Wind has been on my mind ever since Mr. Garceau’s inspired recent outing where he left home vowing to go just whichever way the winds blew him.  I almost mentioned this song to him in a comment but was afraid he’d grab it first before we encountered a day with enough wind to justify using it on the video.  Fortunately, our time has come and winds are the story of the day for our ride east to Aigues-Mortes.  They’re from the northwest and thus marginally in our favor, but we’ll still feel well buffeted by the end of the ride.

We’re both ready to leave Sète, and are relieved when we make it through the stressful first mile out of town unscathed.  It starts with the steep drop down to the waterfront from our apartment on a narrow one way street with rows of parked cars on both sides.  There’s some traffic so we take the lane and keep a good pace for these two blocks so no one will try to pass us, but that’s not good enough for some - a motorcyclist startles me when he revs his motor and then speeds past me - on my right.

It takes about two miles before we’re out of the city and biking east on a bike path alongside the Rhone-Sète Canal, which we’ll roughly follow all the way to Aigues-Mortes.  once we’re out it’s an excellent ride on a good bike lane most of the way, often right alongside either the canal or one of the contiguous string of large lagoons that extends for fifty miles along the coast, all the way from Agde to Aigues-Mortes.  We rode this stretch in the opposite direction five years ago and had a rougher time with the navigation then, so maybe there have been infrastructure improvements since then.

It’s almost totally flat the whole way, but there’s plenty to keep it interesting and catch your attention - the long, unbroken lines of boats lining the canals, and the chance to see a flamingo or a thousand as we do today.  And today, on a fine Saturday with this huge wind, there’s the amazing sight of hundreds of sailboarders and kite surfers flying across the water near Frontignan.  I don’t remember seeing such a concentration of them anywhere before, and they really are flying - racing fast enough to cut big wakes in the water and sometimes going airborne for five or ten seconds.  It all looks quite chaotic, and it’s a wonder they stay out of each others’ way.

A few gulls and egrets are clustered along the north shore of a lagoon, getting a bit of shelter from the wind.
Heart 4 Comment 0
Mediterranean Gull?
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Keith AdamsGoogle image search results suggest that it's a black-headed gull, in the color scheme of a non-breeding adult.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Black-headed_Gull/photo-gallery/44589171
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Keith AdamsThat’s likely right, although the two species are very similar - especially out of breeding season. The difference that looks easiest to spot and remember is probably wing tip color - black for black headed gulls, white for Mediterraneans. It would have helped if it had been named Black-headed-and-wingtipped gull.
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3 weeks ago
Kite surfing on L'étang d'Ingril, with Frontignan-Plage ahead.
Heart 4 Comment 1
Keith AdamsThey almost need an air traffic control system...
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3 weeks ago
One thing these photos don’t show is how shallow the water is. Here and there we see folks standing well out in the lagoon taking photos or wrestling with their kites, the water barely coming up to their knees.
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On L'étang d'Ingril.
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Once we’re past Frontignac-Plage the lagoon is quieter, its shallow waters a haven for flamingos.
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An odd pose, but after watching him hobble around it was apparent he’s got a broken leg.
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Two shy youngsters.
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A flamingo, in case you weren’t sure.
Heart 6 Comment 2
Keith AdamsThanks for the confirmation.
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3 weeks ago
ann and steve maher-wearyGreat shot! Wonderful to have a strong zoom lens, we can even see his eye.
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3 weeks ago
Looking west along the Rhone-Sète Canal as it splits l’étang de l’Arnel. That must be the mountain behind Sète in the distance.
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From the same spot on an overpass, looking east this time. To me this is such a surreal, forbidding scene. It’s interesting to imagine the creation of this canal.
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More flamingos, but the real reason I took this photo was to show the intense blue of the Mediterranean just beyond the lagoons.
Heart 4 Comment 1
Kathleen ClassenOh! I thought it was to make me jealous of the flamingo sightings hehe.
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3 weeks ago
Crossing the lagoons again, this time looking east toward La Grande-Motte.
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We broke for lunch at roughly the midpoint of the ride, in Palavas-Les-Flots.  At one point I thought we might shorten our days and stay over here, but now that I’m here and see that it’s a pretty uninviting resort sprawl I’m glad we decided against it. 

Lunch stop, Palavas-Les-Flots.
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Beyond Palavas we bike past a few miles of sand dunes before coming to  La Grande-Motte, a really surreal looking place.   A planned seaside resort created in the 1960’s and 1970’s, it has a homogenous but to my eyes bizarre appearance with many of its largest structures having a pyramidal form apparently inspired by pre-Columbian cities.  I could have assembled a whole gallery of photos from here, but two should be enough to give the idea.

In La Grande-Motte.
Heart 3 Comment 2
Keith AdamsFrom that angle I'm left with the impression of the conning tower of an enormous-but-unseen submarine. It's odd how the mind works, isn't it?
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Keith AdamsThat is odd. Actually, you’re doing better on gulls. Did you try googling this image? I’ll bet Google didn’t suggest a submarine.
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3 weeks ago
In La Grande-Motte, bringing the spirit of Teotihuacan to the Mediterranean.
Heart 2 Comment 2
Keith AdamsNo submarine here, though.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Keith AdamsObviously. A roller coaster, maybe.
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3 weeks ago

This is our second time through La Grande-Motte, and hopefully the last.  It’s really pretty much a mess to cycle through it and the continuous resort sprawl for the next five miles until we finally come out on the other side of Le Grau-du-Roi.  Beyond that though we’re back on the Rhone-Sète Canal, following it the last few miles to Aigues-Mortes.  As we did the one other time we stayed here, we’re lodged in the very nice but economical Hotel Canal Aigues-Mortes, a quarter mile or so east of the city’s famed walls on the bank of a minor canal.  

Approaching Aigues-Mortes fromthe west. I didn’t notice at the time, and was startled to look at this photo and see a familiar profile in the distance. Mont Ventoux! It’s almost 70 miles away, and we’re looking up the Rhone Valley past Arles, Avignon and Carpentras. It reminds me of the way that you can look up the Columbia River and see Mount Saint Helens if you’re in just the right spot east of Astoria.
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The Citadel, Aigues-Mortes.
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Video sound track: Cast Your Fate to the Wind, by Quincy Jones

Soon after we arrive Rachael is off to the store for groceries but comes back with more than that.  Unexpectedly she found a fleece layer to replace the black shirt she somehow lost a week ago.  She tries it on, loves the color, asks me how much I think it cost and I disappoint her when I lowball the guess at 4£.  Nope - it was almost 6£.  Exhorbitant, until I remind myself that the dollar and euro are nearly at par, the most favorable exchange rate we’ve ever seen in Europe.

Aigues-Mortes, a fortified town with among the best preserved historical walls in Europe, is worth more than just a quick look.  We’ll be here two nights and look around tomorrow, but for now it’s enough to see it on our way to dinner.  It’s quiet, and a very pleasant walk along the canal to the city - just past twilight when we start out, but dark enough that we’re glad the path is well lit when we return.  There’s a nearly full moon out, but it’s getting cold - cold in our room, where the heater doesn’t seem to be working - and cold enough walking to the city and back that I break out my long pants for the first time in ages.

Mmm! Warm!
Heart 5 Comment 3
Keith AdamsHappy-looking Rocky!
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3 weeks ago
Suzanne GibsonGreat color! Good buy!
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3 weeks ago
Rachael AndersonTo Suzanne GibsonI couldn’t believe how lucky I was especially to get such a great color!
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3 weeks ago
I looked out the window of our room, saw the sunset, and grabbed the camera to dash out to the hotel’s deck overlooking the canal. It’s cold, windy, and I don’t have my shoes on so there’s time for just one quick shot before dashing back to the room.
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Ride stats today: 39 miles, 800’; for the tour: 1,543 miles, 89,700’

Today's ride: 39 miles (63 km)
Total: 1,543 miles (2,483 km)

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Comment on this entry Comment 5
Ben ParkeYou’re both in the vicinity of yet another CycleBlaze meetup. I wondered if your path would eventually intersect with the Grampies.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Ben ParkeWhat? The Grampies are in the neighborhood? Stay tuned.
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3 weeks ago
Gregory GarceauYou're right, I would have used the song for my own purposes.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Gregory GarceauI knew it. Sneaky scoundrel.
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3 weeks ago
Ben ParkeTo Scott AndersonThey last posted from Avignon
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2 weeks ago