Mid-May, Perfect Day! If you look up Le Grau-du-Roi on a map, you will see that it is situated right on the Mediterranean Sea, about 20 miles south of Montpellier. The name roughly translates as The King’s Bayous. The roads just before you arrive are lined with salt marshes and inhabited by hundreds of wild flamingos. But only their legs and beaks are that famous salmon color – the rest of their body is a pale pink. We saw them from the highway, so we couldn’t take any photos of them.
One of the advantages of the way we travel is that if we are tired, we can easily change our plans depending on how we are feeling. We have spent the past two weeks traveling in the mountain towns of Italy, and really haven’t had a break, a day where we just spent an easy day doing nothing. We had planned to head east today and spend time in Arles, where Vincent van Gogh created some of his most famous works, and where he cut off his ear. Arles also has an ancient Roman Colosseum and other Roman ruins. But we needed a break, so we changed our plans. You can’t do this when you are with a tour, for example. When you are with a tour group, you are told to have breakfast by 7 AM because the bus is leaving at 8 AM, and then you will have an opportunity to tour a famous site for one hour before continuing on to the next place. That is way too structured for us!
We just wanted to take a short drive today, so we headed 15 minutes south to Palavas les Flots. The city had lots of sand and beaches, but no area to walk around and have coffee. So we headed farther east, to La Grand-Motte. Ditto – we did not locate a good area for walking. But we didn’t strike out on our third attempt, we struck gold! We found Le Grau-du-Roi, a charming city with an inlet to the Mediterranean, with a huge marina. The town is connected across an inlet by a swing bridge, which rotates horizontally, rather than lifting vertically from the middle. We have seen the same kind of bridge before in the Caribbean.
Boats were taking people fishing and sightseeing, and restaurants offered every kind of seafood imaginable. We must have passed a dozen ice cream places, and in each one, waffles, crepes, churros, and beignets were also offered – with or without ice cream! Walking around this charming place delighted us for a few hours, just long enough to be out and seeing some sights, but by no means a tiring day. We had no agenda, no “famous historical site” to see. We just walked and enjoyed this seaside village. We heard some American English and a little German, but mostly French. It was a great day!