Discover those who make the Gard what it is

Camargue
Camargue-map

THE CAMARGUE OF...

Jean-Claude-Groul-Manadier

Jean-Claude Groul

Owner of the Saint-Louis manade, at Montcalm, in vicinity of Vauvert

Camargue offers great variety, between the arid scrublands and the beautiful rich soil where such good rice is grown.

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What is the profession – or rather professions – called manadier?

This job involves breeding bulls and horses to maintain our Camargue races and our local traditions. There are many of us real manadiers who have turned towards tourism so that our lifestyle will last. When you breed animals till the age of 4 or 5 years, you don’t gain much, except for the joy of watching the livestock in the early morning in the courtyard of the mas (farmhouse).

You have a herd of 160 bulls and cows. Will they all be flag bearers?

Not all the Camarguais in our 30 or 40 calvings per year are apt for bullfighting. Some of the non-suitable animals will go on to the meat industry whereas others will serve as “Simbeu”, those calmer animals parading in the abrivados, when we drive the bulls through the streets and lanes.

 

What best symbolizes Camargue, in your opinion?

 

Our local bulls, of course, and Camargue horses! 

 

And from a culinary point of view?

Camargue bull meat, obviously! But please note: you need to request the AOP appellation when ordering a gardiane at a restaurant. The AOP bull meat will necessarily be served in the region because we don’t raise bulls here for meat, so it’s not easy to find it elsewhere. In Paris, for example, you won’t find Camargue AOP bull meat be on the menu.

To best understand the soul of Camargue what would you suggest?

Well, the best would be to attend the village fairs. The saints’ day fetes in Saint-Laurent-d’Aigouze, le Cailar, Vauvert… are simply magnificent, and the same is true of Aigues-Mortes in October.

In your area the Camargue evening gathering is also a high point, right?

We demonstrate the ferrade where we brand several animals. Then we let the young cows run in our arenas so that the tourists can have a spot of fun. Afterwards a meal is shared together where the dish served is Camargue bull meat gardiane, of course. And the entire evening is enlivened throughout by gypsy music. It’s a festive event; everyone really loves it.

More generally, how can one tell the difference between mere folklore and tradition?

 

You have got to go out and meet with people. Don’t be afraid of talking. This is what I do when I go out. I visit; I love to discuss. That’s also why we have guest rooms and why the entire family is interested and involved – my mother, sisters: people just love it.

*Today Camargue AOP bull meat is officially listed as being part of “Site Remarquable du Goût les prés et les marais de la Tour Carbonnière”.

Jean-Claude-Groul-Manadier
The-Cevennes
The-Cevennes-Map

MY CÉVENNES …

Daniel-Travier-interview

Daniel Travier

Curator at the Musée des Vallées cévenoles (reopens 2015 in the Maison Rouge)

The greatness of the Cévennes is the multitude of different worlds, each one as interesting as the next.

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Is it not a bit restrictive to describe the Cevennes as rebellious? 

A rebellious streak is one of the strong points and has most certainly forged an identity that continues to this day. However, there is much more to the Cevenol temperament than rebellion. One thousand years of history intertwined with the culture of the chestnut tree has also contributed to the strong Cevenol identity.

It’s not easy to draw the boundaries of the Cévennes range, heralded by the piedmont…

Everyone has their own definition of just what is “La Cévenne”. And this definition has undergone a lot of variations. Up until the 20th century La Cévenne meant the mountain range where the continental divide is, where the waters run on one side to the Atlantic Ocean, on the other to the Mediterranean. Today, the Cévennes includes the Protestant heritage and the Cévennes conscience, from the southern slope of Mont Lozère to past Mont Aigoual. The southern border, along the plain, is marked by a string of small cities: Le Vigan, Sumène, Saint-Hippolyte, Anduze, Alès, Saint-Ambroix... 

You are strongly attached to what we call “the Desert”, which relates to the repression of the Protestants. What is meant by the Desert? 

The Desert refers to the period between the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 and the French Revolution which re-established the freedom of religion in 1789. The inhabitants of the Cévennes, known as “Cévenols”, were persecuted during that time and identified themselves with Moses and the Hebrew people, as they wandered the desert for 40 years after escaping from Egypt. 

For travellers who would like to feel the soul of the Cévennes, what would you recommend while awaiting the reopening of the new Cevenol Valley Museum?

The Museum of the Desert, in Mialet, without a doubt. The museum on silkmaking, in Saint-Hippolyte, the Cévenol museum in Le Vigan, and all the sign-posted walking trails …

And food traditions in the Cévennes?

Traditionally, the Cévennes was a poor area, with no famous gastronomy. Chestnuts in every way shape and form were the basis of meals in the Cévennes. In the recent past the image has changed and quality food products have made their presence felt. Excellent goat cheese – Le Pélardon, charcuterie, honey, chestnuts and mild onions all enter into increasingly refined cuisine.

Daniel-Travier-interview
Mediterranean-Coastline
Mediterranean-Coastline-map

THE GARD COASTLINE OF…

Jerome-Dalle-Fisherman

Jérôme Dalle

Fisherman and owner of the Picardie excursion boat

The Grau-du-Roi has such an authentic side, with its fishing harbour, the trawlers heading into port in every day, the little boats…

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You’re a professional fisherman and you also organise boat tours aboard the Picardie, a 17-metre catamaran accommodating 79 passengers. How did you manage to change tack and alter your course?

In my family, we’ve been fishermen for three generations: I studied at the Sète maritime school and have been fishing since I was 15. Five months of the year we concentrate on our fishing and then from March to October I embark on my catamaran operations.


So you are varying your pleasures?

We’re introducing others to our activities. Angling in the morning, excursions in the daytime and evenings, and diverse festivities with outings including barbecues, cocktails, swim stopovers and even special D.J. evenings.

And you never get tired of the scenery?

How could I possibly get tired of such a gorgeous place? Perhaps if I worked in an office, and only perhaps. But here every day is a new day: one day the regatta boats are racing around you, the next the trawlers, the third you’re navigating among 500 yachts. Rough seas, glassy seas, ever-changing hues, chance encounters with birds, dolphins, tuna…

What would you recommend to people visiting Grau-du-Roi - Port Camargue?

I’d tell them to begin by walking along the main wharf, Colbert quay, to gaze at the boats coming in to moor, experience the morning fish market, or watch the afternoon fish auctions. But there’s also the Espiguette beach, the Seaquarium, and a gorgeous outdoor market. 

Tell us a little about the local specialties. What’s on the menu?

Monkfish bourride, tellines (banded wedge shell) with chopped parsley, octopus with rouille sauce – genuinely typical and local – gratin mussels, and why not a tasty bouillabaisse.

For you, what events should not be missed?

For me the loveliest festivities are the mid-June Saint-Pierre Feast Day and the Vogua Monstra in late May, and of course the Languedoc jousting meets. There are also the Graulinades, centred around our culinary traditions.

Jerome-Dalle-Fisherman
The-Arenas-of-Nimes
Nimes-Map

NÎMES THROUGH THE EYES OF…

Michel-Hermet-interview''

Michel Hermet

Chairman of the association of French sommeliers, wine-grower, and owner of the wine bar restaurant – Le Cheval Blanc

Nîmes is truly the crossroad between Spain and Italy. Is this linked to our Roman ruins? No matter what, deep down we are really ‘Latins’.

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For you who have worked extensively abroad, what are the seductive sides of Nîmes?

Since I was born in the Hérault, the departement next door, I also have a bit of a foreigner’s point of view! Nîmes is a city with a soul. There’s something powerful emanating from it. It’s perhaps linked to what they call here the “réboussier” side of the Nîmois people, a slight tendency to rebelliousness. This is a city with a strong identity, both impassioned and passionate.

A passion that casual visitors can partake in?

Everyone finds Nîmes to be so full of charm. This very pleasant city has all of the positive points of a large city, without the disadvantages. It’s a city where people simply love ambling. It has so many sweet little streets, as well as the numerous monuments which make up its prestige.

What experience would you suggest, to touch the soul of Nîmes locals?

Since I lived abroad a number of years, I believe there’s a top priority when you visit a new place: it’s to rub shoulders with the people. To get a better grasp of the Nîmois lifestyle, it’s simple: you need to go to the markets. These are truly ‘local colours’, and nowhere else will you encounter a more native species of fauna. It will help you understand so much about the city, about its surroundings and about what makes it tick. And for me, the best market is the Halles.

In your expert opinion as sommelier, is there enough in the region to attract wine lovers? 

At the intersection between Spain and Italy, we’re surrounded by the world’s greatest vineyards, and we have an extraordinary wine culture – quite diverse – as exemplified by the wines of the Duché d’Uzès, a recent AOC appellation, and also the Cévennes wines.

Now back to Nîmes. What are your favourite haunts here?

I really like historical Nîmes, the Ecusson district, right around rue Fresque… And then, of course, there’s also the Jardins de la Fontaine. Plus, I like to dawdle over a cup of coffee on the Esplanade, with the Arènes directly opposite: better than even the most picture-perfect post card.

Michel-Hermet-interview
Uzège et pont du Gard
Uzege-Map

UZÈGE THROUGH THE EYES OF…

Michel-Tournayre-Truffle-Producers

Michel Tournayre

National Chairman of the Les truffières d’Uzès, truffle producers

I definitely recommend little producers’ markets: Tuesdays in Saint-Quentin or Wednesdays in Uzès. And then you really must pause for a drink at La Place aux Herbes.

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Since you represent a third-generation producer, might one say your world revolves around truffles?

I like to take an educational approach, exploring gastronomy and organizing tours of my truffière, 15 planted hectares with an arboretum unique in France: truffle-tourism you could call it.

What is so very special about the Uzès truffle?

Above all what’s special is the ground. The earth is perfect for it: limestone though relatively light soil. This endows the truffle with outstandingly rich properties. Even as far back as 1840 there was already a truffle canning facility here. We are still producing the black truffle.

How should it be eaten?

You should count between 5 and 10 grams per person and make it as simple as possible. Most of all, you should not cook the truffle but rather grate it at the last minute over a warm dish. Try it over scrambled eggs, for example, or pasta, or on lamb’s lettuce salad in wintertime.

Let’s talk about the area a little. What makes the Uzège so special?

From an ecological point of view, the Uzège is a protected area. After WWII and the industrial boom, Uzés remained a terroir-centric city.

And also, Uzès is chic, right?

You know what they say: Paris is the most beautiful city in the world, but Uzès is the most beautiful city in France!

What about the area around Uzès?

Me, I’m crazy about nature and areas off the beaten path. But if I can take a dip in the Gardon right under the Pont du Gard, I’m on top of the world. Besides that, all of the villages of Uzès canton are wonderful, with their cute little cafés. Throughout the summer, daytime events and night markets are held.

Let’s talk about nature: what about the athletes among us?

For runners or joggers, there’s a multitude of small trails. As for myself, my athletic activities are limited to my work in the fields! Oh yes, there’s one thing I do love: for people who genuinely desire to discover the land, they should sign up for a hot air balloon ride with Montgolfières du Sud, located in Blauzac. From on high one can truly take in the expansive beauty of the Uzège area. This is really “getting high”! If you’re looking for pleasure, you can’t do better.

Michel-Tournayre-Truffle-Producers
The-Ceze-River-Valley
The-Ceze-River-Valley-Map''

THE CÈZE RIVER VALLEY AS SEEN BY…

Annie-Ygon-Interview

Annie Ygon

President of the Valcèzard tourism office, in Goudargues

Wild yet gentle, the Cèze river valley remains authentic, with small villages which have remained true to themselves. The Cèze is interesting and beautiful in every season.

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The Cèze valley covers a lot of ground, where is its identity anchored?

Above all one must remember that the Cèze starts as wild spring flowing from the Cévennes. This is its start – secret, preserved, authentic, not yet developed. Visitors should also see the source of the Cèze.

What types of visitors are happy to be here?

People who come to visit the Cèze valley are naturally looking for green tourism. They often come with their families, and they are not looking for a flashy or extravagant time. For example, there are lots of hikers, and lots of people who simply enjoy being by the riverside.

What do you recommend to be sure to see?

Among the places that are absolutely not to be missed are the Cascades du Sautadet and the village of La Roque: a beautiful, unique setting!  Visitors in the Gard should also see Cornilllon, a hilltop village with magnificent views, Montclus, very historical and well-preserved, which tumbles down to the riverside, Aiguèze, which is on the Ardèche river, Barjac, built on the plateau and Lussan. In the lower part of the valley, Goudargues is a superb village on the banks of the Cèze, lined with plane trees and with lots of thriving shops.

What about gastronomy?

Here there is something for every taste and pocketbook. There are excellent local products that our local restaurants prepare beautifully.

Where do you like to go, to get away from it all?

I love the area around Montclus, it is quiet and beautiful, there are many little-known places that are accessible for small children. It is a safe and secure area. We also often go up to the village of Cornillon which is very characteristic of this area, and offers incredible views of the Cèze river. With the passing years, Cornillon has become a village of artists.

Annie-Ygon-Interview
The-Rhone-Valley
The-Rhone-Valley-Map

THE RHONE VALLEY … IN GARD COUNTY, AS SEEN BY

Aline-Fromange-interview

Aline Fromangé

At the B&B Le Mas des Îles, in Pont-Saint-Esprit

Far from impersonal chain tourism, we offer a warm, individualised welcome.

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What do your visitors come for, here on the west bank of the Rhône?

Sunshine first of all, for here we are in the south. They love lavender, olive trees, the sun-gorged fruit and the warm sunshine – these are the values our visitors want. However, our difference is that we also show them much much more. We have everything they are looking for, and more – things they don’t know about before coming here.

You offer a very complete service, which combines accommodations and lots of discoveries…

I think that you have to meet visitors’ expectations. People who come here, near the Rhône, are looking for nature activities, problem-free easy holidays, no complications. When you propose activities, local visits, discovery of our heritage, of wine cellars, of the fun of panning for gold for a day … you propose diversity, and ideas that are adapted to their desires. Far from impersonal chain tourism, we offer individualized, tailor-made activities. The meals we serve use only fresh local products. We can describe where our food comes from, and that is interesting and meaningful.

You talk about water, but what about wine!?

You are right. Wine is part of our landscapes, and tours of the vineyards are fun and educational, and lead to appreciating the wine all the more. We are part of the national “Vignobles & découvertes label”, set up in 2009 to promote this area. Its purpose is to distinguish, share and learn about the winemaking expertise in this area, not just buy a bottle of wine.

To conclude, what special place would you recommend in the Rhône valley?

The museum of sacred art in Pont-Saint-Esprit deserves to be better known. It is an amazing place – a home from the Middle Ages that has been restored, with paintings of coats of arms and people, with one of the most beautiful decorated ceilings in all of Europe and a collection of art that goes well beyond the confines of sacred art. It is very easy to get to Pont-Saint-Esprit, even for people who don’t come by car. And many visitors do not come by car. It’s important to point that out.

Aline-Fromange-interview
the-authentic-gard



THE AUTHENTIC GARD OF…

Alain-Girard-Interview

Alain Girard

Alain Girard, curator of the Gard Sacred Art Museum in Pont-Saint-Esprit

Behind each stone, there’s a human being. We help tourists feel that they’re not simply encountering stones, but our direct ancestors. Patrimony is just that, with its root of patres monium: that which comes from fathers.

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Sacred doesn’t just mean religious, especially in our times, and your museum is a lay museum. So as to your “sacred”, what is it really?

It’s everything that is inherent to the heart of mankind. If you explore certain depths, you encounter a sacredness that allows us to understand others, to advance from one culture to another. Sacredness is what binds us from generation to generation, from culture to culture – the very essence of humanity. Religion is a way of addressing something invisible. We’re offering something different.

What will most surprise first-time visitors?

When you first enter, you find yourself facing a portrait of Fayoum (an Egypt-dwelling Roman). The subject looks you straight in the eye, enticing you.  In like manner, the rest of the museum pursues this concept of dialogue. There is a discourse surrounding the works which liberally questions: Where do we come from? Who are we?

The Gard is a rich territory. What makes it so authentic?

The Gard is a composite mosaic of territories and religious phenomena. We are here in a land of convictions, a place of passage, an open door to the Mediterranean. We’ve always accepted adapting before adopting. We accept to receive from others, in spite of painful lessons learned. This capacity for hospitality is something totally ingrained here.

What authentic journey could we undertake today in time-honoured Gard?

One thing Nîmes certainly represents is Roman civilization; it is a major site for this, together with the Pont du Gard. As for the Middle Ages, it’s impossible to overlook Aigues-Mortes, although there is also Villeneuve-lez–Avignon. For more modern times, 17th and 18th centuries, Uzès is a must-see. As for the genius of man, don’t miss the medieval bridge of Pont-Saint-Esprit: since 1265 it has resisted the wild waters of the Rhône.

And for more contemporary times?

On the industrial side, there are the cooperative wine cellars, Alès and mining, and there is also contemporary art. Enjoy a dialogue with the stained glass windows by Pierre Parsus at the Saint-Joseph des Trois Piliers church in Nîmes or converse with those by Claude Viallat at Notre-Dame des Sablons in Aigues-Mortes. When Foster designed the Carré d’Art across from the Maison Carrée, the intent once again was to dialogue. What counts is the bond: we have a living and breathing heritage.

Alain-Girard-Interview
Outdoor-Gard



OUTDOOR GARD AS EXPERIENCED BY …

Serge-Poujol-Interview

Serge Poujol

Founder of “Semelles au vent”, touring and hiking stays in Le Vigan

The variety of landscapes from North to South is fabulous, throughout the entire year. I have already done snowshoeing one day and a hike along the seaside the next.

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Semelles au vent offers a wide range of things to do…

We primarily propose hikes which include everything: transportation, accommodation, food and beverage… We propose hiking outings, cycling trips, and other types of locomotion. For example, we recently developed a great electric-bicycle itinerary, a hiking itinerary and a horse-and-buggy journey that take you from the Cévennes to Camargue and the Mediterranean in one week’s time. We have tested all our itineraries with the GPS, and we have identified all the remarkable things to see on the way.

You work from here to Patagonia… tell us just what is the charm of outdoor activities in the Gard?

The wide range of landscapes fashioned by nature and the hand of man, and the rapid change from mountain to sea is fabulous. Gard county is still wild and authentic, yet offers top-quality, warm welcome, a combination which is not found everywhere. The eco-tourism approach is in line with our way of operating. We are very strict with respect to the three aspects – economic, social and environmental – of sustainable tourism. Sustainability also entails developing stays outside of high season, that is May-June, and September-October.

What are hikers looking for today?

In general, hikers look for a genuine experience, and quality lodgings. They want meaningful encounters with local inhabitants who live and work in the area, and they love the beauty of the landscapes they traverse. They also increasingly want comfortable conditions which can entail baggage portage.

What are some of the best outdoor experiences in the Gard in your opinion?

I would say a via ferrata along the Gardon river, canyoning, canoeing, hiking with donkeys, and any hiking and cycling trips. I love the yellow-marked paths, they are well-marked and beautiful. Gard county has done a fabulous job of organizing the itineraries from Camargue to Mont Aigoual. This is a huge draw.

Is there something for every age, for every athletic level?

Yes there is, except for perhaps the most die-hard Alpine or Pyrenean mountaineers. But for families, for young people, for all ages, there are challenging, incredibly feel-good things to do all year long.

Serge-Poujol-Interview
The-Gourmet-Gard



THE GOURMET GARD OF… 

Michel-Kayser-Interview

Michel Kayser

Executive chef of the Alexandre restaurant in Garons, 2* in the Michelin guide

A summer dish that’s easy to make or simply to sample? I’d say it’s the brandade, especially since it’s the local historical specialty.

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For years, you’ve been the figurehead of Gard gastronomy. Is it hard to keep ones ranking?

Just like a stonecutter or a joiner, after a professional “tour de France” apprenticeship in top kitchens, I took up this restaurant to simply be a good cook. In 1987 I won back a Michelin star; the second came 20 years later. The real stars, for me, are my customers. You’ve got to be attentive, and stay humble. People should leave feeling happy about the time they’ve spent here.

“Admirable, not fussy, savoury, intelligent and subtle”, here’s what we see when we read the reviews… How would you yourself define your cuisine?

My culinary art comes from the ins and outs of my experience, and from people who taught me to take a far-reaching view. In 1969 I learned classical cooking, the sauces, the fonds, the jus… and the best products. And then Michel Guérard came along with his salade folle and lighter fare and created a revolution. People began to pay more attention to what they were eating. Fine cuisine progressed and so did we: we were no longer going to be turning out lobster Thermidors. We each express our own personality. But, seriously, the cooking must be tasty, above all. Once that’s acquired, if we’re able to win over customers by the dish presentation, the aesthetics, the technique, then so much the better.

Living in the Gard helps, doesn’t it?

The Gard is a real garden, and we are so spoiled in our region. We have an amazing place, with the seaside and the inland areas… My cuisine is, first and foremost, based on “the product” since obviously I live and work in the Gard and this area has spoilt me. When I find a particular “product”, I mustn’t denature it but rather enhance it by crafting it. In one dish there are at least three recipes, and that’s what ensures you’ll end up with a lovely meal.

What must one absolutely bring back from a stay in the Gard? What if you were to make up a little basket for us?

Well, it depends on the time of year, but I’d say: goat cheese, Camargue salt, brandade, lots of tiny herbs, asparagus and other vegetables, cepes, Uzés truffles, fruit, strawberries, cherries, red-fleshed autumn peaches, apples… Camargue bull meat, mild onions…There are thousands of products for your gustative delight.

Michel-Kayser-Interview
Seaside-Gard



SEASIDE GARD AS SEEN BY… 

Bernard-Suzarini-Interview

Bernard Suzzarini

Director of communication at the Harbour Master’s office in Port-Camargue

What draws people here above all is the view onto the horizon. Whether there be rain, wind, sunshine or in the light of the moon, being able to look out to sea is fabulous.

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How did Port-Camargue become the number one marina in Europe?

The port has a very good location and gets enormous amounts of traffic between Italy, Spain, and the French Riviera. More than one-third of our clientele comes from elsewhere in Europe. Port Camargue is truly the first port for Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg! And we are open 7 days a week, 24/24.

This vast port, deeply dredged in 2014, is also a model of cleanliness…

We have engaged in environmental protection since 1988, and are currently at the strictest ISO standard there is. Our water samples are public and are on display: the quality of the water here is truly perfect.

In recent years, you have developed offers that are available all year long. What are the strong points you offer?

The idea was to make boating a little more widespread, to make it possible for people on holiday to have water fun, to spend an hour, or a half-day, or a day renting a motorboat, with or without a licence, sailing, canoeing, kayaking, jet-skiing or other…

What about sailing?

This is the number on sailing school in France, and we have two major categories: sailing, and kite sailing, or kitesurf. Every year, we teach over 6350 sessions for kite surf, and 13,500 sessions for learning how to sail.  

First marina for pleasure craft – first port for fishing too?

Le Grau-du-Roi has indeed become the number one fishing port on the Mediterranean Sea, ahead of Sète. We talk about small-scale fishing, where fishermen cast their nets from the beach and in the lakes. But there is also large-scale fishing, with trawlers that fish all day and come in at the end of the day to unload their catch. 

Can you describe what kind of seafood one finds here?

One delicacy specifically from Camargue beaches is the telline, also called the wedge shell.  Tellines served at apéritif time with a chilled glass of wine is close to perfection. There are many other excellent fish from here – sea bream, porgy, sea bass, and others; and there are many local specialties such as “La la rouille à la graulenne”, for example.

Bernard-Suzarini-Interview