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THE CAMARGUE OF...
Owner of the Saint-Louis manade, at Montcalm, in vicinity of Vauvert
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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).
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.
Our local bulls, of course, and Camargue horses!
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.
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.
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.
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”.
MY CÉVENNES …
Curator at the Musée des Vallées cévenoles (reopens 2015 in the Maison Rouge)
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.
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...
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.
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 …
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.
THE GARD COASTLINE OF…
Fisherman and owner of the Picardie excursion boat
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.
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.
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…
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.
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 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.
NÎMES THROUGH THE EYES OF…
Chairman of the association of French sommeliers, wine-grower, and owner of the wine bar restaurant – Le Cheval Blanc
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
UZÈGE THROUGH THE EYES OF…
National Chairman of the Les truffières d’Uzès, truffle producers
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.
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.
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.
From an ecological point of view, the Uzège is a protected area. After WWII and the industrial boom, Uzés remained a terroir-centric city.
You know what they say: Paris is the most beautiful city in the world, but Uzès is the most beautiful city in France!
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.
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.
THE CÈZE RIVER VALLEY AS SEEN BY…
President of the Valcèzard tourism office, in Goudargues
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.
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.
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.
Here there is something for every taste and pocketbook. There are excellent local products that our local restaurants prepare beautifully.
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.
THE RHONE VALLEY … IN GARD COUNTY, AS SEEN BY
At the B&B Le Mas des Îles, in Pont-Saint-Esprit
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.
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 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.
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.
THE AUTHENTIC GARD OF…
Alain Girard, curator of the Gard Sacred Art Museum in Pont-Saint-Esprit
READ TH EINTERVIEW
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
OUTDOOR GARD AS EXPERIENCED BY …
Founder of “Semelles au vent”, touring and hiking stays in Le Vigan
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
THE GOURMET GARD OF…
Executive chef of the Alexandre restaurant in Garons, 2* in the Michelin guide
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.
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.
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.
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.
SEASIDE GARD AS SEEN BY…
Director of communication at the Harbour Master’s office in Port-Camargue
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.