A happy accident in the Camargue

About an hour’s drive to the east of Montpellier lies the Camargue region, an area of marshy wetlands near the mouth of the Rhône. Much of the region is protected as a natural preserve, and it’s known for its biodiversity. In particular, Kathryn and I wanted to see the flamingos.

Saturday morning, I pulled up Google Maps and located a roadside attraction in the Camargue that’s known for its trails into the marsh. About an hour later we were at the destination, and it was immediately obvious to me that we were not in the right place. There was marsh, there were trails, but it clearly wasn’t the place I’d seen online a few weeks ago.

The data service on our phones was one-to-two bars of 3G — not enough to do any real research into my mistake. So we figured, hey, we’re here now, let’s just make the best of it.

The parking lot was nearly empty when Kathryn and I arrived. The visitor center was closed, so there was no one there to take our money. There were a few older couples walking along the trails, so if what we were doing was trespassing, we wouldn’t be alone.

It was about a 45-minute walk to the end of the trail, where there was a blind from which we could see the marsh and observe the birds. We had come to see flamingos, and we were not disappointed. Although they weren’t close enough for good pictures from a smartphone, there were hundreds of birds to see.

Between the walking and the observing, we spent about two hours at this park before starting the drive back to Montpellier. On the way back, a sign with a familiar-sounding name caught my attention, so I deviated from the route. After about five minutes of driving the other direction, we found the place I had originally thought we would be visiting.

And it was packed with tourists.

Last Thursday was a public holiday in France, so many people decided to take Friday off and turn it into a four-day weekend. Apparently a lot of them had the same idea about visiting the Camargue. They, however, knew where they were going.

After seeing the overflowing parking lot at the place I’d meant to take us, Kathryn and I decided we were pretty happy with where we ended up instead. We’re going to chalk it up as a happy accident.