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Posted on March 15, 2019
The question given to me was whether I would like to “visit Provence, riding through the Rhone Valley, across Les Alpilles mountains and end up galloping on a beach in the Camargue”. Of course my answer was a resounding “YES PLEASE”, or should I have said “OUI S’IL VOUS PLAIT”.
My French journey was for 6 nights with 5 days riding, starting in the heart of Provence and ending in the natural parks of the Camargue, with its marshy plains, white horses, black bulls and pink flamingos.
Arriving into Marseilles airport, it was only a short car transfer of less than an hour before we reached our horses and starting point for the trail near the village of Lauris in Provence. It was early evening and I immediately knew that I was in France when a 4 course French supper was offered to me, accompanied by local (and delicious) Provence rose wine (or red cote de Rhone if you preferred).
In France you typically eat a lot of smaller courses and tonight’s supper set the standard for all the suppers during this entire week, with lots of emphasis on some delicious simple French cuisine. Each evening you could take your time to eat and enjoy the flavorsome meals and enjoy the company of your new found riding pals. Plus of course they were all accompanied by the delectable local vineyards offerings too!
My horse for the week was a delightful little man called Titeuf, who had a massive personality and heart to go with it. His favourite pastime was having his chestnut coat groomed; he liked his rub downs after our days in the saddle together, and adored the efforts I made each morning to smarten him up (including his long flaxen mane and tail) before our days exploring Provence together. His eyes would close whilst he revelled in my grooming efforts, and I am sure he used to roll on purpose overnight to reach this exact moment in time.
The cheeky chap (and he was wonderfully cheeky at times) took great joy in getting to know you for your week with him, and would ‘seek you out’, cleverly looking for you each morning so he could be the first horse caught, ready for his days work. He loved his job as my ‘partner’ for the week and was incredibly well behaved and comfortable.
Throughout our week together Titeuf and I passed through typical Provence countryside, spotting famous chapels and scenes that Van Gough had painted along the way, and visiting a number of old medieval Roman ruins and historical towns.
We had some wonderful trots and canters through vine yards down in the Rhone valley; we climbed high up and over the Alpilles ranges – taking in the amazing views in both directions whilst traversing the ridge (Provence and the Rhone valley on the right of us,and the flat landscape of the Camargue and the Mediterranean Sea to the left of us). We posed for photos together and shared our apples at lunch-time breaks.
Later in the week, Titeuf remained completely unruffled when the landscape changed dramatically and we found ourselves galloping along the beach at the waters edge of the Mediterranean, or wading knee deep through the Camargue’s national park lake gazing upon the pink flamingos all around us. In fact he was vigilant in making sure he knew where his feet were going and I for one appreciated his sure-footed paces.
Each evening we stayed at local gites/guesthouses and or family run bed and breakfasts, and often would eat with our French hosts in their homes along with their families and pets. On some occasions Titeuf would also stay at the same place, and I could watch him eating his own well deserved supper with his equine comrades during the evening.
I can’t quite believe how within 5 days of riding you can encounter such diversity and landscape changes along the way – a beautiful combination of scenery backdrops continually changing from the mountains to the sea.
Sadly, when it was time to leave on my last morning, I went to find my trusted side-kick in his paddock and share our last apple together – only he wasn’t there! Looking around I found him, cheeky to the very end, having ducked under the fencing and helping himself the stables unopened hay bales… until the next time Titeuf and thank you mon petit cheval, for a wonderful time spent together exploring Provence and beyond.
“Au revoir pour le moment.”