Tag Archives: Saintes Maries de la Mer

Flight excursion to Camargue, Provence, Avignon and Millau

This weekend, with Luca and our children, we took one of the aeroclub’s DR-400 to make a flight excursion from Toulouse (France) to Avignon, in Provence.

The main purpose of the trip was to fly over the flourishing lavender fields in Provence. Other highlights of the flight would be flying over the French Côte dAméthyste, flying over the Camargue region with the wetlands of the Rhône delta, watching the Mont-Ventoux from up close, seeing the Pont d’Avignon (from the plane this time, no dancing), flying over the Hérault Gorges, the Viaduct of Millau, the Viaduct of the Viaur and we attempted as well to see the Pont du Garde, but we missed it (next time!).

I will be short in words in this post, thus I will first show here below all the beautiful pictures of the flight in chronological order and at the very bottom I will include a few paragraphs with the technical information of the flight in case anyone is interested in planning a similar trip.

Family picture before departing from Toulouse Lasbordes
Le Grau du Roi, Port Camargue. Montpellier.
La Camargue.
Saintes Maries de la Mer.
Mont Ventoux.
Mont Ventoux.
Final at runway 35 of Avignon.
Before the return flight.
Avignon. Pont d’Avignon.
Viaduc de Millau.
Viaduc du Viaur.
Sleeping…
Chuck Yeager and Georges Guynemer started as airplane mechanics…
Routes followed.

We made two flights. The first one from Toulouse Lasbordes (LFCL) to Avignon Caumont (LFMV) lasted 2h25′ including the excursion to the regional park of Luberon to see the lavender fields (a detour of about 30′). The return trip took us 1h59′. Both trips could take somewhat less time if the routes were a bit more direct. We started both flights with the main and supplementary tanks full (in theory up to 110 + 50 litres, thus 160l) and before the second flight we did a refill of nearly 77 litres; that would be the block fuel for the first trip (thus 31.7l per hour just a bit below the 33 indicated in the manual at maximum take off weight (1,000kg for the DR-44)).

For both flights I filed a flight plan (calling the BRIA of Bordeaux) even if not required in France (when not flying to the islands or abroad), but that eases a lot the flying through many different CTRs, class D flight spaces, getting flight information service, traffic information, etc.

In these times of low commercial traffic we requested to overfly the coast at a rather high altitude (3,500ft instead of the mandatory maximum of 1,000ft from Montpellier to Marseille in normal times) which was granted without hesitation by the traffic controllers. That alleviated a bit the buffeting of the plane on the often windy French Mediterranean coast.

Avignon Caumont airport turned out to be a rather windy one being in the Rhone Delta. Most airports in the whereabouts had windy forecasts. We landed with winds announced by the controller of 15-20kt and on the departure the day after we had 22-32kt, though more or less aligned with the runway, 35 both times. The runway is however long (1,880m) and wide (45m). Had we had to abort the landing we had planned alternative diversion airports nearby, but most probably we would have gone away from the Delta region, all the way to Millau (thus the filling up the tank with more than double the amount of fuel we needed). The landing fees and 24-hour parking altogether cost 29.6 euros. The fuel station operated with the Carte Total.

We stayed over at the Best Western hotel by the airport at Avignon, at walking distance from the terminal (the reservation could be cancelled without charge up to 14:00 of the day we arrived, thus 2 hours later than our estimated landing time, in case we had to divert to somewhere else). We booked a family room with four beds and sofa bed with breakfast for 135 euros which could be paid in cheques vacances. The hotel has a swimming pool which was needed for the kids to relax in the afternoon. At walking distance there was as well a Courtepaille restaurant.

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Corrida Camarguaise (bullfighting / toros)

Hace unos meses viajamos a La Camargue, y en particular al pueblo Saintes Maries de la Mer. En esa visita tuvimos la oportunidad de asistir a una corrida de toros, pero a una “corrida Camarguaise“, que es diferente a una corrida de toros “andaluza” (como dicen en Francia).

Durante la corrida hice una serie de fotos y videos que se pueden ver más abajo para entender mejor el breve resumen de las cosas que percibimos, aunque estoy seguro de que no llegué a entender todas sus particularidades.

En una corrida camarguesa, no hay un matador, ni banderillas ni picador. El toro no muere. De hecho se parece más a lo que en España llamamos concurso de recortes; aunque tampoco es igual, es mucho menos vistoso y espectacular (al menos la que tuvimos la oportunidad de presenciar).

En la corrida camarguesa que presenciamos, un pequeño grupo se enfrenta al toro por turnos. En este caso eran como tres recortadores (raseteurs), vestidos de ropa deportiva (no un traje de luces), que por turnos partían en carrera para pasar por delante del toro, y si tenían la oportunidad hacerse con uno de los trofeos que lleva el toro en la sien, entre los cuernos. Estos trofeos son pequeñas cintas de papel, que el raseteur debe coger en carrera con la ayuda de un garfio.

Corrida camarguesa en Saintes Maries de la Mer.

Corrida camarguesa en Saintes Maries de la Mer.

Por cada trofeo que cojan, el raseteur obtiene una puntuación y un premio en metálico. Ese premio depende de las aportaciones de los negocios locales y asistentes a la corrida, que financian la fiesta. De hecho, durante la corrida, hay un locutor que va anunciando los nombres de distintas empresas y la cantidad dineraria que aportan. Al cabo de unos segundos el locutor indica en cuanto está la suma en ese instante. Conforme la suma aumenta mayor es el incentivo de ser el primero en coger los trofeos.

Además de los 3 raseteurs (pueden ser más), estos estaban acompañados de un equipo de ayudantes (peones) que tenían como misión el llamar al toro, orientarlo y posicionarlo en el ruedo. También el ganadero tenía su labor. Puede ser porque la barrera en esa plaza fuese de menor altura de la que tienen las plazas en España; el hecho es que el toro saltó varias veces la barrera y corrió por el pasillo entre la barrera y la grada. Entonces, era el ganadero, el que, con la ayuda de una vara, reconducía al toro a una de las puertas de acceso a la plaza.

En resumen, un espectáculo curioso, con un cierto parecido a un concurso de recortes.

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Flying to Corsica (1/3)

About 3 months ago, my colleague Asier and I went together with his instructor, Jean Louis, to Corsica for a weekend fly out, an activity of our club the Airbus’ Aviation Society.

The experience was terrific in several ways. I learnt a lot about flying and navigation the days prior to the fly out and during the trip. The views along the way by southern coastal France were superb. We enjoyed good weather despite of what had been announced and even found time to do some tourism and trekking in the island. But let’s go back to the flight.

On the way to Corsica, we made one stop at Cuers to refuel the aircraft and change pilot. Asier would start from Toulouse and I would continue to Corsica. On the way back, Asier would fly over the sea all the way to Alès and I would fly over Millau on the way to Toulouse.

I’ll try to be brief with the explanations and generous with the pictures to give you a flavour of how the French Mediterranean coast looks like. Because of the number of pitures I want to share, I will distribute them in 3 different blog posts, starting with this one dedicated to the first flight.

Flight 1 (Asier at the controls): Toulouse Lasbordes – Carcassone – Narbonne – Sète – Montpellier – Saintes Maries de la Mer – Fos-sur-Mer – Marseille – Cassis – Le Castellet – Toulon – Cuers

I encourage you to take a look at a map of France coast at the same time you are watching the pictures and try to identify the places (you may see the route at the bottom of the post as recorded by my Garmin).

See the life vests (yellow bags) at hand in case of emergency ready at hand. Jean Louis would have his vest always on. In case of emergency he would take the control buying us time to get ours on.

Carcassone from the North.

Narbonne from the North.

Coastline at Cape de Adge.

Peninsula at Étand de Thau.

Seafood plantation at Étand de Thau.

Ville de Sète.

Frontignan.

The touristic village “La grande Motte” built in the ‘60s and ‘70s with its characteristic architecture with forms resembling pyramids.

The intricate Port-Camargue, one of the first “pleasure ports” in Europe, also from the ‘60s.

Closed ponds at the mouth of the Rhone.

Bull fighting arena at Saintes Maries de la Mer.

Sands at Lagunes de Beauduc (with its non-paved driveway).

Lighthouse at Lagunes de Beauduc.

Colourful salt flats at Salins du Giraud.

Ships departing from the industrial hub Fos-sur-Mer.

Marseille and “Les Îles”.

Les Goudes and “Les Îles” (past Marseille).

Natural reservation of the “Île de Riou“.

Ideal and quiet spot at Calanque de Sormiu.

Former F1 “Paul Ricard” racing circuit and aerodrome at Le Castellet.

Military port at Toulon (an aircraft carrier can be seen).

Asier after having flown 2h30′ hours posing side by side our Robin DR-44.

You may check the Garmin records of this first flight by clicking on the link and the route we followed in the picture below:

(to be continued…)

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