Did you know there was such a thing as a French cowboy? If you’re like me, you probably thought the American West invented cowboys. Not so, according to Wikipedia. If you look up “cowboy” on the reliable W, our favorite Internet encyclopedia tells us the word “cowboy” derives from the Spanish word vaquero. Vaca is cow in Spanish and vaquero is a guy who took care of cattle while riding around on a horse. So therefore, the English “cowboy” is a literal translation of vaquero. As someone who has been learning Spanish for 10 years, you think I would have stopped to ponder this matter but I just never thought about it. I could go on about this subject because I find it so fascinating but the gist of it is Spain (and maybe some other European countries) invented the cowboy tradition and not English-speaking Americans. Thank you Spain! Might as well praise them for something to make Spaniards feel better, given the state of the Spanish economy.
Now that we’ve established this, I can confirm that cowboys also exist in France! Except they don’t call themselves cowboys. If you don’t believe me, then look at the picture below. Can’t get more cowboy then that. Also I didn’t take this picture. Thank you Uncle Marc.
We journeyed to the nearby region of La Camargue, a region south of Arles located on the Mediterranean and the Rhone River delta. The area is characterized by lots of marshes and sandbars and is a rest stop for migrating birds, including pink flamingos. I thought that last one was a joke but turns out it is possible to see wild flamingos hanging out on the Mediterranean in France. Who knew?
We visited a place called Domaine de Paul Ricard, which used to be owned by the same guy who started Ricard Pastis (if you’ve ever heard of that alcoholic beverage, I hadn’t). The domaine is located within the nature preserve of La Camargue–the entire region has been designated a regional park (therefore the flora and fauna are protected) and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The domaine owns a herd of cattle it raises for what is called courses camarguaises and also owns a herd of Camargue horses.
We first rode in a little train which took us around the property and allowed us to see the kind of birds that roost in the area and the cattle herd from afar. The cattle and horses don’t really stay behind fences–they kind of get to roam around the place. As you can see in the pictures below, two of the bulls were sunning themselves by the water. The rest of them were all together a little further away. And in the third picture, I know you can barely see it, it’s just a speck flying in the air but that IS a flamingo I caught mid-flight.
Some of my uncle’s pictures of the train ride. In the first picture, you can vaguely see white dots on the picture? Click on it to see the larger version. Those are WILD FLAMINGOS people. IN THE MEDITERRANEAN. I’m not very well versed when it comes to animals. I thought these birds were only native to Africa. Turns out they kind of live all over the place (except North America, of course. Unless you count zoos).
And I know you are thinking, “You promised us French cowboys, where are they?” In the next post! I had too many pictures in this one!