La Grande-Motte, Grau-du-Roi and Aigues-MortesFirst-built of the new resorts, on the fringes of the Camargue, LA GRANDE-MOTTE is a 1960s vintage beach-side Antigone a "futuristic" planned community which has aged as gracefully as the bean bag and eight-track tape. In summer, its seaside and streets are crowded with semi-naked bodies; in winter, it's a depressing, wind-battered place with few permanent residents. If you plan on staying, both Camping Louis Pibols (tel 04.67.56.50.08; closed NovMarch) and Camping le Garden (tel 04.67.56.50.09; closed NovFeb) offer excellent facilities and are just a couple of minutes' walk from the beach.
France > Languedoc > Eastern > The Coast > Aigues-mortes
A little way east are Port-Camargue, with a sprawling, modern marina, and GRAU-DU-ROI, which manages to retain something of its character as a working fishing port. Tourist traffic still has to give way every afternoon at 4.30pm when the swing bridge opens and lets in the trawlers to unload the day's catch onto the quayside, from where it's whisked off to auction la criée conducted today largely by electronic means rather than the harsh-voiced shouting of former times. For a reasonable place to stay, try the Hôtel Quai d'Azur, on rue du Vidourle, near the harbour entrance (tel 04.66.51.41.94, fax 04.66.53.41.94; €3040; closed mid-Nov to Feb), or the huge Camping L'Eden (tel 04.66.51.49.81; closed NovFeb), just east of town.
Eight kilometres inland lies the appealingly named town of AIGUES-MORTES ("dead waters"), built as a fortress port by Louis IX in the thirteenth century for his departure on the Seventh Crusade. Its massive walls and towers remain virtually intact. Outside the ramparts, amid drab modern development, flat salt pans lend a certain otherworldly appeal, but inside all is geared to the tourist. If you visit, consider a climb up the Tour de Constance on the northwest corner of the town walls (daily: Pentecost to mid-Sept 10am6pm; rest of year 10.30amnoon & 15pm; €5.50), where Camisard women were imprisoned (Marie Durand was incarcerated for 38 years), and a walk along the wall, where you can gaze out over the weird mist-shrouded flats of the Camargue.