Walled Up in Aigues-Mortes France

Names can tell you a lot about a place. Especially so with the town of Aigues-Mortes, which is in the Petite Camargue region in the south of France, near to the Mediterranean Sea.

The town was declared in the 13th century as the first Mediterranean port in France on the orders of the King of France, Louis the IX. The name of the town, Aigues-Mortes, means “dead waters”, and although it was a port, the waters were indeed “dead” as the town didn’t have a seafront, but was connected to the Mediterranean via a canal.

The life of King Louis IX is still celebrated in the town each August when the whole town really does adopt a medieval feel during the Saint Louis Festival when troubadours and minstrels take to the streets and locals dress up in medieval costumes for the occasion.

Apart from the canals, which are still in use today, you are more than likely to discover salt as they produce about 500,000 tonnes at the local saltworks each year, a mineral that has been produced there since Roman times. The salt is obtained from the shallow marshes and ponds close to the town, which give the town a somewhat isolated look when gazed upon from afar.

The most obvious feature of the town is a well-preserved city wall which surrounds the town, and which dates back to the 13th century. There are five towers attached to the wall, including the impressive Constance Tower, which is located in the north corner. The original purpose of the Constance Tower was to protect the town and the port. It later became infamous as a state prison, favoured by the Huguenots, French Protestants who were often ostracised by the Catholic majority.

The town lies on the Little Rhone Canal, and it is connected to the sea by the six kilometre-long Grau-du-Roi, a channel that is populated by many boats, and where it is possible to hire boats on which to leisurely discover the area.

The town hosts excellent markets each Wednesday and Sunday morning, and bargains can be got at an antique and flea market that is held each Saturday. One of the very interesting attractions, if it can rightly be called that, is the Torture Museum, which is located in the walls of the city. Some of the methods used to extract information are quite ghastly and photography inside is forbidden.

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