Etang de Berre
Stagnum Mastromela as called by the Romans and Pliny the Elder, is a nice body of water which used to be slated, but a lot less since the Durance canal is terminating there. There are a few small beaches tucked away around its shore, one of them I used to play at quite a bit as a youngster is Varage.
But before you get there, you will pass through Saint-Mitre-Les-Remparts, another charming Provencal village worth a stop
The old city of Istres is almost buried within quite a large, modern and quie ugly agglomeration, an overflow of Marseille and Salon-de-Provence, also housing the thousands of workers at the local oil refinery in Fos-sur-Mer and other heavy industries in and around Port-de-Bouc, an area to be avoided.
However, the inner city of Istres is still quite charming with its church, fort and small picturesque streets.
It is also the getaway to the gorgeous Etang de l'Olivier near by.
You can drive around the Etang de l'Olivier and then back to the shore of Etang de Berre heading north and then east towards Saint Chamas from where you will have a stunning view of the Etang de Berre to the South and West. Good to be there around sunset as it will make for spectacular photos if the weather is good to you.
You will then head north east towards Cornillon-Confoux, famous for its Roman Church and old buildings, as well as another beautiful viewpoint over the Etang de Berre.
After a day full of adventures, you want to drive the last 10 kms to Salon-de-Provence enjoying the fields full of vegetables or fruit trees with rows of cypresses in between to protect the precious crops that will end up in all the markets around as well as in Paris the next day via TGV special!
For 60 years, Salon-de-Provence was my grandparents and then parents home and where I went for countless holidays and is the receptacle of many good memories. Most of my maternal ancestors are buried there, so it will always have a special place in my heart. I know every street and every shop in the old part of the city and I made a fool of myself at the bookstore there in 2005 as I could not count my euros - introduced five years earlier, but I was busy counting Australian dollars during that time - and was still familiar with the staff: one of these odd moments in life which are good subjects of conversation for years afterwards!.
Why not stay and have dinner at the Abbaye de Sainte-Croix on the outskirts of the city and enjoy the menu degustation at only 70euros. Bon appetit and bonne unit...
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.
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