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Hiking the Petite Camargue from Europe’s Greenest Coastal Resort

La Grande Motte boasts 385 hectares of lawn and green space, over 43,000 trees, and 20 kilometres of pedestrianised pathways and trails that criss-cross and interconnect squares, avenues, seafront and port. Constructed with the good life in mind, it is not just a place to hang out in the summer, but a vibrant all-year-round town, boasting an enviable infrastructure and one of the healthiest environments in the Mediterranean - plus one of its largest marinas.

La Grand-Motte

There’s no denying La Grand-Motte’s uniqueness and originality. Like it or loathe it, it’s stunning architecture, conceived by Jean Balladur (Eduard Balladur’s brother), has been likened to a complex of futuristic Mayan pyramid temples or mirror images of Le Pic St Loup mountain situated to the north of Montpellier. Either way, it is a remarkable architectural achievement, boasting a system of terraces that allows maximum protection from the sun.

La Grande Motte was built in the mid-sixties to combat the rising trend in French holiday makers spending all their hard-earned French cash in resorts across the Languedocien border in Spain. It also made good use of a vast expanse of land that was surplus to wine-growing needs and simply too good to be left to Camargue bulls to graze upon. The ground was levelled using sand from hydraulic dredging; the port area to the west was excavated and the Ponant Lagoon on the east side deepened. Prior to planting the trees and green areas, the ground was washed in order to allow them to grow, so salty was the soil.

La Grand-Motte MArina

Nowadays, plants and minerals are in perfectly harmony, with green spaces covering one third of the town’s surface area. Tree species include stone pine, Aleppo pine, Leyland cypress, Common Alder, Russian olive tree, poplars, and palm trees among others. There are 31 hectares of shrubs, including mimosa, oleander, thyme, lavender and rosemary.

The range of species found here is constrained by the environmental conditions: arid summers, humid southerly winds and the drying effect of the northerly Mistral. Consequently, conifers and broad-leaved trees, shrubs, semi-ligneous perennial plants and annual climbers have been selected to suit these elements. 21,124 conifers and 6,834 broad-leaved trees have been planted since 1965.

Some of the buildings and walkways have been showing signs of wear and tear recently, which has resulted in a major investment by the town hall, especially along the quayside of the marina and along the vast esplanade.

The writer has known the Town since 1990 and has been a frequent visitor ever since. It really is the ideal place to ‘chill out,’ whether traveling alone, with friends or a partner or with the family and kids. There is quite simply something for everyone here. It is mid-market, and so not intimidating and gentrified like some other coastal resorts further to the east.

La Grand Motte is located on the Mediterranean coast, within easy access of both Montpellier airport (20 minutes drive) and Nimes airport (45 minutes drive). With La Petite and La Grande Camargue to its east, and Sète and Agde to its west, those who love the coast can enjoy its pleasures as well as spend time walking its coastal canal system.

See this walking holiday that uses La Grand Motte as its base: Hiking the Golfe du Lion

© The Enlightened Traveller 2007


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