Tough Guys on Horseback

The Rhone delta might as well be Bangladesh. It’s flat, salty, and mostly marshland and seems to go on for ever. If global warming is a reality, and there’s even a moderate rise in sea level, the place will disappear. This is bull-breeding country and the Gardiens – Camargue cowboys – are the ones who do the ‘Rawhide’ bit with lariat and pointed stick, supplying the arenas with both fighting bulls and those bred for entertainment, leather and meat. This is a real job – not just a divertimento for tourists. In every restaurant in the capital, Saintes Maries de la Mer, there’s ‘pavé de taureau’ on offer, or bull steak, along with the obligatory gypsy flamenco and guitar music. 
I rather think that this was for the tourists, however. I was reminded of the church fete…

There’s even a stuffed bull’s head in the supermarket butcher – see above. In case you’re wondering, bull meat tastes just like most other good steak varieties – dependent on the cut – but the impression is given that it’s wild and strongly flavoured. It’s usually offered rare-the meat conferring the strength of the bull on the consumer– psychologists might have a field day with this – perhaps it’s a bit like sheikhs and young deflowered virgins.
It seems that this is quite a religious community – the cross of the Camargue represents faith, hope and love, and is everywhere from the black-haired gypsy girls’ earrings, to the churches.

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