I love the Camargue. It’s an area of Southern France that just about manages to keep mass tourism at bay. I rented a gorgeous house there this summer. We spent most of the time lounging around the pool, soaking in the sun and recharging our depleted batteries. In the evenings, we would head off to explore the area and get something to eat. Our neighbouring towns were properly local and didn’t much cater for outsiders.
I found a place online called the Secret Garden. I warned the owner that there were ten of us and he seemed fine with this. First impressions were not great. It looked like a dump. In fact, were it not for the secret garden not being an actual secret, we would have left. Instead we made our way to the back and into said garden.
We ordered drinks, then food, and all was well. The drinks arrived as the garden slowly filled up with other diners, mostly local. After an hour or so we noticed that other tables were getting their food and we weren’t. I queried this with the waitress and she said it was just coming. Three quarters of an hour later, with other tables onto their puddings, we gave up. It seemed that the real secret of this garden was that we would not get our food anytime soon. We paid for our drinks and left.
I drove us all to a nearby village where there was a sweet little bar that served food. When we arrived however, the bar was closed, and the entire population was on the streets holding giant boards and standing behind thick makeshift railings. We couldn’t understand what was going on? We got some drinks at a temporary bar and were about to explore when we heard it. First some whooping, then a clattering on stone, followed by the rising roar of the crowd. I turned to look in the direction of the noise to see five long horned bulls rampaging down the street towards me with about eight locals on horseback in rapid pursuit.
Everyone else in our group jumped behind a railing but I found myself rooted to the spot, gripped by a combination of adrenaline and stubborn curiosity. I heard my wife screaming at me. I saw light glint off of one of the bulls’ horns. A local man gestured frantically at me. And then they were on me. At the very last minute, some subconscious mechanism forced my body into an arc, allowing the nearest bull’s horn to pass within an inch of my chest. I could smell its sweat. Then it was over. The bulls charged past. The horses surged after them and all was suddenly quiet again.
“Shall we call it a night?” Asked my wife. Sometimes it’s best to just stay in.