Gard (30240) Population: 8,421 Altitude: 1 m
Le Grau-du-Roi is a seaside resort town and a working fishing town on the Mediterranean coast. This is a very popular seaside destination in the Summer, so an early arrival is recommended for less-painful parking. The town center, divided by the Rhone-Sète canal, has a tightly packed grid of narrow streets full of shops and restaurants.
The right bank (north) part of town is mostly residential, including vacation apartments and holiday rentals. There are very few shops here, but several restaurants along the canal, from the pivoting bridge down to the 1 9th-century lighthouse.
The Grau-du-Roi tourist office [our photo] is down at the seaside end of the right bank, and around the corner, facing the sea.
The Grau-du-Roi fishing port (port de pêche) is also on the right bank, but up at the inland end, past the bridge.
The left bank (south) part of town begins with the canal, lined with restaurants and shops, including the picturesque Café de Paris [our photo]. The narrow streets just south of the left bank Quai Colbert are packed with even more shops and more restaurants ..., and more people.
Markets. The weekly market of Le Grau-du-Roi is in this left bank area, at Place de la République, every Tue, Thur and Saturday.
Another year-round open-air market is held every Mon, Wed and Friday at the Boucanet commercial center a few blocks north of the canal.
During July and August there's a market every Wednesday morning at the Port Camargue, in front of the Camargue 2000 commercial center.
Le Grau-du-Roi shops cater to just about anything you can think of, with a lot of clothing boutiques, gift shops and local Provencal and Camargue items shops.
There are a couple of major supermarkets at the town as well, for serious food shopping.
On the north side of the canal the Plage Rive Droite begins near the lighthouse, in front of the tourist office, and extends for over 1-1/2 km in a wide sandy arc, up past Le Boucanet towards La Grande-Motte (our photo).
South of the canal, the Plage Rive Gauche curls around a bay-like area, past the town's aquarium to the curiously named Plage Nord at the south end. This is at the northern side of the famous Port Camargue marina.
Espiguette Beach (Plage de l'Espiguette) is a bit more isolated, about 7 km south of Le Grau-du-Roi center and south of the Port Camargue. This wide sandy beach is nearly 5 km long, fron an inlet just below Port Camargue and curving southeast past the Espiguette Lighthouse.
The extreme southeast end is reserved as a naturist beach (plage naturiste).
The first part of Ernest Hemingway's The Garden of Eden is set in Le Grau-du-Roi. He picked Le Grau-du-Roi for his honeymoon location with Pauline Pfeiffer, and mentioned the town in a 27 May 1927 correspondence with Maxwell Perkins:
"This is a fine place below Aigues Mortes on the Camargue and the Mediterranean with a long beach and a fine fishing port."
In the summer of 1927 Ernest and Pauline stayed at Le Grand Hotel Pommier, since turned into a restaurant. In December of 1949 visited the town again, this time staying ath the Hotel Bellevue et d'Angleterre, a two-star hotel still in business.
History of Le Grau-du-Roi
Roman artifacts have been discovered at Le Grau-du-Roi because of the Roman presence all along the Mediterranean coast. The town didn't actually exists until the 19th century.
The adjacent town of Aigues-Mortes was created in the 13th century and used by King Louis IX to launch the Crusades. The space between Aigues-Mortes and the sea was all marshland, and a canal was opened to the sea through the Etang de Repausset at Grau Louis, where the town of La Grande-Motte is now located.
NB. grau is a natural channel between a shallow lake and the sea.
In 1570 the Old Channel was destroyed by a storm and a new, more direct channel was opened from the walls of Aigues-Mortes to the sea at the current site of Le Grau-du-Roi. This was named the Grau du Roi (the King's Canal) in 1640, and was regularly improved over the next couple of centuries.
A fishing village at the coastal end of the canal grew into existence during this time, and was recognized as part of Aigues-Mortes in 1867; it became a separate commune and it's own town in 1879. The lighthouse in the village was built in 1828, a second lighthouse, at Espiguette, was built in 1867.
The Grau-du-Roi Tourist Office isn't in an obvious location, but it's not too hard to find. Go down the right bank (north side) of the canal, along Quai Général de Gaulle until you get to the seaside. Hook a right and you'll find a grand old building behind a fence facing the sea.
Market day: Sat, Thur, Wed.
Le Grau-du-Roi is full of restaurants, probably enough to handle the peak summer crowds. Seafood restaurants are plentiful, with very fresh ingredients. The restaurants along both sides of the canal through the town have dock at their front doors where the fresh seafood is offloaded.
Transportation Le Grau-du-Roi
There are 7 or 8 trips a day between Nîmes and Aigues-Mortes - Le Grau-du-Roi, with mode of transportation alternating between bus (car) and train (TER). Departure-arrival for either is at the railway station.
The southbound route is: Nîmes, Vauvert, Aigues-Mortes, Le Grau-du-Roi, with some small-village stops along the way on some of the schedules. The trip time between Nîmes and Le Grau-du-Roi is about 45 minutes by the train or about an hour on the bus; Aigues-Mortes and Le Grau-du-Roi are only 10 minutes apart.