Last weekend in January and - taking advantage of a lucky break in the winter weather in Provence - an opportunity for a quick spin on my RR of the tour of the Étang de Berre, the lagoon adjoining the oil refineries constructed to process oil bought by France from Iraq.
The area is a geological melting pot with numerous different types of rock; consequently the road is both interesting and challenging to motorbikes, there are sections of autoroute, including the Caronte viaduct over Martigues, ordinary N roads (route Nationale) and a very interesting section of particularly troubled geology between Istres and St Chamas where the road twists on under the shade of low pine trees along the shoreline of a thin isthmus. Both exciting to ride and pleasing to the eyes.
Alongside the autoroute, built in to a gravel pit at La Mède, is a trail bikes circuit of the terrain Moto Cross de la Fauconnière à Châteauneuf les Martigues, little MX bikes and riders racing through the dirt and flying through the air.
Also here are my photos of the Pont Flavian, the 1st century Roman bridge at St. Chamas. It seems to have survived for 2000 years because it solved a problem: how to cross the river Touloubre, neither the traffic nor the river were really enough to justify a more modern bridge. There are numerous cart wheel ruts as well as damage left by a German tank which was added to by an American truck a couple of years afterwards.. There's now a modern bridge and at last this pretty memorial to Lucius Donnus Flavos (son of Caius) has enough space around it to be appreciated.
St. Chamas the village also has an ancient aqueduct - and also a photo of one of the canal bridges in pretty Martigues, “The Venice of Provence”...