Istres, Bouches-du-Rhône, France

Istres is a French commune, sub-prefecture of the department of Bouches-du-Rhône, in the region Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. It is the capital of the district of Istres, of the canton of Istres and the seat of the Istres-Ouest-Provence territory of the metropolis of Aix-Marseille-Provence.

Framed by the Etang de Berre and the Etang de l’Olivier, the town is on the edge of the Crau plain and near the Alpilles massif, the Camargue and the Mediterranean coast. It is rewarded with four flowers in the flower towns competition by the Council of Flowered Towns and Villages of France. Aeronautical city by the establishment of a major air base, it has also been able to develop an important sporting activity with the presence of several clubs in professional championships at the national level.

Istres is located in the South of France, in the west of Provence in the department of Bouches-du-Rhône, of which it is one of the sub-prefectures. The town occupies a territory both bordered by the north-west shore of the pond of Berre, one of the largest bodies of water in Europe and the plain of Crau, the only steppe in Western Europe.

Its location is approximately 45 km west of Marseille, 60 km south-east of Avignon, 20 km south-west of Salon-de-Provence, 10 km north of Martigues and 45 km east of Arles. It is also near the Alpilles Regional Natural Park and the Camargue Regional Natural Park.

At the confluence, Camargue, Crau and the Mediterranean, nestled between hills and ponds, Istres and its 43,000 inhabitants welcome you! Catering and accommodation offer a set where everyone can find quality services at prices that suit them. Istres has developed a sports and leisure complex. The town was also twice elected “Most sporting city in France” in 1989 and 2000. On the competition side, several clubs in the city play among the national elite.

The cultural aspect of the city also makes its reputation as evidenced by its partnership with Marseille Provence European Capital of Culture 2013 or its Educational and Cultural Center (the CEC), with around twenty establishments including a Maison de la Danse, a Conservatory of Music, Computer Science, a Media Library… The well-known Olivier Theater offers its public a quality season and events in the city follow one another throughout the year: fairs, traditional celebrations such as that of the Shepherds, the Féria, Saint-Jean but also the Nuits d’Istres, St Patrick or even the famous festivals of Istres at the beginning of August… In short, impossible to be bored in Istres!

Istres, an aeronautical city, deserves, and rightly so, the designation of historical aerodrome n ° 1 in France. the city hosts a major Air Force base, by its size, 45 km outskirts, 2,300 hectares in area, a 5 km track (the longest in Europe) and by its geostrategic location.

Let us add a flowery and green environment (city of 4 flowers), magnificent sites, a remarkable Old Medieval Center with its suite of squares, renovated facades and a Contemporary Art Center with prestigious exhibitions.

Without forgetting the water jet of the Olivier pond, located more than 80 meters from the edge in the Castellan cove, which reaches a record height of 50 meters. A huge liquid flag, it embodies the ambition and vitality of a city that respects its environment and looks to the future.

From the Paleolithic, the site of Istres was occupied by nomadic tribes. The first traces of activities date back to the final Magdalenian, around 10,000 BC. BC with the occupation of the Cornille shelter, a rock shelter on the left bank of the Sulauze valley. Years later, at the end of the Neolithic, around 4000 BC., a civilization of fishermen and hunters settled on the hill of Miouvin which overhangs the north of the pond of the Olive tree.

In the vi th century BC. a small agglomeration is founded on the oppidum of Castellan, in the south of the pond of the Olive tree and not far from the current city. The place will remain occupied until the dawn of the Middle Ages.

In the x th century, the current old center takes shape around a stately fortress. Thus, a city which then bears the name of Ystro, appears for the first time in a charter of Conrad the Pacific, king of Burgundy and Provence. The document specifies that the city has a castle (castrum) and that it is liable for certain sums for goods owned by the abbey of Montmajour. From this period, Istres will gradually be built around this feudal nucleus surrounded by ramparts.

In February 1790, the elections designated Joseph-Laurent Buech as the city’s first mayor. The Oversight Committee is hereby established in 1793. He is recruited partly among farmers simple, sometimes illiterate, and his institution mark somehow democratic climax of the Revolution.

Contemporary period
Istres owes its first industrial development to the soda and fertilizer factories in the Rassuen pond in 1808, and to the aviation school established in 1917 which has today become one of the largest air bases in France. Félix Gouin was elected mayor of Istres in 1923, he kept this mandate until 1958, except for the period of the Vichy regime during which he refused to grant full powers to Marshal Pétain. A statesman, in 1946 he became the first president of the provisional government of the French Republic after General de Gaulle.

From the 1970s, the development of the industrial complex of Fos-sur-Mer and the creation of a new agglomeration will also allow an increase in the rate of growth of the city. This growth will result in the rapid urbanization of new districts between the historic center and the hamlet of Rassuen, in particular generating significant demographic change, the number of inhabitants tripling in about thirty years. The arrival of new housing estates will also lead to the creation of numerous facilities such as the educational and cultural center (CEC) and a multitude of sports facilities. In 1984, Istres was chosen by Gaston Defferre, then Minister of the Interior, to become a new sub-prefecture within the Bouches-du-Rhône department. This appointment was in competition with the municipality of Martigues and it took place following the industrial and demographic evolution of the territory, revealing new needs.

Since the 2000s, renovation operations at various scales have been carried out in the city center in order to improve its attractiveness. In 2001, the Palio arenas were inaugurated on the site of the old arenas. This development operation also allows the opening of a new bus station near the Louis Pasteur college to replace the one located in the Carmes sector. In 2004, the Sainte-Famille churchis inaugurated. Construction of the Victor Hugo underground car park will also be carried out under the forecourt. In 2008, a water jet with a height of 50 meters was installed on the Olivier pond in order to increase the tourist activity of the city.

In 2013 the Cours Jean Jaurès and the area around the Porte d’Arles were completely pedestrianized, a carousel was installed and terraces were fitted out. The nearby tourist office was also rehabilitated during the same period. In December of the same year a new town hall was inauguratedin accordance with the will of the municipality to merge in the same place the services of the former mayor then shared in two different places. Built near the Olivier pond on the site of the former André-Noël gymnasium, this operation includes the redevelopment of the banks of the pond, Sainte-Catherine park and the creation of an esplanade. In 2014, the town was classified as a classified tourist resort. In July 2017 the large free park Dinosoaur’Istres located on the hill of Castellan opens its doors to visitors.

The Old Town
The old town, formerly fortified, was built on a limestone bed rich in fossilised oysters. It formed a hill with an oval base (approximately 250m by 188m), stretching from north to south, with a central peak rising 30m above sea level. This village perched on a rocky hilltop is typical of Mediterranean rural settlements, around which the town of Istres was built. Surrounded by the medieval past of our beautiful town. The first written records appeared in the 10th century, in 944 to be precise.

From the Porte d’Arles, built between 1771 and 1773 to replace the collapsed gate in the ramparts, to the church of Notre Dame De Beauvoir, located at the top, you walk through the picturesque narrow streets and squares of old Istres. Discover the specific features of old Istres, the construction methods used for the houses, the history and the legends that surround the town, and the belvedere and church of Notre Dame de Beauvoir, which dominates the whole town.

Heritage & Monuments
Istres’s town centre is home to historical and tourist attractions which combine tradition and modernity. From the built heritage retracing the history of our beautiful town to recently installed works of art, there are so many monuments and so much heritage to discover during your visit to Istres.

Chapel Saint-Michel
At the top of the Hill Saint-Etienne, lies the Saint Michel (751-987) chapel where is traditionally celebrated midsummer every year.The Chapel Saint Michel is placed as a lookout on the plateau also called “Volturno”. Its renovation was undertaken in 1989 by the “Estevenoun” association, the Rotary Club of Istres and other local associations. The new chapel was opened by a mass given by Fr. Abdon DONAIN June 23, 1993, on the occasion of the Saint John the Baptist. At the foot of this Chapel, a breathtaking view awaits you… The two ponds and many istreennes hills are at your feet in this place full of history.

Chapel Saint-Étienne
The chapel Saint-Étienne (or Saint-Symphorien) is located on the Hill of the same name. Erected at an altitude of 116 metres near the plateau called “Vulturno”, it overlooks the étang de Berre, that of the olive tree and a sector to which it gave its name: the Saint-etienne area. Is accessed through the aptly-named “path Stephen ‘s” leaving the “path of the Tour de l’Etang” after a very beautiful oratory.It is a place full of history.

Indeed, for many centuries all istreens roamed the “Chemin de Saint-Etienne” once per year during the traditional “Recampado” organised on 22 August. This procession, followed by a mass and a meal outdoors on the site of the Chapel, commemorated the vow made in 1720 when the “great plague”. While the epidemic was severely Marseille and its surroundings, all the inhabitants of the village had promised to honour each year Saint-etienne if their sector was spared. This Chapel, located near the vault Saint-Michel, a spectacular view awaits you… Anxious to give life to one of heritages, among the oldest and the most symbolic of the town of Istres, Saint Etienne Renaissance association is working on its restoration.

Chapel of Saint Sulpice
This religious 9th century chapel is a very pure Romanesque style. This is one of the oldest in the region. Its Bell was also called Sainte-catherine. It has a lantern of the dead. The Chapelle St-Sulpice reveals the former Istres, as Oppidium du Castellan, an ancient place Celto-Ligure which overlooks the étang de L’olivier. The chapel Saint-Sulpice is a major building of the Romanesque Provence and is classified since 1942 to the supplementary inventory of Historic Monuments.

Today, the chapel has to promote artists and amateur practices in organizing exhibitions around the arts and Visual arts. It offers throughout the year a programme of exhibitions of artistic practices in a spirit of openness on contemporary art.These exhibitions, bringing together professionals and amateurs, are aimed at the broadest audience. The beauty and the acoustics of the place also invite arts of gesture, poetry and song to cross their respective creations.Each exhibition in its staging is designed to resonate with this exceptional place and return the echo of a balance maintained between art and architecture.

Church Notre Dame de Beauvoir
Registered historical monument by Decree of 14 October 1997, the church Notre Dame de Beauvoir is certainly building by its massive appearance (buttresses on the front) is noticeable by far. Called again «Belveyre» or «Beauvezer» (although see), said more “to the scope of the angels and men. It is true that the panorama is magnificent. It is a parish church, built in the provencal Romanesque style and dedicated to Notre Dame de Beauvoir.

Flag of Grignan
Site registered historical monument. Built around 1575, this small castle was originally a hunting venue. It belongs to first in the family to Craponne, then until 1853, to the counts of Grignan. Presumably, the oldest part was restored under Louis XV, which she wears the style. The other, style Louis XVI is 1792. Now owned by the town of Istres and used as a reception site, it was in last place, the property of Mr André Turcat, the famous Concorde test pilot.The flag of Grignan hosts every year the Nuits d’istres festival.

The door of Arles
The portal of Arles was built between 1771 and 1773 to the location of the ancient gate of the collapsed walls, by the master masons Jean Tabusteau of Istres and François Peytrau de St Mitre with stones from a local quarry. Slightly concave in shape, its anterior surface of great sobriety, is decorated with two flower garlands. The arch rests on two pillars and his Keystone is decorated with a coat of arms of Louis XV style. A great short ledge at the top of the monument.

Queen Jeanne Tower and Chapel
Situated on the edge of la Crau, on the edge of the Lake of the same name, at 10 Km from the centre of Istres, it enjoys a natural setting of quality. Built in the XIV century, it will serve as a military post. A garrison there will be installed by William II of Baux, Lord of Istres and Entressen is a large square with machicolation, Tower called “Tower of surveillance”.A gem of a small Gothic Chapel is nearby.

The chapel Immaculate Conception of Entressen
The chapel of Entressen, also referred to as the chapel of the Immaculate Conception, welcomes the spring of poets, literary and poetic event for several years. It is also a place of exhibition.It is located near the Town Hall annex, on the Avenue de la Crau.

Centre for Contemporary Art
ACC is located in the most beautiful Mansion from the ancient Center renovated in the 18th century during the reign of Louis XV, its construction is earlier than the 17th century.Its programming is organized according to an annual rate of three exhibitions with major objectives support to the young creation, the diffusion of contemporary art and art education, and relies, essentially, on painting, drawing, illustration and the question of the place of the figure in the art of today.Looking for partnerships with cultural structures intermunicipal and regional, other centres of art in France and Europe, the meeting disciplines and artists are at the center of a carrier synergy of creativity and sharing.Multiple cultural actions complement this programming (courses, conferences, debates…). Guided tours of exhibitions are achievable on reservation.

The Olivier pond & its water jet
The etang de l’Olivier is a central place in Istres, a landscaped jewel in the town. A 220 hectare lagoon, linked to the etang de Berre by the Cascaveau canal, the étang de l’Olivier and its pedestrian footpath, is perfect for relaxation and a stroll, whatever time of year. Located in the heart of the town, the lagoon is surrounded by various tourist attractions, such as the Saint Sulpice Chapel, with its excellent exhibitions, the Mediterranean Garden and the dinosaur hill, Dinosaur’Istres. The big events take place on the banks of the lagoon: the jeudis étoilés, fireworks, ‘faites du sport’…

The ship of Suffren
Registered as historical monuments on July 23, 2009, this stone vessel lies on the banks of the etang de Berre, on the back of the nautical base of clear hours.By erecting this monument on the cliff of Saint-Pierre (then name) around 1785, the Roch of Regis Jesuit wished to pay tribute to his kinsman, the Bailli de Suffren bold who became famous on the seas. This Rock long 23 meters wide by 5 meters and 6.50 metres heavily degraded, it is today difficult to trace the engraving of François-Denis born (circa 1795), which inspired Roch of Regis to shape his work.Premises owners, the cave of the Régis Abbot and the bastide covering the underground Church (Chapel St Pierre) nearby, the Regis, having no seed, Laurent de Suffren, who inherited the property of his brothers-in-law. Married Marguerite-Jeanne of Regis January 17, 1748, Laurent de Suffren, Salon Knight, inherited property that had at Istres Regis, whose kinship with the bailiff is not established.The corniche of Suffren, mas de Suffren at Entressen, yet maintain the memory of this illustrious family in our city.

The water jet
The jet of water from the pond of the olive tree, located in more than 80 metres from the seafront in the Cove of the Castellan, reached a record height of 50 meters. Huge flag liquid, it embodies the ambition and the vitality of a city respectful of its environment and turned towards the future. It also helps to facilitate the oxygenation of the pond of the sole Olivier in France!Technical innovation the water jet is installed on a chassis of 6 metres, surrounded by 50 cm below the level of the water for a better integration in the pond. This metal structure, stainless steel, weighs 2200 pounds. The water column is powered by a pump with a power equivalent to 125 horsepower, 3.5 meters under water. Aesthetic prowess the water jet is lit the night by a beam of 14 projectors. 8 projectors diffuse white light directly in the column. 6 projectors installed on the float Alternatively diffuse red, green or blue light. In numbers average height of the Jet: 50 meters water output speed: 120 km/h flow rate: 80 litres/second pump with a total output of 92,000 watts of lighting power: 2100 watts

Entressen & Crau
Nowadays, a fully-fledged district of the town, it was once the resort of choice for Marseille residents. The village grew around the many mas, or farms, in this part of La Crau and is now the farming district. Foin de Crau hay is produced here. Located immediately by the Crau plain, Entressen originally developed due to its lagoon. People spoke of the ‘Oasis in La Crau’. Therefore, traces of ancient sheepfolds have been found and the Greeks and Romans appreciated the green environment. The village’s geographical position has always been important in its development. A route linking Arles and Martigues passed Entressen. A watchtower was built there in the 14th century which was used as a toll booth: la Tour de la Reine Jeanne, which is 16.40m tall. The walls were built from limestone stones extracted from the surrounding hills. Since 1998, this tower has been listed as an historic monument.

The modern-day village of Entressen was built following the construction of the train station (closed to travellers in 1938) on the Avignon-Marseille line in the middle of the 19th century. Some mas, or, farmhouses already existed, and many other, typical of Entressen, were built. Today, Entressen is focused on agriculture and is a fully-fledged district of the beautiful town of Istres, on the Crau plain.

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The Crau plain, the only steppe biome in Western Europe, accounts for a large part of the town’s variety in flora and fauna. Actually, nearly ¾ of the bird species in France can be found there. It is located on a migration route, which makes it an ideal site for bird watching and contemplation. Extensive grazing by flocks of sheep over the centuries created a specific vegetation: Coussol, which has now broken down and reduced, making the dry Crau. The northern part of La Crau is the wet Crau, where a famous hay is grown, the first animal feed to be given a PDO, the foin de Crau hay. The Craponne canals allowed the northern part of the Crau plain to be cultivated, resulting particularly in the famous Crau hay. Typical of Provençal culture, foin de Crau hay is the only non-food product with a PDO label. The hay bales are wrapped with a red and white strip, which makes it possible to identify them.

Extremely well-known for its exceptional nutritional values, it is a natural food which is palatable, nourishing, balanced and rich in minerals. More than 220 farmers produce PDO Foin de Crau hay thanks to water from the Durance brought via the canals.

Aeronautical town
The town developed in parallel with its air base 125 Charles Monnier, a highly strategic site, vital for the French Air Force. A world-famous site, with the largest runway in Europe, it continues to actively participate in the prestige of the town. Flying took off in Istres in 1920, with the exploits of numerous long-distance and competition pilots, including Hélène Boucher and Marcel Doret. In 1950, alongside the strategic military base, the flight test centre (Centre d’Essais en Vol) was established, providing Istres with an industrial vocation. It was the site of many first flights and records.

The aviation training centre, 1917 -1940
It was established in Crau in Mas du Tube in May 1917. Renowned worldwide, it has a top rate of success: 2,770 pilots qualified for the war between 1917 and 1918.

The great long-distance flights
During the 1930s they were legendary in Istres. The most significant was Mermoz’s flight. In January 1933, he successfully completed a return journey across the South Atlantic, from Istres to Buenos Aires, at the controls of the ‘Arc-en-Ciel’.

The flight test centre
For many years, Istres has been the site of choice for record attempts and test flights. Within this complex, official flight and development tests for air units, engines, and civil and military prototypes are carried out, for both state and private clients. The Dassault Aviation test flights take place in Istres: Mystère 10, 20, 50, Jaguar, Alphajet, Mirage F1 and 200, Atlantique 2 and Rafale.

Air base
Built around a spacious aeronautical platform, operational 24 hours a day, the Air base 125 ‘Charles Monier’ Istres, is distinguished by its work between forces, as well as its increasingly inter-ministerial and international dimension. It is often described as ‘extraordinary’ because of its sheer size, with a 5,000 metre runway, the longest in Europe, 500 buildings and a surface area of 2,100 hectares; and also because of the diversity in the units it works with: 5,000 people, including 4,000 from the Ministry of Defence, between 70 civil, military, industrial or state units or bodies. A nuclear base, it is the only site that has the complete airborne nuclear deterrent: the improved medium-range air-to-ground missile (ASMP-A), the Mirage 2000 N carriers, and the Boeing C-135FR tanker aircraft.

The starting point for many international operations, the leading military air base in France receives all types of aircraft: 30,000 passengers per year and 7,500 tonnes of freight, NATO an EU combat aircraft convoys. Today the Istres aerodrome, which the French Air Force uses mainly, is an essential tool in the defence of our country. The Istres air base is very well established in an exceptional environment. It is particularly active, being the site for various operational missions, at the heart of French defence.

Cultural facilities
Istres has many cultural facilities. Among these, we can cite the importance of the educational and cultural center “Les Heures Claires” (CEC), resulting from an urban planning operation designed by the Montrouge workshop in the 1970s 52. The objective of the structure was to offer new places devoted to culture but also to education and sport.

Thus on the CEC site are currently the following cultural establishments:

The inter-municipal media library.
The game library.
La maison de la danse, whose objective is to promote access to dance for all audiences. The structure houses several studios and dedicated associations.
The conservatory of music, complementary to the house of dance.
The house for all, offering cultural and sporting activities. It has more than 1,500 members registered in more than 50 workshops.

Theaters, cinema theaters
The Théâtre de l’Olivier, a 574-seat theater located in the city center.
Espace 233, a 233-seat theater located at the CEC.
L’Usine, a set of two concert halls (1400 seats) and several rehearsal studios.
The multipurpose hall, a room that can accommodate shows and exhibitions on a more punctual basis.

In addition, the city also has a cinema with four screens, located in the city center.

Museums and exhibition
The Archaeological Museum René Beaucaire, located in a mansion of the xviii th century. It presents archaeological objects from the Gulf of Fos including a large collection of amphora and other ceramics. Indeed, the gulf was the site of an ancient port (around -100 BC – around 700).
The Center for Contemporary Art, housed since 1993 in a mansion of the xviii th century the city center, it offers three annual exhibitions.
The Saint Sulpice chapel, which is now converted into an exhibition hall.

Art in the town
Istres has an ambitious cultural and artistic policy. The public areas in Istres have been taken over by internationally renowned artists. You can discover magnificent works all over the region: Daniel Buren’s Grande Diagonale, Ben signs or the Art’bribus. Discover Daniel Buren’s monumental work ‘La grande Diagonale, work in situ in two colours, with black and white’ which stretches over 160 metres on the esplanade Bernardin Laugier, in front of Istres town hall. It is an alignment of 57 pillars from 114 to 505 cm in height, which play with the slope and the length of the esplanade.

In Istres, there is an urban artistic trail where internationally renowned artists have given a whole new look to the bus shelters. Creations in the living environment, part of everyday life, which give everyone access to art.

Two Istrean sites have been chosen for a panel designed by BEN, a globally renowned artist, known for his writing. One panel is situated near the Pavillon de Grignan and reads ‘La Pensée est libre’ (‘Thought is Free’). On the other, on Marie Mauron Square, the artist has written the words ‘Etre soi meme’ (‘To Be Oneself’) on one side and ‘La différence est une chance’ (‘We Are Lucky to Have Difference’) on the other. These panels are sure to intrigue passers-by and lead people to reflect on their meanings for themselves. It’s also an opportunity for a selfie.

An extraordinary world where art takes you on an unusual adventure. Take the paths through the park near the etang de l’Olivier and meet these twelve extraordinary animals: Safa the Giraffe, Ibérico the Bull and, of course, Michka the Bear! This artistic zoo gives pride of place to local artists who have given the animals a new look. The panels provide lots of information, but you can use the QR codes, like the NFC tags, with your smartphone to continue the adventure.

In the Castellan cove, on the etang de l’Olivier, you can admire Daniel Zanca’s floating sea urchins. A series of hollow fibreglass sea urchin sculptures, 2.20 m in diameter, produced in a very realistic manner, have been installed on the lagoon.

Cultural heritage
Following the participation of the city of Istres in the European capital of culture Marseille-Provence 2013 and as part of the inauguration of a new town hall in December 2013, the municipality offers Daniel Buren to install a permanent work on the esplanade adjoining it. Entitled La Grande Diagonale, it represents a diagonal alignment of 57 pillars in the colors of the commune. The space is crossed by water channels which take their sources in four resurgence basins created by Pierre Luu. Three works by the artist Ben have also taken over public space as part of this same participation.

Fishing & Tranitional sports
The preserved ecosystem is formed of reed beds and small sapphire coloured cliffs which shelter many birds and fish. As this freshwater lagoon is very well populated, it is a favourite among anglers. There are mullets, eels, carp, roach, perch, pike perch and pike. Please note, a national fishing permit is required to be able to fish here. Typical sports from the region being practised on the lagoon, such as Provençal jousting, a traditional sport which requires strength and skill, or traditional rowing.

Events and festivities

The feria d’Istres
Istres is a member of the Union of French bullfighting cities, it organizes every year during the month of June a feria in the arenas of the Palio.

The feast of the shepherds
A tradition of the country of Crau which takes place from the end of November until the beginning of December. With a transhumance with the sheep and the Rove (goat breed) of the Trouillard family, breeding based at La Massuguiere in Istres.

Les Nuits d’Istres
Les Nuits d’Istres is a live music festival that takes place every year at the beginning of July. It takes place in the grounds of the Pavilion of Grignan.

Les Élancées
A festival of gesture arts organized in February. In 2015 will be the eighteenth edition.

Starry Thursdays
Since summer 2015, every Thursday in July and August, the city offers istréens and summer visitors a night market of creators as well as a themed fireworks display.

Natural heritage
Part of the Coussouls de Crau National Nature Reserve is present in the town. In addition, there are many pine forests in the town despite increasing urbanization.

Some curious animals have made their home on the banks of the etang de l’Olivier and on the Castellan hill. Dinosaur’Istres, is a park where you really can walk among the great figures of the Dinosaurs. Dinosaur’Istres is an exceptional site with around twenty life-size species represented along a route following their chronological appearance on earth, accompanied by information panels on each species and on general themes. Dinosaur’Istres offers a fun and informative walk for all ages. Directly linked to the etang de l’Olivier, you can also see Daniel Zanca’s floating sea urchins on the water, stroll through the Art Zoo, the artistic bestiary, or admire the exhibitions at the Saint Sulpice chapel.

Pond of Berre
Extending over 15,500 ha, the lagoon and its 80km shoreline are delightful. Surrounded by low limestone hills, it is connected to the sea by the Caronte canal. It has a surface area of 155 km², making it one of the largest inland ‘seas’ in Europe. Now being used fully, the etang is the first choice for locals and holidaymakers, particularly in summer, with water sports, beaches, and all the facilities for a great day with friends and family.

The etang de Berre has always attracted people, as evidenced by the excavations at Saint-Blaise, the Flavien bridge, the medieval town of Miramas-le-Vieux and the 17th century enclosure at Port-de-Bouc. From the end of the 19th century, the traditional economy based on vines, olives, fishing and salt production was upset by industrialisation. The break between the north and south is clear: The south and south east have sacrificed a lot for industrialisation, while the north and west, (where Istres is located) have retained a more familiar character, with alternating pine forests and cultures.

Long known for its pollution levels due to industrialisation, the etang de Berre is gradually returning to its former glory. The efforts undertaken over a number of years, in terms of the environment and ecology, such as the creation of an interest group for the rehabilitation of the etang de Berre, are bearing fruit. Indeed, the increase in salinity and the improvement in water quality have allowed the return of many noble fish (sole, sea bream, bass…) and the opening of many beaches.

A dynamic lagoon and an incredible playground for anyone who loves water sports! On this vast body of water, you can try lots of different activities. Istres has a marina with 200 mooring rings and a water sports centre on the same site, which add to the energy on the etang. So, you can experience the joy of the water, with windsurfing, dinghy, catamaran, jet ski, water ski, rowing and live aboard boats.

The banks of the etang de Berre are also a lovely place for a stroll. You can admire the largest inland sea in Europe and the marvellous landscapes, particularly on the ‘Istres: between town and country’ trail or the GR2013. You can walk along the shore in the shade of the pines and discover unspoilt coves.

Port of the Heures Claires
Port of craft over 200 rings. Facing East, the plateau of hours clear back-to-back, this site houses a nautical base to practice sailing and windsurfing to sailing on this vast body of water that is the etang de Berre. The terraces of the restaurants and the tranquillity of the place are much appreciated by walkers. The port is also a place of festivities: Smart water, adopted, departure of ballads guided boat in season.

Tags: France