Descending the Rhone towards the Med., you arrive at Port-St-Louis, where, to avoid the bar at the river mouth, boats can lock out of the river into a large basin that gives access to the sea via a short canal into the Golf du Fos. There’s a boatyard there, shops and cafés in the village about a mile away, and a pizza van that calls every evening. It’s a convenient place to de-mast before ascending the Rhone, or to re-rig the boat before heading out to sea, and so there is often a little boating community of sailors pausing before the next leg of their voyages.
At Port-St-Louis the girls rapidly made new friends with Dutch and French children from other boats, and we taught the multi-lingual mob of kids to play Hot Rice and French cricket (“But why do you call it French cricket?” they asked - No idea). And one afternoon Anselmo, from Valencia, invited everyone to share a real paella, which he cooked on an enormous paellera, about two metres across, over a wood fire. He claimed to be a retired bullfighter. “Oh, sure he is” we doubted….but then he showed us his scars: he had definitely been a matador, unless he had had a series of run-ins with an industrial mower.
And, best of all, at Port-St-Louis the girls swam with dolphins. Well, just one dolphin: she was called Fanny, and lived in the basin and the Golf du Fos, all alone since her mate had died. She visited every new boat that arrived, and she also showed the tankers and salt-carriers the way into the harbour and oil refinery at Fos. In the basin, she would nuzzle our inflatable dinghies, hoping for a game. What she enjoyed most, though, was swimming in the basin with kids. She was happy even with half-a-dozen kids splashing around with her, and she even let them touch her. But the moment any adult got into the water, she was gone.