We had a busy stay-at-home day today, with a great walk first thing in the morning and preparations in anticipation of our move to Périgueux this weekend. The next few days may bring rain, so we wanted to get the laundry done. Trying to find hanging space for three loads in our courtyard area was a challenge, but it was such a gorgeous day, even doubled up shirts dried very quickly.
Yesterday we undertook a field trip to the second largest island in France, the Île d’Oléron. The island itself and the bordering mainland coast, especially around the town of Marenne, is world famous for its commercial mollusk bivalve farming. Since the region is subject to tidal changes, there is also an enormous attraction for vacationers to go claim diggin’ at low tide. Bivalve hunting is very strictly regulated. The local authorities give the precise dimensions, to the millimeter, for each of the multitudes of clams, scallops, mussels and oyster species one might find.
Our excursion had a two-fold purpose. I wanted to see the sea, eat oysters and recall fond memories of oyster-eating trips to the French Atlantic coast. Barry’s objective was to catch a glimpse of the famous Fort Boyard, just off the island.
Île d’Oléron is an easy hour’s drive from Saintes and we arrived in Saint-Trojan-les-Bains, an oyster growing center at the southern tip of the island, just across from the Marenne, in good time for a pre-lunch stroll along the pier reserved for oyster fishers. It was low tide, so there wasn’t a whole lot of ocean to be seen, just vast expanses of mud flats with sieles or canals, crisscrossing the Wadden Sea.
There’s not much happening during low tide until the barges bring in the harvest with the next tide.
Countless buckets of oyster shells
Meanwhile, the tide was returning. Do you remember that stranded sailboat? And the “Goulebeneze” is afloat again, too.
And with the tide, hectic activity returns to the pier.
The processing of the oysters is hard work.
This concluded, quite comprehensively, the oyster part of our field trip. Off we go toward the opposite coast of Île d’Oléron, in search of Boyardville, from which location we hope to get a good view of Fort Boyard.
Fort Boyard, however, proved to be elusive. It’s barely discernible against the overwhelmingly blue horizon.
We were surprised to see, how busy the beaches & excursion boats were on a Wednesday afternoon in April. If it’s difficult to find a parking spot now – just wait till July!
Great for the local economy, though. Next time, we have to take a boat trip over to the fort, to get a proper impression. But it was fun to feel the sand between our toes and watch happy children build sand castles.