Île d’Oléron

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 multitude 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 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, criss crossing the wadden sea.

Traditional oyster farmers’ shacks
A not-so-traditional oyster farmer
More shacks with stacks of oyster shell buckets
Not much happening during low tide – until the barges bring in the harvest with the tide
Countless of buckets of shells

A canal leading to the pier at low tide. The bridge to the main land is seen in the background
Mud flats with marooned sail boat
The big ‘Goulebeneze’ also sits high & dry
Colorful flags to mark the different oyster beds
Such a fun place! The perfect spot for lunch – with oysters and Muscadet for openers, naturally
Quiet the eclectic decoration …
… might this be a fish place?
Main course: maquereaux meunières for both of us 
Obviously, it was tasty!
Meanwhile, the tide was returning (remember that stranded sail boat?) 

Even big ‘Goulebeneze’ is afloat again
And with the tide hectic activity returns to the pier
These ‘bags’ are used for the commercial raising of oysters. The spats or larvae are seeded into the bag’s mash texture, where they mature. Bags with fully grown oyster are returned to the pier from the tidal beds, to be cleaned and sorted by size
A seeded bag with baby oysters
The processing is hard work
Just before we left, I found this cuttlefish bone on the pier
This concluded, quiet 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. 
Beach Season, Yeah!
Fort Boyard, however, proved to be allusive.
It’s barely discernible against the overwhelmingly blue horizon
We were surprised, 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. 

2 thoughts on “Île d’Oléron

  1. Das glaub´ ich dir! Toller Bericht und phantastische Bilder!!
    Hätte nicht gedacht, dass zwischen Ebbe und Flut ein so grosser Unterschied ist.
    Der Fischteller sieht sooooo köstlich aus …
    Und wie man sieht, hat er wohl auch sehr gut “gemundet”!
    Barry sieht so cool aus mit dem total “abgenagten” Grätenrest in der Hand!!!
    Ein “Hoch” auf alles Essbare aus Meer, See oder Fluss. Love it too.


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