We’re driving through the Charente Maritime district and it’s fair to say that the word of the day has to be “oyster”. This is a land of tidal flat salt marsh, but with a very specific, cultivated purpose: thousands of oyster beds, dug out as narrow trenches, square fields and rectangles of all sizes. We see but a narrow view along our way – Google maps provides a much more comprehensive picture – all the blue along the river, below. And that’s just what I could fit onto one screenshot! The French appetite for oysters knows no bounds – over 130,000 metric tonnes are gulped down each year.
Today’s amusing sight is a snuffly black pig, seen snouting through an oyster bed. If he knows a truffle pig and a champagne pig, they could work up a really good party….
We’re making our way towards Mornac-sur-Seudre an ancient village whose ancestry can be traced back to the days of Gallo-Roman times.
It was then an active fishing village with the river providing a gateway to surrounding towns. The huts if those days were slowly replaced with the mediaeval village that stands today.
Still with the same winding layout, all roads lead to the port, now a haven for cafes and restaurants and kids making the most of summer.
Still standing from the early days is the open air Market Hall, still trading, a market somedays, oyster trading others. Later it’s home to a pizza van and now, nests of hungry baby swifts, squawking for second breakfast.
There’s also a magnificent romanesque church, built in the 11th century, over a Merovingian shine. The Matrix didn’t make those names up, it seems.
The heat eventually forces a halt to explorations and to drinks in the shade. We spend a quiet late afternoon, venturing out in the cool of the evening for a dinner of galettes by the river.