On one of those November days when it feels like spring, with bright sunlight and 17°C temperature, we went to Bouzigues yesterday. Many of the traditional and more modern boats were moored in the small port next to the museum whose displays explain the industry and natural environment of the area around the Etang de Thau.
The wooden building on the right is a fishing hut now owned by the Association Voile Latine. The voile latine or vela latina in Catalan and Occitan is the triangular sail used along the coast from here to Catalunya on boats for sardine and anchovy fishing and for gathering clams and other shell fish in the sea-water lagoon between Bouzigues and Sète. I saw this tiled diagram of the terms used for the rigging on a wall in Sant Feliu de Guixols:
Because Occitan and Catalan are similar languages the same terms, with minor differences in spelling and pronunciation, are used in both regions.
One of the shell fish producers was leaving the port to work in the beds out in the lagoon, but in a much more modern motorised boat.
As we usually do when we’re in Bouzigues, we had lunch at Chez la Tchepe, a simple café where there are crates of raw shell fish, as well as cooked prawns and sea snails, at the counter. You make your choice, order bread, home-made mayonnaise and a bottle of wine and sit at tables in the sun, just across the road from the lagoon and in sight of the mussel and oyster beds, for the short wait until the shells have been opened for you.
We had oysters and mussels, a dozen of each. I’ve only recently discovered how much I like raw mussels and I’m making up for all the years when I’ve handed them over to Lo Jardinièr to enjoy! And, below, a plate of prawns and escargots de mer, sea snails, with mayonnaise.
And, of course, a bottle of Picpoul, white wine made in a small area between the Etang de Thau and Pézenas, which goes especially well with sea food. There seems to be a magical relationship between the agricultural produce of an area and the wine made nearby, something we’ve found in many regions and which is particularly true of Picpoul and shell fish. It was lunchtime and we were driving home, so it was helpful that the café keeps the cork for you so you can take home the wine that you can’t drink.
As we left Bouzigues we took a detour to the more industrial area where the shell fish are brought in from the lagoon, on tracks along these jetties and then on conveyor belts into the packing area. It’s an industry, but on a small, human scale.