Category: Bouziques

“The Golden Girls” Loving France: Day 7-8 Sete, Beziers and Bouziques

Golden Girls on the Mediterranean side of France

Side trips from Uzes are now behind us. It’s time for the Golden Girls to hit the super highway and head for the Mediterranean coast of France.

Mediterranean side of France

The Mediterranean Side of France: Sete

The Venice of France
I couldn’t wait to show off Sete to my friends from North Carolina. After a week’s stay last year, I knew my beach-loving travel companions would like the place. Not only is the city itself of interest because of the canals, architecture, and fabulous seafood, also, the beaches outside the city are magnificent. We envisioned at least one full day in the sun being pampered by handsome waiters as we sunned ourselves at a private beach club.

Only one problem. Our days in Sete turned out to be cold and rainy.

Mediterranean side of France

Sete, France

Mediterranean side of France

Oh well, not to be disappointed because of the weather, we found plenty to do exploring Sete’s indoor market and nearby towns along the Mediterranean.

Mediterranean side of France

Mediterranean side of France

 

The Mediterranean Side of France: Bezier

Bezier is one of the oldest cities in France, tracing back to 535 BC. Only a few kilometers from the coast, Beziers was a Roman stronghold along the trade route from Provence to the Iberian Peninsula. It was the scene of a bloody massacre in the 13th century when Cathars, considered a heretic group by Catholics, were murdered — along with all other residents of the town– in a two hour battle. The leader of the crusade, when asked “how the warriors could tell Cathars from Catholics,” reportedly answered: “Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius” or “Kill them all and let God sort them out.”

Today Beziers is well known for the “Feria”, a 5-day bullfighting festival that draws over a million spectators each year to the town’s ancient arena. Gothic architecture and stately English gardens, also, lure visitors to step back into the past.

Mediterranean side of France

Beziers, France

Mediterranean side of France

Mediterranean side of France

The Mediterranean side of France: Bouziques

Bouzigues, a beachside town beside the L’Etang de Thau is well known for its fresh seafood– especially oysters

Mediterranean side of France

Bouzigues, France

From the narrow street that runs through Bouzigues, you can see miles of oyster beds that stretch into the Mediterranean .

Oysters in L’Etang de Thau are grown on posts designed specifically for maximizing the crop yield.

 

Mediterranean side of France

Another attraction in Bouziques is the many seaside restaurants. On a rainy day, however, most were closed for afternoon business.

Mediterranean side of France

Mediterranean side of France

Mediterranean side of France

Mediterranean side of France

The Mediterranean side of France: Getting There

Mustang Sally is the red 1996 Ford Mustang I’ve been blessed to drive in France. She belongs to my dear friend, Geoffrey, who has been the star character in many of my blog posts.

When I first arrived to set up my new life in France, Geoffrey made an offer I couldn’t refuse. We arrived at a lease agreement for the red car with black racing stripes. Now Mustang Sally is living in the underground car park near my apartment. She’s raring to go at a moment’s notice.

The trip down to Sete was no exception. Packed to the brim with suitcases, bags and hats, Sally proudly provided more than transportation down the super highway and scenic roads for my Carolina guests, she was our “touch of class.” I mean, how else would passerbys know The Golden Girls were around? She stood as a beacon wherever we landed.

Mediterranean side of France

Along the highways she hit the 120 KPH speed limit with no hesitation. It was at the many toll booths along the way that she showed her one malady. The driver side window is stuck closed.

After one or two stops, my travel companions and I had the tollbooth routine down flat. Sally would roll up to the gate while I was unbuckling my seatbelt; the front seat passenger would ready the change for the toll; I’d stretch as far as my arms and legs would reach to insert a ticket into the machine to add up the fare; I’d feed the fare into the meter; slam the door; buckle the seatbelt; and we’d speed off before the car behind us could blow its horn in total frustration.

This scenario repeated for most of the two-hour drive to Sete. We went the quickest route, rather than drive on the back roads. Likewise, the stops at Beziers and Bouziques were easy turns-offs from the super highway.

The Mediterranean side of France: Where to stay in Sete

One of my favorite things about the visit to Sete was the Airbnb apartment. Right in the center of town, facing the main canal, the location would please my friends, I was certain. Yes, they were thrilled with the apartment with two private bedrooms and an amazing view, as I suspected. They clicked immediately with our host, Nancy, and soon we were feeling right at home.

Mediterranean side of France

To view the Airbnb listing, click here.

The Mediterranean side of France: What to eat in Sete

There’s only one good answer for what to eat in Sete: seafood! One of the most “productive” fishing areas on the Mediterranean, the town is particularly well known for oysters, sardines and tuna. Restaurants line the streets along the harbor and they seem to serve similar dishes.

Grabbing a plate of raw oysters at the city market, along with a glass of wine or beer, is a treat I was determined to give myself.

Mediterranean side of France

The idea of “raw” didn’t go so well with the other Golden Girls, but they did taste “tielle” which is a local delicacy– octopus pie.

Mediterranean side of France

Another specialty from Sete is fish soup. It is a tomato-based, heavy fish broth served in bowls like chowder.

Mediterranean side of France

The best part of the soup is the croutons that float on top. But before you set the croutons off to sail, you smother the crunchy bits of toast with garlicky aioli, and cover them with flaky Parmesan cheese.

Fish soup from Sete can be purchased online from sites like Bien Manger (click here)

Mediterranean side of France

Helpful hint: Wherever you go

When driving in an unfamiliar place, especially if you don’t know the language, be sure to take note of where you park. It’s easy to get lost if you’re as absent-minded as I am! To insure you get back to the right place, take pictures of your parking spot and direction signs along the way.

Mediterranean side of France

Mediterranean side of France

Next stop: Port Vendres and Collioure

Mediterranean side of France

Click here for more about the Golden Girls’ Tour of France and Italy

Day 1-4 Uzès

Day 5-6 Nimes, Pont du Gard, Avignon

Who’s Got the World’s Best Oysters?

The Barefoot Blogger looked up “the World’s Best Oysters” and found a lot of answers. It’s the French, however, that believe theirs are the best … and they believe it with a passion.

The French are so passionate about their oysters, they consume more of the hard-shelled delicacies than they export. 

Along with enjoying the taste of an oyster, there’s a type of French “etiquette” about oyster eating. Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France tours and guest writer for the Barefoot Blogger’s has provided us with a guide.

The Art Of Eating An Oyster

Some Pearls of Wisdom

World's Best Oysters

World's Best Oysters

Oyster beds

Oysters farming is a thriving part of the culture and economy of the Étang de Thau (the Thau Lagoon between Sète and Bouzigues) in the Languedoc Roussillon and the picturesque town of Bouzigues produces the most sought-after oysters in Europe. That is because, due to the higher density of salt in the lagoon, they are considered much tastier than their ocean-produced counterparts.

World's Best Oysters

Bouziques, France

Even Bouzigues’ extensive oyster beds, however, are hard pressed to keep up with the worldwide demand. My theory is that the local population is consuming more than its fair share! it is not uncommon to see a glass of wine and 6 oysters consumed at the local indoor market as early in the day as breakfast

Myths and Misunderstandings

World's Best Oysters

City market oyster merchant in Sete

Oyster myths and misunderstandings abound and so I decided to educate myself by a trip to Bouzigues’ oyster museum (well worth the visit). Also I talked with local merchants and restaurant owners about oyster facts. What I learned is that not all oysters are created equal; there is quite a hierarchy. Yes, size does matter.

Oysters range in sizes from 1 to 6 or 7. Size one is the largest, yet the lowest in the taste “pecking order.” Nevertheless, baked ‘au gratin’ with parsley, garlic, butter and breadcrumbs it emerges triumphant. For the smaller, bluer-blooded relations, a size 3 or 4 simply demands to be consumed raw. Cremating them in an oven would be an unfortunate ending.

 More on that later. First, we need to know how to open – or shuck – the oyster.

Shucking an Oyster (and Leaving Your Fingers Intact)

World's Best OystersSpecial chain mail gloves are available for those wary of injuring your hands; but save your money. Instead, purchase a bottle of Languedoc white Picpoul de Pinet wine. For enjoying oysters, it’s a marriage made in heaven. It insures your oysters’ last moments are happy ones (it will still be alive, after all). Just follow these directions and shucking will prove a painless experience:

Wrap the oyster in a tea towel or cloth, the flatter shell facing upwards and the hinge pointing towards you.

Grip the oyster/shucking knife firmly and insert into the small hole located in the hinge. A short knife with a strong, blunt blade can substitute for an oyster knife.

Do not use a sharp kitchen knife. Twist the oyster knife until the shells snap apart (like turning the ignition key in a car). Then run the knife blade backwards and forwards along the upper shell in order to sever the muscle holding the two shells together.

Gently remove the top shell, taking care not to spill any of the liquid inside. It is a good idea to open the oysters over a bowl. Some people prefer to empty the liquid but to their surprise, as the oyster is alive, it will refill with water that it has been storing.

How To Savour Your Oyster

Now that you have successfully shucked your oyster, how should you eat it? Heated debate centers around this question: swallowed whole – or chewed first? No oyster aficionado would forego the subtle flavours (nut or cucumber for example, depending on season), which are released when the oyster is gently chewed.

What accompaniments should you serve with the oyster? Nothing at all, say the experts – especially given the tastiness of Bouzigues oysters.

World's Best Oysters

Oysters, French style

The North American tradition of adding horseradish or hot sauce is considered tantamount to manslaughter! However, French restaurants offer the options of simply adding a few drops of lemon or shallot vinegar, which will not detract from the natural flavours.  (Lemon originally was used to check if the oyster was alive: if alive it ‘cringes’ when the juice is applied.)

Oysters can live outside of water up to 10 days and are good travelers – producers from Bouzigues have exported their oysters all the way to China.

Oysters in water can live up to 20 years

Oysters are bisexual. Born first as males they produce sperm, then they become egg producing females and later switch back to being a male.

Oysters can release around 1 million eggs in one spawning season.

A rich source of vitamins, eating six oysters a day also meets the daily recommended intake of many minerals

What are the odds of finding a pearl in an oyster?

One in 12,000. If you were lucky enough to find one, however, the world would really be your oyster!

(Also published in France Today)

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