The home of Marennes-Oléron oysters
The birthplace of French oyster farming, the Marennes-Oléron basin is Europe’s top location for oysters and production fluctuates between 40,000 and 60,000 tonnes from one year to the next. Some 2,000 farms here marry time-honoured expertise with flavour. The Marennes-Oléron oysters have won Indication Géographique Protégée certification; the Pousse en Claire and Fine de Claire Verte varieties also have the Label Rouge. What sets these premium oysters apart is being matured in oyster beds. The oyster beds are small pools dug into the clay, rather than the traditional salt marshes where the oysters finish growing. Their flavour and distinctive green colour come from the local blue navicula algae in the water. But it’s the amount of time spent in the oyster bed that gives them their authentic taste. In Marennes, on the right bank of the Seudre, take the narrow road along the fairway to get to the incredibly picturesque port of La Cayenne with its colourful oyster shacks. Take your time admiring this stunning estuary landscape on foot, stopping to enjoy a plate of fresh oysters. In these magical surroundings, time seems to stands still. From here, you’ll be able to make out La Tremblade opposite, Seudre bridge and, further offshore, the Île d’Oléron. Visiting La Cité de l’Huître is a must, and you’ll learn all you need to know about how oysters are farmed and matured in a fun and interactive way. After some swimming at Marennes-Plage, head for the port in Bourcefranc-le-Chapus and you’ll be able to reach Fort Louvois by boat at high tide or on foot at low tide. Designed by Vauban, Fort Boyard’s little sibling will please all ages. Afterwards, you can set off for one of France’s Plus Beaux Villages (Most Beautiful Towns and Villages), Brouage. This former European trading place for salt, turned fortified military city, won’t disappoint. Many of its buildings, like the forges, the Halle aux Vivres, the gunpowder store and the underground port of La Brèche are a testament to how important the citadel was in the 17th century. On the ramparts, you can enjoy views of the marshes where herons and egrets feed as you make your way along the walkway. Bird lovers can extend their stay by visiting the nature reserve in Moëze-Oléron. Whether on land or from up in the air, the Marennes-Oléron basin never fails to impress.