Enjoy Food and Nature in Charente Maritime
Enjoy Food and Nature in Charente Maritime
There are two “Charente” departments in France. One Charente specializes in the production of Cognac; the other Charente, the Charente Maritime (seaside Charente), is a sea side resort French people love. With its good food, great landscapes and local customs, far from the crowd and the noise, it is the perfect retreat for peace and freedom. Besides, these two departments also include two islands: Ile d’Oléron, and Ile de Ré, respectively the second and fourth biggest islands in France.
Oyster dish ©CMT17 / A. Boissard
The famous oyster producer Bon Philippe & sons is right before the bridge going to Ile d’Oléron. Brother and sister took up their father’s business. They produce 300t oysters a year and even export to China. Baby oysters are placed in a plastic net and then set in sea water to breed for three years. Then they are graded from 0 to 5, 0 being the largest. While buying oysters on the market, don’t forget that the bigger the number is, the smaller the oysters. Once sorted, the oysters are set back into sea water for maturing, then sold.
While visiting the production site, we saw two workers sorting out mussels on their working unit. I discovered on that occasion that mussels feed on baby oysters, so are enemies to their growth. I love mussels, so I was curious to find out what they did with them once they were sorted out. They told me without any qualms: “They go to the trash.”
After visiting the site, we crossed the bridge to Ile d’Oléron. On that bridge, there is a cabin selling oysters 24hours round, like an oyster vending machine. It was placed there by the famous brand Gillardeau. The automated distributor provides fresh oysters of the day after working hours. Its business is particularly flourishing around Christmas.
The thalassotherapy treatment selected by M. Philippe Lutz was invented by a French doctor in the last century. It has 3 principles. 1) Heat water up to 34°C, dilating the pores, so that oligo elements and metal salts penetrate blood vessels. 2) Using pressure, from 0.5bar to 3,5bar, relaxing muscles from within or stimulating muscles. 3) Using the carrying effect of seawater, making aerobics is less strenuous and painful. Since French legislation forbids the transportation of seawater, this kind of center can only be found at seashores.
The hotel includes beauty or fitness appliances like the classic 35°C heated seawater swimming pool, seawater massages, Iyashi Dôme (a Japanese deep cleansing method), or water pressure boot therapy. Here, you can experience a tailor made method to relax mind and body. First electrodes are fixed on your skin, checking every parameter. The figures about your body appear on a screen. According to these figures, experts analyze your body’s needs, including muscles, nutrition, and every aspect of mind and psychology. Then your needs are determined, be them hydrotherapy, music therapy or special food programs and outdoor activities fit to change your habits. M. Lutz told us humorously: “Coming here is making the best possible choice. All you have to do is ‘do nothing’, relax, and leave the rest to us.”
M. Lutz looks somewhat like an English aviator with an up-curving moustache and an open mind. He can also fly planes. After telling us about the thalassotherapy center, he showed us on his phone aerial pictures of Ile d’Oléron. He told us he had taken them while piloting his own plane, with one hand on the doorframe. Proud like a child, he told us: “Our job is to make others relax, so we cannot be stressed ourselves.”
In fact, the hotel is really not far from the sea. Walking around outside, there are 5 or 6 little colorful houses, formerly occupied by oyster breeders, now sheltering a craftsmen workshop called “Couleur de cabanes”. You can see them working on jewels, glass ornaments, ceramics, and string instruments.
Ile de Ré
On this island, there are over a hundred km of cycling path. The highest altitude is 19m, so the land is quite flat, riding a bike is easy. Cycling aficionados can even travel along the Atlantic Ocean shores. Some 1200 km cycling trackswere established from Bretagne to the Spanish borders, 80% of them are motor car free. Locals explain that the most important when you ride a bike is to go deep into the small villages like La Flotte or Ars-en-Ré. The French have a saying: “One has to be able to get lost in the streets.” That is the perfect way to have fun.
In the southern part of the island, one restaurant is called “Chai nous comme chai vous”, meaning come on in, here we make wine that tastes like home. The owner and chef Laurent Favrier works alone in the kitchen, his wife and waiters take care of the customers. The eggs they use to make poached eggs served with sweet peas (incomparably delicious) come from the most famous red feather hen.
Desserts give people a great impression. Colors and taste are all there, as well as the feeling of texture. From soft and melty litchi mousse to refreshing rose sherbet, from sour sweet grapefruit to saffron cream and crusty sablé biscuits. The chef delights every one of your senses by blending different tastes and terroir inside a same dessert.
After a washed-down meal, don’t hesitate, 3 bedrooms are at your disposal. The owners told us they were planning an expansion.
10 km away from there, a golf course, Golf de Royan, is one of the most beautiful golf courses in western France, with 880 club-members. Here you can play 18 holes, the ground is on a hill, the road is not that broad, and there will be difficulties.
In every trip you can meet unforgettable people and see unforgettable places. What gave me the strongest impression during that trip were the people, locals or from elsewhere. I saw how dedicated they were to their work, to their lives, how they respected the other living creatures that shared their living space, how they coexisted with nature and enjoyed it.