Saturday, March 31, 2007

from oysters to geese, in SW France

It’s morning in Pons. I’m to head for the Perigord Noir, the region of fat geese and duck confit.

But at the petit Pons Saturday market, after purchasing a kilo of endive because I love it so, I note these two, who have came in with the oysters…


I turn the car away from Perigord Noir and head toward the Atlantic Ocean.

Eventually I get to what seems like the oyster hub of central France. I drive over the long bridge to Ile d’Oleron, just off the western coast. A stretch of flat land slapped on all sides by ocean waters. Muddy waters. The kind that oysters love to call home. (Oysters like slime it seems.)

beach and mud. what fun.

shell life

low tide?

I drive up and down the island and watch people do their island Saturday stuff. They do what we do on this day: chores.

Maybe this is why they are so frazzled on the road. If ever you are inching slowly on a French rural road, wondering if you should be on the D706 in the direction of Montignac, or on the N21 in the direction of Bergerac, concluding that you are completely off in your directions and only a u-turn will save you from yourself, you’ll get the equivalent of a finger for sure. French people on the road have no patience for the likes of me. Nor I for them. We finger each other (figuratively!) quite a lot. They become road mean and they bring out the tough and don't you push me around side of me that I thought I had left back in the old country.

Off the road, all is forgotten and we are fast friends, shaking hands and kissing each other furiously to demonstrate our sincerity.

But I digress. The oysters: yes, it is a big thing here. I wander in and around now empty oyster huts. Did people seek shelter here in bad weather?


I stay too long on the island chasing down mud banks and staring at those who fish in them for the stuff that eventually you and I will find so sophisticatedly decadent.

by hand

by boat (of sorts)

Refocus: head inland. Perigord Noir, dark and brooding, is waiting.

At first, the transition from the coastal land to the Perigord is nice, mellow. Hi there, cognac-country, wine-country, gentle slopes with vines that are just now waking up.


But then quite suddenly, it all changes. Fields are gone. Forests – trees still not entirely green – replace the vines and mustard yellow flowers. I think I like it, I think I like it… Hmmm…

It's like someone switched stations on me and I am now watching a different movie.

entering Perigord Noir

At every bend in the road, there is a sign directing you to a farm where you can visit and buy foie gras. In their spare time, all the people of Perigord Noir must be making foie gras. Should I go visit? Should I? After all, I watched a harvest of oysters and I photograph fishermen frequently. Aren’t fat geese, well treated fat geese in the same league? We take pictures of cows even though the vast majority of cows on our side of the ocean are so miserably treated it hurts.

Let me mull this one over.

In the meantime, I am getting acquainted with my village, Plazac. I’ll say this much about it now: it is remote!

More on my first encounters with the village folk tomorrow. Tres fatigue tonight.

[Post script: if there is one thing that will someday put an end to my travel blogging it is my relationship to the Internet in France. It has virtually always malfunctioned. It completely warped my email program in Pons. And here, in the Perigord, it killed my USB port, so that I can no longer download photos in any straightforward fashion from my camera. Thank you, Ed, for helping me find, by phone, through tedious, convoluted steps, a temporary fix until I get back to the States. France, you have GOT to do better with the WiFi! PLEASE!]