We are at Camping Villemarin a short distance from the shore of the Bassin de Thau [pronounced “Tow”] and surrounded by vineyards. The Bassin, or Étang de Thau is an oyster farming lagoon, about 15km long, just west of Montpellier on the Mediterranean shore of France. It is mostly separated from the sea by a large sand bar but is open to it through a channel. In addition to the main cash crop of oysters, mussels are also raised and fish are caught. Marseillan is at the western end of the étang with Mèze more or less in the centre. Camping Villemarin is pretty much equidistant between Marseillan and Mèze.
In our first day here the campsite has provided a reasonably rich source of wildlife. Guillaume’s pitch is littered with Cicada exuviae, the nymphal case left behind after the emergence of the adult. We are hearing Nightingales still singing, though the song has changed from the early summer song. There are the occasional ratcheting croaks of tree frogs, which we haven’t heard in recent times at Fanjeaux, though they used to be abundant there. It’s great to hear them again. We haven’t seen one yet but in this area they will be the Stripeless Tree Frog (Hyla meridionalis). There were some interesting owl sounds overnight but we’re not sure which owl(s) and Francine has also found some mosquitoes or, rather, the mosquitoes have found her.
The weather has cooled down a bit. We drove into Marseillan to a Carrefour supermarket to buy supplies and froze. I think the supermarket must’ve had the air conditioning turned up for the higher temperatures of late but they have now gone.
After eating some of our supplies for lunch, we mounted our bikes and followed a track through the fields to get to a VTT route that runs between Marseillan and Mèze more or less along the shore of the étang. IMO the French term, Vélo Tout Terrain or VTT, is a much more appropriate phrase for what we call a mountain bike. Along the field track we passed some white horses which may have been those normally found in the Camargue, since they appear to turn white rather than starting out white. We hit the VTT track and hung a right towards Marseillan again.
We had to hang a left off the VTT route to get to the edge of the étang. This was a more industrial area concerned more with working than with tourists. There was an out-of-the-way restaurant, though, billed as an oyster bar restaurant, which was doing good business. Francine snagged a view out into the étang.
Backtracking to the VTT route we continued along into Marseillan. The track led straight to the side of the harbour without having to mess with town, not that the town is too difficult. The harbour just screams Mediterranean.
Marseillan is the home of Noilly Prat, a vermouth of which the locals are quite proud. It comes in ambre and rouge forms as well as the original one we are most familiar with which is dry white. Not everyone shares the locals pride over Noilly Prat. At the Paris House restaurant in the UK many years ago, I asked if they had Noilly Prat, having recently returned from its home. The French maitre d’ sort of sneered down his Gallic nose saying, “ve ‘ave some in ze kitchen, sir, for cooking”. Snotty bastard. 😀
And very good for cooking it is, too. 😉