port moguer in plouha

Posted in Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2010/08/04

On the coast of Brittany in the north of France is a little town called Plouha (twinned with Killorglin of County Kerry, Ireland). A fortuituous apartment swap with friends of the fine arts organization, GwinZegal, brought this wanderer to this magical, secluded place of wheat and corn fields, cows at pasture, rocks and water…

Below: Off in the distance is Gwin Zegal, and at low tide, the beach is wide open. Locals come to clam for palourdes (steam with parsley, garlic and white wine) and to dig up lançon (for bait for the loup de mer).

But at high tide, the way to the beach is cut off, and the tide comes in very quickly. If you were oblivious to the tide and were lounging on the beach, you would have to wait 6 hours before being released.

At high tide at dusk is when the fishermen come. They warn you not to sit too closely for the water has been known to surge up and knock people off into the sea.

The same fishing spot at low tide is so dramatically different it is hard to find. (Below is not low tide yet. At low tide the rocky bottom is all exposed to the edge of the photo:)

And you get a sense of how much the water drops when you see how small the people are below:

My favorite thing would be to swim at high tide and glide over the rocks which I climbed just a few hours ago.

But low tide has a special appeal, for low tide reveals the treasure…

…decadent, luxurious tastes of the sea in a sensuous morsel of soft flesh:

The first time I saw the oysters, I am loathe to admit it, but I banged a few open with a rock. I rinsed the shell bits off, and big black crabs appeared out of nowhere to wave me off and grab the booty. Aggressive little brown fish came charging in, too.

The second night, I came back with a knife, which did not feel any more civilized. It felt so primal, raw and wild to open them and eat them, the waters that nourished them swirling at my feet. It was so wonderful. But it still felt neanderthal.

Nitrates from the run-off of agricultural fertilizers have caused clogging algae to grow out of control. The papers inform daily the level of pollution in the waters. Yet, the oysters and mussels all look as happy as clams.

Gwin Zegal is one of the only places left that uses the ancient anchorage of tree trunks. Live trees have been uprooted and planted into the water since the 5th century.

Back in NYC, friend: “You didn’t leave the bottom parts on the rocks, did you?”
me: “Why,  yes. I did.”
Friend: “Oh, no! you’re not supposed to do that! You’re supposed to chisel them off and then open them. That’s very bad form.”
Well, I am obliged to return and get the bottoms off, then.

15 Responses

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  1. tugster said, on 2010/08/04 at 05:51

    merci mille fois!! stunning pics and clear captions help me –who has never wandered there–see what you saw and imagine the neanderthal feeding you and the knife took from the rocks. bon appetit!

  2. Buck said, on 2010/08/04 at 09:35

    Oh, that is some tide!
    There is nothing in the world better shellfish just picked and rinsed in the salty sea just before eating.

    O! pegen kaer ec’h out, ma Bro!

  3. frank@nycgarden said, on 2010/08/04 at 10:04

    Beautiful, thanks for taking me there!

  4. Baydog said, on 2010/08/04 at 11:22

    Yes, you must go back immediately and scrape them off! Or maybe I’ll do it for you.
    What a dream that must have been!

  5. O Docker said, on 2010/08/04 at 12:46

    Now you’ve got me wondering how we know that clams are happy.

    True, you never hear clams complaining about anything, but they could be more resigned than happy.

  6. Carol Lois Haywood said, on 2010/08/04 at 13:45

    Wow, wow, wow! Visual and verbal splendor! What a wonderful post, almost feel I am there. Thanks!

  7. Doryman said, on 2010/08/04 at 13:54

    It’s best to leave the shell. The young oysters or “spat” grow on the old shell. You were following your primal instincts, which were spot-on, as instincts will often be.
    Oyster filtration can mitigate eutrophication of a body of water. But as such, they are not always healthy to eat. My favorite is an oyster shooter followed by whiskey, neat. The theory is that the whiskey mitigates the mitigator.

  8. Baydog said, on 2010/08/04 at 14:29

    If I have a martini with oysters on the halfshell, I save the last few sips, add a spoon of cocktail sauce, a couple of oysters, and finish them that way. Bloody oyster shooter.

  9. bowsprite said, on 2010/08/04 at 22:22

    oysters and a kir in the morning,
    oysters and a guiness in the evening!

  10. Joe Rouse said, on 2010/08/05 at 00:23


  11. Mage Bailey said, on 2010/08/06 at 21:45

    Oh, yes, yes….what a great excuse to visit again. 🙂

  12. Claude said, on 2010/08/10 at 05:33

    Ton reportage m’a rappelé de bons souvenirs ! ( excuse-moi mais il faut corriger ,on écrit Port Moguer et non port Mogeur) Il me semble que tu ne mangeais pas que des animaux vivants mais aussi ce fameux “lieu jaune” sur son lit de poireaux avec une sauce au safran !
    Kisses ,Claude

    • bowsprite said, on 2010/08/10 at 10:09

      Claude!! half of the Lausanne representatives in Plouha! tiens! apologies!! casting aside form, decorum and spelling, I have misspelled the name of the wild, sauvage secret paradise! merci cher Claude!

      I am a fan of Claude’s cooking, and when I tried to use a web translator to tell him, it advised me to say that i was his “plus grand ventilateur.”

  13. Paul F. Frontiero Jr. said, on 2010/08/14 at 21:22

    Sounds like an Awesome adventure!

  14. Vagabonde said, on 2010/09/08 at 11:04

    I have been away too and am slowly reading all my friends’ past posts. I loved the “grande marée” when we would go on holiday in France in August. Walking on the sand after the sea left was neat and we would find many things. I like your translation of fan – it’s funny. Automatic translators are helpful but it’s not the same as a real person.

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