On the second day in south of France, I woke up to a view like this – where acres of vineyards rolled down to the horizon and melded with the bright open sky. This is Vendres, a tiny commune in the department of Hérault, by the Mediterranean sea.
Thanks to Ryanair, with a one-and-a-half hour direct flight from London, we (and countless other English) can now enjoy copious supplies of Mediterranean seafood, swim in a sea of French wine and spend long afternoons with an almost unusual guest in Britain we called Sun.
After an early breakfast, we jumped into the car and drove to the market at Valras-Plage for the freshest batch of oysters. If you remember, I’ve blogged about the beach two years ago in my Christmas Diary 2014.
There are many oyster farms around this place, some said to be the best in France. Funny how these salt-water chums wriggle into my list of favourite seafood as I grow older. I used to dislike its raw overly-saline taste, found its slippery texture unbearable. But what was an assault to my taste buds has turned into some of the most wondrous slurps I ever had.
Oysters are now regarded as some plump ivory goodness, just briny enough to go with a few drips of Tabasco, a squeeze of lemon and of course, several glasses of chilled fermented grape juice or more.
See how age changes our sense of taste and weakens our self-control.
The seafood market in Valras-Plage was not an all business situation. The vendors were friendly and seemed to have accustomed to the frank curiosity and over-excitement of tourists. The locals do shop at the market too. It was a good balance and the place hasn’t lost its authenticity completely.
Picture above is Tielle, like a seafood pie, it is octopus ragout stuffed within a shortcrust pastry called Torta. I enjoyed it so much I am hoping to resurrect its golden glory in the humble space of my kitchen. And hope I shall do…
We ordered some oysters and went to browse around the market while the bubbly French vendor opened and packed them onto a big tray with crushed ice and lemon wedges.
Grinning so cheerfully at the camera, that’s me shamelessly fish-ing for compliment!
Dozens of oysters were then ready to be picked up and devoured by noon.
But the day wouldn’t be complete without a tour de vineyards. Even though it wasn’t the season of harvest and the grapevines were still at the flowering stage, we didn’t let go of the opportunity to tipple al fresco.
At a boutique winery, Domaine Bergé de Sainte Rose, we got a few bottles of wine to taste.
I do enjoy drinking wine, a lot of wine especially after moving to England. Who can blame me? In a place where they are so easily accessible and so popularly priced, the most instinctive human reaction would be to buy more and enjoy. Why try to defy the laws of nature?
Also, you can’t blame me for being so unabashedly fond of French wine. You may be an ardent supporter of the produce Down Under or a staunch defender of the Napa Valley, but wine is all about geography. It’s about the place, the people, the culture – you know, the feel good factors we can derive from those thoughtful sips.
Chin chin! As the French will say.
Or much to your surprise, it’s a term originated from China. In Chinese, “qing qing” means “please” and is commonly used when the Chinese invite their guests to eat or drink. During the Second Opium War, this term was introduced to the French soldiers in China. They must have thought it so strangely exotic and oriental, they brought it back to their own country and called it their own.
Very sneaky, but it worked!
Here’s a tip, dab some wine on your finger and this little one will hold on to you like a koala to a tree!
Except, of course it’s not a koala, but a very enthusiastic wine-loving butterfly. You bet we became good friends very quickly.
After a few drinks, we stayed in the vineyard for a while to take some pictures, then had a walk around and slowly made our way back as the sky darkened.
With love x