Category Archives: Moules Marinieres

1975: Aug 20 – Lez-Eaux, France

A fine night, for a change, and pleasantly sunny so we breakfasted outside. After writing up the holiday books and after I’d done a load of washing, we set out to spend a day on the beach.

Drove down the back lanes to Carolles, where we did our shopping for lunch – 2 kinds of pâté at the butchers, and noted the location of the Relais Routiers which served moules marinières at any time, a fact which we stored in our memories.

Arrived at the beach and settled ourselves with all the impediments – lunch bag, clothes bag, books, lotions etc. Tide was well out, and a large expanse of sand and rocks stretched away to the green sea. Quite a lot of people about, sitting under their umbrellas. Children took the boat down to the sea and the surf board and spend some time out there.

Ate our lunch – pâté was delicious – and had the fizzy cider which was very pleasant. After lunch the children went down to the rocks and spent a considerable time collecting shrimps, little fish and crabs in a pool they had made. The water was very warm in these pools, too warm for some of the creatures I should think. Went to the sea for a bathe, it was lovely, and Gareth consented to get in the water and bounce up and down as the waves came in. He still doesn’t like the water much though, and is very careful about what he is prepared to risk.

We came out, Andrew and Sarah stayed in, and had a super time surfing, swimming out to the raft and diving in, and diving into the waves. I should think they spent half the day in the water, it’s a wonder their skins weren’t shrivelled and horrible. Lots of groups of children about from colonies de vacances, they make an enclosed area in the sea for them with enormous lines of floats – we couldn’t understand what these things were for ages!

Eventually we packed up and left to go up to the Relais Routier. Here we had steak and chips (Andrew and Sarah) and moules marinières (rest of us) plus cider, and it was all very tasty, and we were certainly ready for it. Arrived back at the camp site at about 7pm and the children went off to play table tennis. Had a bacon tea at about 8pm and then David and I read until about 10.30, the children having gone at about 8.30.

NB Mussels are raised on vertical poles which are planted out in the bay at regular intervals.

Sarah’s note: if I tried to get my kids to bed at 8.30 today they would just laugh hilariously.


1976: September 3, St Hubert

Very blowy during the night and awoke to typical cold front weather – blue skies, clouds, strong winds. Still, the tent should dry out. Ate breakfast indoors and decided to go to Etaples in the morning.

En route there we followed the signs for the Rond Point hypermarché which have been beckoning us for days, and found it a very pleasant small scale hypermarket with some very interesting food. Bought some roast pork, wine and various odds and ends. Proceeded on to the poissonerie at Etaples and found the whole place buzzing as it was market day. Went for the fish first – it all looked delicious, and is landed straight from the boats into the market. Bought 5 plaice, 3 lemon sole and a little piece of hake for David, 12.60 altogether.

Went over the road to more fish market and bout a kilo of moules, 4.60, then some fruit in the ‘Covent Garden’ and then went on to the open market. This was large and fascinating with a wide variety of goods. Gareth very upset about the fate of the lovely gentle rabbits… Appalled also by the price of the pop records – a 45 is 11 or 12 francs which seemed very expensive. Saw lots of male handbags which David refuses to consider.

Returned to the site for lunch, and got down to peeling potatoes and scrubbing moules. Had moules marinières – super – and fish and sauté potatoes, then grapes. It was a very nice lunch, and Sarah and Gareth celebrated by trapping wasps in an empty wine bottle.

Weather now fine and sunny so decided to spend the p.m. on the beach at Berck. This is only a few km away, and we settled ourselves in a sheltered spot. Played with the kite and the football and Sarah dug a vast hole – this sand goes down quite a way, and she dug up to her shoulders before she got fed up. The sand is soft, white and even silky to the touch.

Had a look at the piscine, which is an incredible place with a sweeping curving roof, and containing two pools (one for learners, one for swimmers), a golden carpeted ‘beach’, very large, with table tennis, and then upstairs a large bar and café area. Admission to the pools was 4 or 5 fr and it seemed a wonderful idea – is obviously a sports centre for the locals as well as a tourist attraction, and a godsend in wet weather. Incidentally, a little train chugs along the prom at Berck with a ‘Western type’ loco, very attractive.

Ate out of tins this evening after our lunchtime excesses, had spaghetti bolognaise and froze seafood pancakes, and cooked pork. An odd meal but it seemed to go down well. Children played table tennis after, we washed up. Gareth is getting to be a fiendish little player, improving all the time. Sky very clear, weather quite cold once the sun had set.

1976: August 30, Le Brevedent

Weather rather grey again after yesterday’s rain. Very surprised to find a bright green frog outside the tent in the morning, about 1.5″ long, the colour of those awful plastic frogs. It turned out to be a tree frog, climbing up our furniture, so we put it on a nearby tree.

Went to Trouville in the morning, the weather improving considerably. Bought some small plaice at the fish market, they were 1 franc a kilo which was very reasonable – they were exceedingly fresh. Also bought two litres of mussels. Went on to Monoprix and bought a cooked chicken for lunch, then on to a bar where we sat by the pavement and had coffee and jus de fruits. Waiter tried to over-charge us, ended up by doing himself (serve him right). Gareth annexed the citron pressé which was nearly untouched on the next table and was very pleased with himself.

Nasty discovery however that Gareth had lost his thin anorak – probably in the Monoprix which was, of course, closed when we went to look. Decided to have our lunch and go back afterwards. Had to drive most of the way to Honfleur to find the beach where we’d been last week – I wish they’d make it a bit easier for ‘le pique nique’ in the holiday areas when they are so determined to stop you eating on the beach. The chicken was very nice – it had been surprisingly cheap – (7  fr), we think it must have been cooked on the Saturday and stored in the frigo over the weekend. Tide was pouring in over the beach, very windy too.

No sign of the anorak in Monoprix when we asked so someone has certainly nicked it. Fortunately we have another, fur-lined one with us, and a plastic mac, but that didn’t stop us being very cross with Gareth, who is shockingly careless about his property. Momentarily chastised, but for how long?

Drove over to Villers, where the rain came on. However we were able to walk around the town and sit on the beach for a while reading the Daily Telegraph which we’d bought for 2 fr20.

Went home and decided, in the light of bitter experience, to get the cases organised while the weather was fine. Managed to get the roof rack all packed in fact. Cooked the moules marinères which were really lovely – no baby crabs in the moules this time, thank goodness! Followed with the plaice, potatoes, beans – plaice were super – and then fruit. Bolted into the tent just in time before the heavens opened and we had a thunderstorm. Rain poured down, we were relieved we’d got as far with the packing. Went to bed fairly early, the rain was still falling, though the thunder had passed.

Stray facts:
Wasps have been a real menace this summer, and as we are in an orchard, there have been plenty here. Remedy has been to put wasp cemeteries, or old Vittel bottles with sweet liquid in – on the trees, and they are full of corpses.

Maize is one of the main fodder crops in the area, but it won’t be a very good harvest this year. Many of the plants look stunted and shrivelled and the cobs must be about half the usual size.

Costs are far higher this year – site fees, meals, food in the shops are all up on last year, and combined with our falling pound it has been very difficult. And petrol is diabolically expensive of course.

France: 5 June 1975

Weather a bit overcast, so decided to have our day out around Le Bugue. Went into Sarlat and bought David Coles his corkscrew – part payment for the pictures – in a fascinating hardware shop. Sarah anxious to buy a fur mat for out bathroom scales, but managed to deter her. Continued to the fish shop, where they had some lovely looking trout, so bought 5, all slippery and fresh. Also bought an enormous box of strawberries so that was supper organised.

Drove out to Les Eyzies where we stopped at the rather horrible loos, admire the toadstool tea-set (there is a matching jam pot too!) and then continued out into the country, and picnicked on a patch of heathland, in a former bend of the road in fact. Sarah collected wild flowers, we had a game of badminton, and Gareth nagged to go to the zoo. Arrived there at 2.0pm-ish, and enjoyed our visit very much. A fairly small private collection of animals, housed in little log huts quite simply, the money obviously going more to looking after the animals than the furnishings, as all were in splendid condition. Sarah especially take by a little fox on a chain at the entrance, and spent much time petting her. There was a white peacock too, most unusual, and when he put his tail feathers up, they looked like a gigantic fan. We loved two fat pumas, lying contentedly on their backs, just like Pierre [cat] when he’s had a good meal. There was also a handsome young male lion who gazed at us with big tawny eyes, and some wild boar which Andrew photographed because they reminded him of Asterix.

Rain was beginning as we left, so we decided to see the cave at Grand Roc, reached by climbing lots of steps. The caves were fairly small, but like treasure chests, stuffed with jewel-like stalactites and stalagmites, all branching and twisted like flowers, and beautifully coloured. One had even formed into a cross, most unusual.

Children had an ice cream on the way out, then went back to camp in very heavy rain, which continued most of the evening. I’d washed David’s orange towelling shirt yesterday, and it was sodden. David C came over with a kilo of mussels and prepared moules marinières. He divided the mussels into two pans, then added a glass of muscadet, half a medium onion chopped finely, a shallot ditto, pepper, salt. These were then cooked for five minutes, a teaspoon of chopped parsley being added one minute before they were ready. Taste was absolutely gorgeous – we gobbled it all up greedily, supping the juice from the shells.  Andrew didn’t have any of course, but Sarah did and Gareth. Followed this with the trout, cooked in butter and almonds, with new potatoes, courgettes, again delicious, then strawberries. A heavenly meal!

Gave wailing Fiona’s parents a Senokot [laxative], as they thought this might be her problem…

Coles invited us out to lunch with them tomorrow as their 15th wedding anniversary is Thursday. Accepted with delight!