Sunday, 7 July 2013

The Best Mussels in the World

We bought a kilo of mussels from this boat in Eden Harbour, New South Wales, last December. They had just been harvested from the mussel beds across the other side of the bay -- you can see them from the harbour. The owner assured me that he had just come back from Europe where he had tried the mussels everywhere, and he had travelled all over the world. These were undoubtedly the best mussels I would find anywhere. They were certainly very large and they were very good. Unfortunately, I'd had a stupendous eggs benedict breakfast at the Waterfront Café in nearby Merimbula, and couldn't really do the mussels justice at lunch time. They cost $10 a kilo (the equivalent of €7.85 -- normally I pay €5 or €6 per kilo at the fishmongers in Preuilly market, for mussels half the size and rope grown at La Rochelle.)
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We're Back!: We got back yesterday afternoon from a mini camping break in our newly acquired tent. Two points will be awarded to anyone who can guess where we went. Here are some clues:
  • we saw rasta donkeys in pyjamas (1 bonus point if you can tell me what they are usually called in French.)
  • we camped within the walls of one of the finest historic defensive complexes in France (1 bonus point if you can tell me the name of the architect).
  • we ate lots of oysters.
  • we saw rare birds breeding on saltmarsh.
  • there were more bicycles than cars and every second shop was a bike hire place.
We had a great time although having a piece fall off the car on the motorway on the way home was not ideal. Fortunately Simon is the sort of bloke who has a toolbox full of random stuff, some of which might come in handy for any given emergency. Photos and blog posts to come.
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Quiz Results: chm is the winner with 3 points. He was the only one who correctly guessed the name of the place, and from there it was an easy step for him to get the architect. Second was Anton who got both bonus points, but did not guess the place. Third was Lady Justine, who I was very tempted to give an extra bonus point to as she was so close and had reasoned very well. She was the first to guess the donkeys.

Surprisingly, although several people guessed that the rasta donkeys were the breed called baudet de Poitou, and I have awarded them points, no one picked up on the 'in pyjamas' part. The phrase I was actually looking for is ânes en culottes, and you will find out why in a few days.

So, the answers to the questions are:

We went camping on Ile de Ré, inside the 17th century star fort created by Vauban around the town of Saint-Martin-de-Ré. The donkeys are a tourist attraction in the town and known as 'donkeys in trousers'.

8 comments:

ladyjustine said...

I'm guessing the rasta donkey is the baudet de Poitou... and the oysters, salt marshes and bike shops would suggest one of the islands? I'm going for Noirmoutier, though the defensive complex makes me think not...

chm said...

Being a French native, I might be at an advantage. I guess you went to Île de Ré. The fortifications your talking about were devised by Vauban. I had never heard of Baudet du Poitou, nor even seen a picture of them until this morning. Thank you for this interesting post.

ladybird said...

I think ... La Rochelle ... and of course Vauban. He (well his fortifications) are all over France. Not sure about the donkeys though. But they do make great sausages, don't they, :)) Looking forward to your travel report and photos! Martine

P.S. The bikes may be an indication that you went to Holland! But then you would have stopped here to share a drink and meal I hope!

Leon and Sue Sims said...

We've always found that the mussels in France puney compared with the big bronze ANZAC ones here but delicious just the same.
Had them at Leon's of Brussels as well.

anton said...

Baudet du Poitou donkey, quite endangered in France and worldwide at the moment.

St. Malo, architect of the military complex, Vauban (this second answer is a total guess!)

lejardindelucie said...

J'ai un souvenir inoubliable du port d'Eden! Je voulais m'arrêter dans cette ville à cause de son nom : Eden , c'est le paradis.
Nous n'avons pas vu leS baleines.
Mais j'ai mangé le meilleur Fisch and ships de mes vacances acheté sur la poissonnerie du port et dégusté dans le camping car , il y avait beaucoup de vent!
L'âne célèbre de votre région est le Baudet du Poitou, tout chevelu!

Susan said...

Points are awarded as follows:

1 point to LJ for correctly guessing baudet de Poitou.

3 points to chm for getting the place right and the architect.

1 point to Martine for the architect.

2 points to Anton for donkeys and architect.

1 point to Lucie for mentioning the donkeys.

The answers are now added to the blog.

Susan said...

Leon: I agree, but size doesn't seem to matter with mussels -- both are delicious.

Lucie: We like the area around Eden too. We didn't go whale watching this trip, but I have been before from here.