Physical Therapy was early this morning. We prefer the morning appointments because they leave the day open for exploration; today was no exception. After a session with Angelique, we headed off to Agde, a town on the Hérault River that’s about 2 miles from the Mediterranean.
The traffic came to a standstill as we neared the coast….lots of travelers on their way to Cap d’Agde, a seaside vacation town that’s also home to a large “naturist resort” (i.e., nudist colony)….not sure which is the larger draw. Since this wasn’t today’s destination, we were able to turn off and leave the traffic behind. After a short drive from the highway, we met up with the Herault River…a wide river with houses on one side, floating restaurants on the other, and boats docked all along it.
The promenade along the waterway is paved with large black blocks of basalt from a nearby volcano. A statue in a nearby plaza commemorates Amphitrite, Greek goddess of the sea. A number of floating restaurants line the river bank. It was lunchtime and we were in need of sustenance. We chose to dine at “La Marina” after the hostess mentioned two things… it’s the waterfront’s only remaining family-owned restaurant and they bring in their own fish every morning.
We were seated next to the river and given English menus (which usually aren’t as accurate as a French menu with a Berlitz dictionary, but provide for some humor). After perusing all of our options, we decided on the 16 euro menu….included were an appetizer, an entrée and a dessert. The appetizers we chose (as listed in the English menu) were “Salad of the Fisherman” and “Tielle (Seafood Pie) from Sete with Crunchy Salad.” The Salad of the Fisherman was enormous….it would be entrée size in the US….generous portions of shrimp, calamari & scallops floated on a bed of crisp greens. The Tielle is a specialty of Sete, a coastal town about 20 miles away. It’s a small pie filled with a savory tomato sauce and chopped octopus…the “crunchy” salad referred to the crisp greens alongside it.
The entrée’s we chose (again, as listed in the English menu) were “Braised Beef Camarguaise Style in the St. Chinian” and “Poached Spotted Dogfish Cooked with Dieppoise Sauce”.
The Camargue is a delta area between Languedoc and Provence where the Rhone River meets the Mediterranean. It’s known for its white horses, pink flamingos and bulls with lyre-shaped horns. The beef was braised in red wine with olives, tomatoes, garlic and herbs….the red wine came from St. Chinian, a nearby region known for its full-bodied, highly tannic wines. With the gentle cooking, the robust-flavored meat almost melted in your mouth.
The spotted dogfish, a member of the shark family, had a light yet firm meat. The dieppoise sauce was a delicate sauce made with white wine, butter, shrimp and saffron. What wine should one drink with these two such varied dishes? A local rosé, of course….a perfect blend of Grenache and Cinsault…light enough not to overpower the dogfish yet with enough weight to carry the beef.
Dessert, for both of us was Tarte of the Day….today’s tart was apple with a drizzle of caramel sauce.
As we enjoyed the last of the rosé, we sat back and watched the everyday movements of the river….the boats filled with fishermen, families, vacationers – each with their own special destinations…. the ducks swimming below, noisily demanding the bread crumbs they know we still have ….the fish coming to the surface to see what’s going on – first the small fingerlings, then their larger cousins, and finally the ones who have lived long enough to escape the fishermen’s lines….the dogs jumping off the bank into the cool water, The river has a resonance like no other.
A leisurely drive home, a nap and an old black and white movie were the perfect finish to a perfect day.
À la prochaine….