I am always pleased when I time my daily walk round the harbour in St Martin de Ré just right and one of the small boats that fish from the Ile de Ré is coming in complete with catch. A previous blog post higlighted Jemapa. This time it’s an even smaller craft, the P’tit Jules.
You can be staring out to sea and then you realise that little dot getting ever closer is one of the last petit bateau as they are called here. In this case, the boat owned and operated by Hugues Moinard. That’s him in his blue and yellow fisherman’s gear.
It takes only a few minutes to land the day’s catch and then load it into the white van that’s been waiting for the boat to come in. In fact the arrival of a van quayside is often a sure fire sign that a boat is due. The driver is thrown the P’tit Jules’s ropes so she can moor safely and then the fish is removed ready for market or sometimes to be delivered straight to an island restaurant.
Life as a small boat fisherman isn’t easy. Hugues is frequently setting sail before first light and getting back into harbour well past lunchtime. The P’tit Jules is one of a dieing breed. In the 1960’s there were some 150 island fishing boats. Now they are down to single figures. If you want to taste some of the fish caught by Hugo le Pêcheur that’s easy. Part of the catch regularly makes it the few metres from the quay into the kitchen of L’Avantport restaurant in St Martin de Ré. You can walk to the restaurant from our house. Click here to rent our holiday home.
You know when summer is drawing to a close on the Ile de Ré when the signs go up for La Fête du Coquillage. Basically it’s an excuse for a party organised by the users of the Saint Martin de Ré harbour.
Vast amounts of fresh seafood will be cooked and eaten on the harbourside; huîtres, moules-frites and vannets. All washed down with plenty of Ile de Ré wine. Musically expect sea shantys, accordians and live jazz. It starts in the late afternoon golden sun but after dark there will be dancing under the stars.
We’ve been before and will be going this Saturday. It looked like this before…
Of course if you want to be there next year you could always check out our house in St Martin.
One of the many delights of the island is the fish. In restaurants keep your eyes open for poissons from petit bateau. The fish that comes in on the small boats. Probably the best known small boat on the island is Jemapa, the last surviving working fishing boat in La Flotte.
The catch is unloaded on the quay just in front of the Tourist Office.
You can buy the fish direct every Monday to Saturday morning 10.30 – 12.30 from the family house at 63 Route De St Martin, La Flotte. (2018 UPDATE: Since this blog post was first written Jemapa has switched to selling several afternoons a week on the quayside in St Martin de Ré)
Hungry for more? Then check the availability of our lovely house in St Martin right now. It sleeps up to 8 but is also ideal for just a couple or two couples wanting to share a week on one of France’s loveliest islands.