Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

When 'boire' takes a new meaning!

On our first Loire Valley trip in 1999 I have fallen in love with the village of Candes Saint Martin, on the confluent of the Loire and the Vienne Rivers. So, every year, on Tuesday, after visiting the market in Bourgueil, we cross the Loire at Port Boulet and drive west, following the river in the direction of Saumur.

This year was no different, as I really wanted to share this lovely spot with my friends. After taking a right turn from the main road, you come upon the bridge over the Vienne. I asked J.L. to stop and park the car in a small parking spot near bridge as I wanted to show them the breathtaking view. I just can’t get enough of it! The village looks so pretty, sitting on the banks of the river, with its small yet sturdy ‘coll├ęgiale’ church sticking out over the rooftops of the old houses.

Candes Saint Martin: my all-time favourite view in the Loire Valley.

The sky was almost cloudless, and the weather was perfect for shooting photos. We walked up and down the bridge, trying to find the best angles and the prettiest views. While J.L. was still shooting artistic shots with his semi-professional camera, B. and I wandered to the other side of the bridge, looking upstream the Vienne. Almost hidden by the long grass near the railing of the bridge, we noticed an explanatory panel. At first we thought it was some kind of orientation table, but when we took a closer look, we saw that it attracted the passer-by’s attention to the nearby ‘Boire’.

At the time we thought that ‘Boire’ was the actual name of the short stretch of water that runs parallel to the main river, in which it throws itself near the bridge. Since then, I’ve googled ‘Boire’ in order to find some more information about this ‘miniscule’ stream. And it turns out that ‘boire’ is a synonym for the French word ‘bras’, in this context meaning ‘arm’ as in ‘tributary’. The use of the word ‘boire’ as a noun to describe a still tributary is proper to the Maine-et-Loire department.


The steep banks of the Vienne, near the 'boire'
where in spring the 'pikes' come to fool around!

According to the pictures and text on the panel, this ‘boire’ near Candes Saint Martin is the perfect breeding ground for the pike that live in the Vienne River. Every year, in early spring, from February till May, the pike return to the secluded and protective environment that this almost motionless and shallow stretch of water has to offer. The males arrive first. Once the females have found their way into the ‘boire’ the mating period starts. Over a lapse of several weeks, the eggs are deposited between the leaves of the aquatic plants. One female can produce 15.000 to 20.000 eggs per kilo bodyweight. As soon as the job is done, the females leave the breeding ground. The males stay on for a while, but they do not protect the eggs.

Although the ‘boire’ is a very safe place as there is no current to tear the eggs away from the plants, it is not completely without danger. In times of draught, it can dry up. If this happens before the eggs are hatched or when the small pike are still lingering in the ‘boire’ waiting to be big enough to venture into the main river, the eggs and/or young pike are exposed to the open air and the predators that are constantly on the lookout for a juicy bit of fish.

So far the explanation on the sign near the Vienne bridge in Candes Saint Martin. It was the first time in twelve years that I actually noticed the panel, although that, judging by the wear, it has been there for quite a while. I’m so happy to have learned something about the pike’s private and secret life! Pity the banks were too steep to actually go down to the water’s edge to see if we could spot them.

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