Just outside of the port area of Le Croisic is the Ocearium du Croisic, the local aquarium, and if you carry on past that then at the end of the next turning on your left you will find the Espace Escargots, and I had decided to visit it on the afternoon of our free day while over in Le Croisic with the Hertfordshire Chamber Ensemble. You can read all about our stay here, and this blog is intended to be a guide to the Espace Escargots.
The snail invites you to visit his shell !
Even if you know no French, you can tell from the sign that this is something to do with snails, and when in France it would be rude not to make a visit to such a place. The snail farm has been here since 1999 and opened its doors to visitors in 2001. It combines the breeding, preparation and sale of snails. Raised in a humid and oceanic climate, the snails benefit from ideal conditions for their growth. The moment of interior reproduction to the final phase of the snails’ growth under external greenhouses is spread over 5 months, and the snails raised to maturity in this way are then cooked in a traditional way, with all those stages from start to finish done on this site.
In a space especially arranged for the visit, the snail comes out of his shell to reveal his secrets : a guided tour is preceded by a ten minute video which explains the life of snail farming.
I am not sure if the video is only available in French, because I was with a tour which only included a French family, so I told the guide I was happy for the tour to be done only in French, rather than him also translating into English. He spoke excellent English as well, though, so you should not allow that to put you off going. The video gave a good overview and then he led us round the site, explaining in more detail while we could see each stage of the process for real.
We started inside, seeing behind the glass screens how they manage the reproduction and the incubation (which is done using foil pie trays),
and then moved outdoors to the ‘greenhouses’, where the growth continues, and where our guide found a little frog. These are not glass greenhouses, but instead are covered in a material which keeps out the sun and allows in the rain, and that makes it easier to control the humidity which is so important in the growth process.
At least, I think that is what he said, though my French comprehension may be faulty. Either way, it was an interesting, informative and fun tour, lasting about 40 minutes, and you can ask as many questions as you want to.
At the end of the tour all of the foodstuffs on offer were explained to us, and we were given some to taste, as well as told which restaurants in the locality served snails from this farm. It was a good number and I recognised some of the names even from the brief time we had been here.
My time at Espace Escargots had been more than worthwhile, and I had come away with a much greater knowledge of what goes in to snail farming. Where else are you going to learn that ?
You can see more of my photographs from the visit here.