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Published: October 17th 2007
Three Days in Sete France
We took three days to drive south to see our friends Ross and Maureen. They had rented an apartment in Sete.
Sete is a fishing village of about 30,000 people on the Mediterranean. It is the second largest fishing village in France (Marseille is largest). Located in the Languedoc-Roussillon area, it is often referred to as the Venice of France.
The area along the port has an old Atlantic City feel with side by side cafes, tourist stores, bars, restaurants, hotels. We were there during the second week of October and many of the seasonal places were closed and little or no evidence of tourists. The city gives off a no nonsense working town impression, almost industrial with few embellishments and frills.
What would you do in Sete? A wonderful 11 kilometre beach lines the road into the city. Sunbathers and campers and surf fisherfolk were still enjoying it, though they were well spread out. The daily fish auction (la criee) is an experience worth the €5. Boat trips and fishing excursions leave the port regularly. In the summer, during the festival of St. Louis, jousting on boats in the canals is an
event which traces its history to 1666. A daily enclosed market, as well as a Wednesday outside market, boasts all the usual fare plus more and various fish and seafood than you can imagine. Vendors sell about anything fresh from the sea that you can be caught. There are the usual cultural events though perhaps fewer than normally found in a place this size. Looking down on the city is La Chapelle Notre Dame de la Salette. The view from the surrounding car park is fantastic and not to be missed. The church itself is like nothing you have ever seen. A definite Spanish influence pervades the architecture inside and out including murals covering all the walls.
We enjoyed a different sort of tourism while we were here. Standing watching the fishing boats, especially when the men were unloading their catch, walking along the canals, wandering through the streets of town and sitting in the port-side cafes and bars talking to the locals took up most of our time. We went to one of the vendors at the market, ordered 24, size 2, oysters fresh from the nearby beds of Bouzigues. He shucked them, arranged them with lemon and
bread on a couple of platters and delivered them to the table at the nearby cafe where we were sitting, waiting with a bottle of wine. €24 and they were fresh! It doesn’t get much better than that.
Seafood is a must here. The restaurants all serve seafood, of any and all of the varieties that can be found in the Mediterranean. Some signs declare that the restaurant is a “producteur” which means that they get there seafood directly from the boats and supplies and varieties are dependent on that day’s catch. Some days they don’t open. We arrived for a late dinner around 9 at Chez Francois and they were sold out of most of that day’s fish. We settled for fish soup and pasta with moules farcie. This was served to our table family style. The mussels were stuffed with the mussel surrounded by a delicate thyme flavoured sausage meat, all in a tomato sauce. Amazing. The portions served in Sete from our experience are very large - probably the worker man’s requirements. They are without flourish but tasty and fresh. Sandra and my entré of tomatoes with mozzarella, basil and olive oil consisted of two plates
that would each easily serve 3 or 4. One of the regional delicacies is tielle (octopus pie) which is reminiscent of a Jamaica patty, but containing a lovely seafood mixture.
We stayed in a wonderful hotel, Port Marine, right on the bay for €79 a night. The room was very large by French standards. It was clean, modern and comfortable. Ross had already gotten to know the owners of one of the local bars and the people who ran the cafe where we had a croissant and coffee and watched the morning begin. Offseason, I could see renting a place here for a few weeks. If you like to mix and are outgoing and want a more laid-back holiday, this sort of vacation can be a lot of fun.
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