Recently, Nutmeg introduced her friend Nancy McGee the founder and visionary behind Absolutely Southern France.
“Provence has a varied range of beautiful colorful landscapes including the vast lavender fields, the Languedoc is more authentic, with “real” French people, not yet overwhelmed with tourists.”
Don’t think for a minute that Languedoc-Roussillon is undiscovered, just a little less chic. We asked Nancy to help our readers to discover Sète through a local’s eyes and here is what she had to say:
Travelers seeking a truly authentic taste of France at its most picturesque need look no further than Sète in the Languedoc-Roussillon. Intertwining canals lined by colourful houses have earned it the title of The Venice of Southern France while its 13 kilometres of beaches are considered the finest in the Mediterranean. It is also the most important fishing port in the Mediterranean. According to The Daily Telegraph, “Sète is the most interesting small town on the French Mediterranean coast.” Others refer to it as the “Ile Singulière” (the singular island) let’s see why.
The impressive Mont Saint-Clair, situated in the centre of the island, is a good place to begin a tour. A visit to the summit with its panoramic views is an absolute must to understand how the Mediterranean and the Thau Basin are linked, since each one is essential to the town’s livelihood. Afterwards, a leisurely stroll back through the winding streets of Saint-Clair will reveal ultra-modern and traditional houses straight out of the pages of a glossy magazine.
As a vacation spot, Sète is ideal. Small, hospitable and understated it offers an extensive menu of cultural and outdoor activities: swimming, sunbathing, watersports and even fine dining along the beaches where, yes, one can always find space to park! A world-class jazz festival, the world’s largest poetry festival, a documentary photography festival – and, of course, the famous water jousting or ‘joutes’ during the Festival St Louis draw visitors from far and wide. No fewer than six museums are open year-round.
Food and wine enthusiasts will not be disappointed. Sète offers the aromas, tastes, and textures that classify Mediterranean cuisine as one of the world’s most celebrated. Here one can sample the much sought-after oysters from nearby Bouzigues and other seafood delights from the Basin de Thau. The wonderful indoor market offers a dazzling array of freshly caught fish, which the friendly merchants will prepare while providing cooking tips. There is a wide choice of restaurants serving oysters with white wine and buttered bread, fresh mussels, and a wide array of delectable seafood topped with Mediterranean delicacies and Sète even boasts a Michelin Star restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean.
But we’ve only just ‘scratched the surface’ of this surprising town! Sète is not just a pretty face on the Mediterranean coast: its fishing industry works hard year-round to earn its keep. That’s why, unlike other ‘seaside’ towns in the region, Sète’s restaurants throw open their doors in winter to welcome the local population for the ‘catch of the day’. Likewise, the curtain goes up regularly in the beautifully refurbished Theatre Moliere, where residents enjoy ‘scene national’ theatre including concerts, dance, opera and plays. Sète is unlike any other town – no wonder its called L’Ile Singulère.
Before letting Nancy go, G&N asked her to share a little more local’s knowledge for things to do in the area near Sète.
Water jousting and the central marketplace in Sète
Antique shops and market in Pezenas (the city of Molière)
Montpellier’s fascinating combination of modern and ancient architecture including the N°3 tramline designed by French fashion designer Christian Lacroix!
For more information on Sète or to inquire into the range of Absolutely Southern France services contact Nancy here.
Download a GPS guided walk through Sete here.