Three days in Sete France

Oct 17th, 2007, 08:25 AM
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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.

If you wish to see pictures of Sete, check out my blog:
robjame is offline  
Oct 17th, 2007, 08:41 AM
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Thanks Rob, wonderful photos. We were there one August to watch the Water Jostling (Joutes Nautiques)
The poet Paul Valery was born there.
There's a Georges Brassens museum.
(he is buried opposite the museum in the cemetary)
cigalechanta is offline  
Oct 17th, 2007, 08:49 AM
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Thanks, Cigale, for the additional information.
I bet you enjoyed that fresh seafood as much as we did!
robjame is offline  
Oct 17th, 2007, 08:52 AM
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Mais oui! we are BIG seafood fans. We made a special trip one year just to taste the famous French oyster in Belon.
cigalechanta is offline  
Oct 17th, 2007, 10:50 AM
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Glad to hear of your visit to Sete, robjame. When my kids were small we used to take them there to the beach every year for a few days during our summers in the Dordogne. It's got an interesting gritty, authentic feel to, as it should, being one of the last "real" fishing villages on the Med.

I can still taste those Bouzigue oysters, too. One of the most memorable meals I've ever eaten was in a little hole in the wall on the shorefront in Bouzigue - raw oysters and a bowl of mussels with aioli....YUM!
StCirq is online now  
Oct 17th, 2007, 06:28 PM
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Lovely report, robjame. We really loved Sete, and it's fun to see your photos.
stokebailey is offline  
Oct 17th, 2007, 06:42 PM
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Also, Robjame, how far from the Port Marine to Les Halles for instance? Walking distance?
stokebailey is offline  
Oct 17th, 2007, 11:26 PM
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stoke - Thanks for your comments. I don't think Sete is everybody's kind of place but we loved it, too.
Port Marine is at the base of the road to Mount Ste Clair, right at the round about, at the beginning of the harbour and restaurant/cafe strip. The Lighthouse is there.
I would guess it would be about a 15 minute walk to Les Halles, although our walk took us all over and stopped at the odd cafe! LOL
robjame is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 03:09 AM
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I have a sudden craving for jet fumes and oysters.
Nikki is online now  
Oct 18th, 2007, 03:22 AM
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I was just 15 miles away (west) in Cap D'Agde, having lunch every day back in June in the nude city. You should check it out. Very casual.
wally34949 is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 03:30 AM
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Great little story. My daughter Honore' and I visited there and loved it. I just got back from a month in Spain and had a similar food experience in Geteria (also a small fishing village). Memories are nice aren't they.
johnthedorf is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 08:11 PM
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We had a marvelous time the end of the 3rd week of Sept. in this area, staying at a rental in St. Thibéry, and fortunate to have spectacular weather. The lighting is marvelous on the coastal areas!

Exceptional meal on the corniche in Sète at La Table de St. Jean for 35 euros:
Started with some little amuse-bouche

Starter 1 - Foie gras en gelée
Starter 2 - Seafood platter (4 prawns, 4 bouzigues oysters, 4 mussels, 4 clams (yum)

Seafood 1 - 4 coquilles St. Jacques w/potatoes
Seafood 2 - 4 Lobster Raviolis w/ sauce aux cèpes

Main #1 - Bourride (with 4 diff. fish)
Main #2 - Lobster & Shrimp embeurré with noodles

Cheese plate for each - 2 goat, 1 roquefort

Dessert #1 - Profiteroles
Dessert #2 - Crème Brulée (good, but we didn't like the lime zest used in it - a personal preference)

Seafood extravaganza of the trip with local white wine, which I forgot to note, and loved every minute. I noticed their hotel had affordable rooms as well, but did not check these out. Right on the water front.

Thanks for sharing your experience, robjame.
klondike is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 10:49 PM
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Sorry... confusing the names...all is correct above except the "Saint". Sète restaurant is just La Table de Jean.

I confused the name with the other great meal we had of similar name...le Pré Saint Jean in Pézénas!
klondike is offline  
Oct 19th, 2007, 01:13 AM
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I stay in Sete a few times each year.

I've got some photos (inc the jousting on 14/7 and others from the area) here :

I often eat in a small restaurant away from the main street. It is on the corner of a back street facing the fish market. It doesn't look much !

There is an indoor restaurant, but most eat outdoors. The front window of the restaurant is a chilled display with a wide choice of fish kebabs. You choose your kebabs and they come with chips and your choice of wine , red - white - pink. Outdoor food is served on plastic tables & chairs.

It is simple, very cheap, and you have to queue behind the locals after 20.00 in the summer. Pity I can't remember the name !


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