by Laurel Avery
visit to the South of France would be complete without a stay in
Sète, sometimes called “the little Venice of the Languedoc,”
due to its numerous canals
and quaint neighborhoods. This old Mediterranean port is just a
stone’s throw from Montpellier.
There are a
host of things to do there, such as visiting one of its museums,
exploring one of the many daily markets (including the wonderful
Sunday flea market), or just taking a long walk along the beach
at sunset. When we were there we happened to be lucky enough to
see a giant rainbow just as the sun was going down.
There are a
number of places one can stay, but if you’re looking for a romantic
atmosphere full of charm and elegance, The Grand Hotel is the place
to go. Just past the lobby is a large light-filled enclosed courtyard
which some of the rooms look out onto, much like the buildings in
Morocco. Sit by the mirrored fountain and share an aperitif before
heading out to explore the town.
The rooms are
well appointed and some look out over the canal. With rates between
60 euros and 210 euros, depending on the size of room and season,
it’s an affordable romantic getaway. They even accept fido for a
small additional fee if you can’t imagine a perfect weekend without
the little ball of fur.
the recommendation of a friend we visited the Musée International
des Arts Modestes (MIAM), founded by Hervé Di Rosa and Bernard
Belluc, which is one of the most unusual museums you will find in
France. The exhibitions consist of art created from things you might
find stored in your attic or what you would come across at a nightmare
garage sale. Everything from old Smarties candy wrappers to Barbie
dolls is represented and while a bit odd, inspires a lot of childhood
memories which you can share with your sweetheart.
As stated in
their brochure, “A visit to the museum is a chance to rediscover
the lost world of our childhood, but it’s not just that. It’s also
the chance to realize that this “art modeste” still has
the power to amaze us that it had when we were small children, that
sometimes poorly made objects have left a lasting impression on
us, and that we can still be touched by the poetry that emanates
out from the museum and discovered the annual water jousting tournament
happening on the canal. The “Joutes Nautiques” is celebrated
every summer from late June on. It’s similar to traditional medieval
jousts on horseback, but in this case the “horses” are
canal boats with special platforms, and the jouster gets a dunk
in the canal if he is “de-horsed.”
greatly damaged during World War II, Sète rebuilt itself
to become a major fishing port for France. Sète is well known
for its Bouzigues oysters, grown in the Bassin de Thau which lies
just on the other side of Sète from the Mediterranean. Oysters
are indeed an aphrodisiac when eaten right on the water with your
loved one (though the high zinc levels each oyster contains may
have something to do with it as well).
another specialty here (monkfish in garlic mayonnaise or “aioli”).
You can dine at any of the numerous restaurants along the canals
and indulge your craving for fresh seafood.
We ate at Les
Demoiselles Dupuy, where they serve nothing but fish and shellfish.
The restaurant came equipped with their own version of Captain Bly
(named “César”), opening oysters and mussels in
a flash, looking like someone who just stepped off a pirate boat,
complete with earring. All that was missing was a black eye-patch!
He looked gruff, but was really a pirate with a heart of gold.
of petit plateau de fruits de mer (plate of shellfish) was not the
least bit petite! You could easily make a meal out of it. And everything
is just-out-of-the-water fresh. They are located a bit further from
the bustling restaurants along the canal, which makes for a more
peaceful evening. You can sit on their terrace alongside the canal
and watch the boats come and go. Warm woollen blankets are provided
should the evening become a bit cool. The service is less than enthusiastic,
but the seafood is excellent.
Musée International des Arts
23 quai Marechal de Lattre de Tassigny
Tel. 04 67 18 64 00
17 quai Marechal de Lattre de Tassigny
Tel. 04 67 74 71 77
4 quai Maximin Licciardi
04 67 74 03 46
Open every day until 1 am