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Romantic Sète

by Laurel Avery

No romantic 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 Sète Joustcanals 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 Sete Coastlineplace 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.

Musée International des Arts Modestes - MIAMOn 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 Joustingthese sometimes poorly made objects have left a lasting impression on us, and that we can still be touched by the poetry that emanates from them."

We wandered 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."

Rainbow in SeteThough 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).

Bourride is 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 Les Demoiselles DupuyBly (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.

Their appetizer 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 Modestes
23 quai Marechal de Lattre de Tassigny
Tel. 04 67 18 64 00

Le Grand Hotel
17 quai Marechal de Lattre de Tassigny
Tel. 04 67 74 71 77
www.legrandhotelsete.com

Les Demoiselles Dupuy
4 quai Maximin Licciardi
04 67 74 03 46
Open every day until 1 am
Reservations recommended

 


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