Since Louis XIV chose Sete as the port where the Canal du Midi would join the Mediterranean in 1666, Sete was destined to be a maritime town in the south of France. Known as the “Venice of France” because of its many canals, Sete is a charming town offering a unique introduction to the Occitanie Region. The residents fiercely cling to their regional identity, and proudly continue to speak their native language as demonstrated by our guide. Occitan to his core, Tony sprinkled his tour narrative with political perspectives and regional songs, which he sang and played on his fife as we made our way through the city.
The Port of Sete was originally inaugurated with a water jousting festival, a Medieval tradition that continues to this day. Every August, thousands of spectators flock to Sete for a week-long contest between two teams: blue (bachelors) and red (married men), although women are beginning to infiltrate the sport. Standing on special boats, the jousters try to knock each other into the river.
As we walked along Fisherman’s Village, we encountered many local fishermen as they prepared to go out for the catch of the day.
Locals gather at Les Halles, the lively local marketplace, where a variety of fresh products of the land and sea are available to enjoy there or take home.
The octopus is celebrated throughout Sete, with a statue in the middle of the town square. It is also baked into a local delicacy called tielle, a pie filled with octopus and tomatoes. It is considered a delicacy and is available all over town.
Our walking tour with Tony was fun, interesting, and HOT! After bidding a fond farewell, we boarded a bus for our ride to Pays de Thai wine region.
A short ride through the countryside took us to Tarbouriech, the realization of Florent Tabourich’s dream of developing a method of cultivating the most delicious oysters. This unique process creates artificial tides using smart solar panels and wind turbines. The oysters are grown on large frames in the lagoon and are lifted repeatedly from the water throughout their growing cycle, a process resulting in a sweeter taste and fleshy texture.
The proof of the method is oysters with a sweet, salty taste that’s perfectly paired with Picpoul de Pinet, a crisp white wine.
We ended our day in Sete with a return to the lovely canals and a breathtaking sunset.