All the Beauty of the French Coast, with a Real World Twist
If you want to experience real, everyday life along the French coast, Sète, France is the ideal place. This quaint fishing commune along the Mediterranean is alive with bustling life that is comparatively ordinary to Paris or Bordeaux. Unlike the grander cities on many travelers’ lists, Sète is populated with more hardworking locals than tourists, offering a refreshing glimpse into what it’s really like to live in an idyllic European paradise. On Crystal Serenity’s August 19 “Mediterranean Images” voyage, our maiden call to Sète is scheduled between overnight stays in captivating Barcelona and glamourous St-Tropez, further accentuating its down-to-earth spirit.
Make no mistake, everyday life in Sète is blissfully charming and beautiful. Mont St-Clair lies at its center, while a network of canals run swiftly between the avenues, creating an intangible flow of energy throughout the town. In fact, the canals, combined with the quintessential loveliness of the French coast of the Mediterranean, have earned Sète the nickname the “Venice of Languedoc,” as in France’s Languedoc-Roussillon region, while the oyster- and mussel-rich Thau lagoon that sits behind Sète gives it the feel of an island.
It hails back to the 1660’s, when it was built swiftly to serve as a trading port for spices and other goods as the Mediterranean terminus of the ambitious Canal du Midi. Through time, with its inherent seaside beauty and lovely homes lining the canals, Sète became a geographical muse for artists of all kinds. Author Georges Brassens and poet Paul Valéry were both born here, both commemorated in dedicated museums in town.
What stands out most about Sète is the fact that it does not go out of its way to stand out. It is completely unassuming and unpretentious in its natural beauty, giving an authentically welcoming air that will draw you in. The canals and sea are dotted with yachts and fishing boats alike, with many of the locals using modest boats for daily errands and shopping. Similarly, the chalkboard menus in hand script outside the many waterside seafood restaurants will make you feel like a guest at a family table, as you sip spectacular local wines (it is France, after all), dine of the catch of the day and watch the waves go by.
Sète’s waterfront is not all fishing boats and nets. Local shops of all kinds line the portside promenades, though you’ll find no large chain outlet stores here, mainly boutiques reflecting the heart of the culture. It’s tempting to spend all day meandering the Old Port and its gridded streets, although Sète offers pursuits for virtually every type of traveler.
The 575-foot summit of Mont St-Clair rewards hikers with sweeping panoramas of the town below and the sea beyond. Along your trek, note the villas and artsy shops of some of the peak’s original settlers, successful Italian fishermen. If you’re not up for such a workout, stay on the shores, where some of the Mediterranean’s most underrated beaches are found. Nearly eight miles of golden sand stretches, with no fewer than ten beaches earning the coveted Blue Flag – a designation awarded only to the top beaches with comprehensive facilities for visitors.
Join us on this 12-day voyage along the French Riviera and Amalfi Coast and immerse yourself in life in the Mediterranean.