Take a Stroll in … Sète
Sea Air and Sun In This Dynamic Port Have Inspired Many An Artist Over The Years; And The Bustling Streets Are As Much Of A Draw Today
Sète is an incredibly dynamic Mediterranean port: full of energy; full of the smells, noises and colours of the sea. This was quickly illustrated by the whistle-stop tour of the sites I was given on arrival. I was fascinated by the singularity of this town, which is only 350 years old and yet so rich in culture, gastronomy, art and traditions – though the pace of life can also be overwhelming. The next day, I decided to slow things down and take a stroll in the heart of Sète.
As I stepped out of the hotel lobby, I was immediately swept into the hive of activity that gripped the Aspirant Herber quay. Tourists were boarding open-top cruise-boats for a sail along the canals; delivery vans had been parked on the pavements, their contents hurriedly being unloaded into restaurants. Two men smiled at me as they balanced a huge wrapped-up painting and hoisted it into an art gallery. The sun was already heating the streets, promising a scorching summer’s day.
I strolled down towards the Pont de la Savonnerie and crossed the Canal Royal. Sète’s more poetic name is the ‘Venice of Languedoc’, because of the many canals that criss-cross the old port, creating an aquatic labyrinth with its own traffic rules and different marinas. I stopped in the middle of the bridge and spotted a couple of massive trawlers moored on either side. These expensive boats specialise in tuna fishing; the ones from Sète catch almost half of France’s bluefin quota. For now, though, they were immobile, their presence casting shadows on the quayside.