Took a recent trip to the seaside– Sete, about an hour’s drive from here. After the heat of the village, the ocean air was a welcome change. It was also good to be in a city with all the attendant bustle and availability of things to do and see. The city encircles a lone hill, the Mont St-Clair, on the otherwise flat Languedoc coast, and houses and shops wind around the hillside with picturesque views in every direction.
But Sète, a fishing port, is all about water. There’s the Mediterranean in front and the vast salt water Thau lagoon behind and, within the city itself, a network of canals lined with fishing boats and outdoor restaurants. All that water makes for some terrific seafood–I ate some of the best scallops (Coquilles St. Jacques as they’re known here) I’ve ever eaten and some excellent oysters, saltier than those I ate in Washington. Most of the restaurants offers Sétoise specialties–including tielle, a fish pie, and moules farcies, mussels stuffed with sausage meat and covered with a spicy pinkish sauce.I’d eaten the moules farcies at the Montpeyroux repas a few weeks ago. A local woman who is from Sete had made them and, as soon as my French improves sufficiently, I hope to persuade her to teach me her recipe.
Over dinner at a dockside restaurant, I struck up a conversation (only because he spoke English!) with a French guy who lives in Sete. He thinks the city underappreciated–overshadowed by Montpellier and, further south, Marseilles, but very special in its own way. I agree.