Tag: oysters

“The Golden Girls” Loving France: Day 7-8 Sete, Beziers and Bouziques

Golden Girls on the Mediterranean side of France

Side trips from Uzes are now behind us. It’s time for the Golden Girls to hit the super highway and head for the Mediterranean coast of France.

Mediterranean side of France

The Mediterranean Side of France: Sete

The Venice of France
I couldn’t wait to show off Sete to my friends from North Carolina. After a week’s stay last year, I knew my beach-loving travel companions would like the place. Not only is the city itself of interest because of the canals, architecture, and fabulous seafood, also, the beaches outside the city are magnificent. We envisioned at least one full day in the sun being pampered by handsome waiters as we sunned ourselves at a private beach club.

Only one problem. Our days in Sete turned out to be cold and rainy.

Mediterranean side of France

Sete, France

Mediterranean side of France

Oh well, not to be disappointed because of the weather, we found plenty to do exploring Sete’s indoor market and nearby towns along the Mediterranean.

Mediterranean side of France

Mediterranean side of France

 

The Mediterranean Side of France: Bezier

Bezier is one of the oldest cities in France, tracing back to 535 BC. Only a few kilometers from the coast, Beziers was a Roman stronghold along the trade route from Provence to the Iberian Peninsula. It was the scene of a bloody massacre in the 13th century when Cathars, considered a heretic group by Catholics, were murdered — along with all other residents of the town– in a two hour battle. The leader of the crusade, when asked “how the warriors could tell Cathars from Catholics,” reportedly answered: “Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius” or “Kill them all and let God sort them out.”

Today Beziers is well known for the “Feria”, a 5-day bullfighting festival that draws over a million spectators each year to the town’s ancient arena. Gothic architecture and stately English gardens, also, lure visitors to step back into the past.

Mediterranean side of France

Beziers, France

Mediterranean side of France

Mediterranean side of France

The Mediterranean side of France: Bouziques

Bouzigues, a beachside town beside the L’Etang de Thau is well known for its fresh seafood– especially oysters

Mediterranean side of France

Bouzigues, France

From the narrow street that runs through Bouzigues, you can see miles of oyster beds that stretch into the Mediterranean .

Oysters in L’Etang de Thau are grown on posts designed specifically for maximizing the crop yield.

 

Mediterranean side of France

Another attraction in Bouziques is the many seaside restaurants. On a rainy day, however, most were closed for afternoon business.

Mediterranean side of France

Mediterranean side of France

Mediterranean side of France

Mediterranean side of France

The Mediterranean side of France: Getting There

Mustang Sally is the red 1996 Ford Mustang I’ve been blessed to drive in France. She belongs to my dear friend, Geoffrey, who has been the star character in many of my blog posts.

When I first arrived to set up my new life in France, Geoffrey made an offer I couldn’t refuse. We arrived at a lease agreement for the red car with black racing stripes. Now Mustang Sally is living in the underground car park near my apartment. She’s raring to go at a moment’s notice.

The trip down to Sete was no exception. Packed to the brim with suitcases, bags and hats, Sally proudly provided more than transportation down the super highway and scenic roads for my Carolina guests, she was our “touch of class.” I mean, how else would passerbys know The Golden Girls were around? She stood as a beacon wherever we landed.

Mediterranean side of France

Along the highways she hit the 120 KPH speed limit with no hesitation. It was at the many toll booths along the way that she showed her one malady. The driver side window is stuck closed.

After one or two stops, my travel companions and I had the tollbooth routine down flat. Sally would roll up to the gate while I was unbuckling my seatbelt; the front seat passenger would ready the change for the toll; I’d stretch as far as my arms and legs would reach to insert a ticket into the machine to add up the fare; I’d feed the fare into the meter; slam the door; buckle the seatbelt; and we’d speed off before the car behind us could blow its horn in total frustration.

This scenario repeated for most of the two-hour drive to Sete. We went the quickest route, rather than drive on the back roads. Likewise, the stops at Beziers and Bouziques were easy turns-offs from the super highway.

The Mediterranean side of France: Where to stay in Sete

One of my favorite things about the visit to Sete was the Airbnb apartment. Right in the center of town, facing the main canal, the location would please my friends, I was certain. Yes, they were thrilled with the apartment with two private bedrooms and an amazing view, as I suspected. They clicked immediately with our host, Nancy, and soon we were feeling right at home.

Mediterranean side of France

To view the Airbnb listing, click here.

The Mediterranean side of France: What to eat in Sete

There’s only one good answer for what to eat in Sete: seafood! One of the most “productive” fishing areas on the Mediterranean, the town is particularly well known for oysters, sardines and tuna. Restaurants line the streets along the harbor and they seem to serve similar dishes.

Grabbing a plate of raw oysters at the city market, along with a glass of wine or beer, is a treat I was determined to give myself.

Mediterranean side of France

The idea of “raw” didn’t go so well with the other Golden Girls, but they did taste “tielle” which is a local delicacy– octopus pie.

Mediterranean side of France

Another specialty from Sete is fish soup. It is a tomato-based, heavy fish broth served in bowls like chowder.

Mediterranean side of France

The best part of the soup is the croutons that float on top. But before you set the croutons off to sail, you smother the crunchy bits of toast with garlicky aioli, and cover them with flaky Parmesan cheese.

Fish soup from Sete can be purchased online from sites like Bien Manger (click here)

Mediterranean side of France

Helpful hint: Wherever you go

When driving in an unfamiliar place, especially if you don’t know the language, be sure to take note of where you park. It’s easy to get lost if you’re as absent-minded as I am! To insure you get back to the right place, take pictures of your parking spot and direction signs along the way.

Mediterranean side of France

Mediterranean side of France

Next stop: Port Vendres and Collioure

Mediterranean side of France

Click here for more about the Golden Girls’ Tour of France and Italy

Day 1-4 Uzès

Day 5-6 Nimes, Pont du Gard, Avignon

Travel Diary for Foodies

Travel Diary for Foodies
Follow on Bloglovin

There’s no better way for a “foodie” to recap a year’s travel than to revisit meals and favorite foods devoured along the way.

Enjoy the journey!

Macaroons from Christmas Market, Uzes

Macaroons from Christmas Market, Uzes

Christmas Market, Uzes

Chicken Stewing at Christmas Market, Uzes

Appetizers in Turkey: Calamari and Mixed Seafoods

Appetizers in Turkey: Calamari and Mixed Seafoods

Salmon Salad, San Quentin La Poterie, France

Salmon Salad, San Quentin La Poterie, France

Meat Pies, London, England

Meat Pies, London, England

Fruit Tray for "Southern" Baby Shower, Douglasville, Georgia, USA

Fruit Tray for “Southern” Baby Shower, Douglasville, Georgia, USA

Fresh Greens and Homegrown Tomatoes, Vers-Pont-du-Gard, France

Fresh Greens and Homegrown Tomatoes, Vers-Pont-du-Gard, France

Cappuchino, Port Vendres, France

Cappuchino, Port Vendres, France

Wine! France!

Wine! France!

Garlic! L'Isle sur la Sorgue, France

Garlic! L’Isle sur la Sorgue, France

Ham Biscuits for "Southern" Baby Shower, Douglasville, Georgia, USA

Ham Biscuits for “Southern” Baby Shower, Douglasville, Georgia, USA

Coffee at the Orangery, Kensington Palace, London, UK

Coffee at the Orangery, Kensington Palace, London, UK

Lobster with Penne Pasta in Nice, France

Lobster with Penne Pasta in Nice, France

Shrimp, Oysters and Mussels in Sete, France

Shrimp, Oysters and Mussels in Sete, France

Fresh Greens with Lardon and Goat Cheese in Uzes, France

Fresh Greens with Lardon and Goat Cheese in Uzes, France

Bruschetta in Florence, Italy

Bruschetta in Florence, Italy

Street Vendor Paella in Arles, France

Street Vendor Paella in Arles, France

Seafood Starter in Lacoste, France

Seafood Starter in Lacoste, France

Greens and Chicken Salad, Roussillon, France

Greens and Chicken Salad, Roussillon, France

Punch with Fruit Ring, "Southern" Baby Shower, Douglasville, Georgia, USA

Punch with Fruit Ring, “Southern” Baby Shower, Douglasville, Georgia, USA

Fish and Chips, London, UK

Fish and Chips, London, UK

Gnocchis au Chèvre et Aubergine in Nice, France

Gnocchis au Chèvre et Aubergine in Nice, France

"Four Seasons" Pizza in Uzes, France

“Four Seasons” Pizza in Uzes, France

"Bouchon de Lyonaisse" Salad in Lyon, France

“Bouchon de Lyonaisse” Salad in Lyon, France

Everest Beer, Kathmandu, Nepal

Everest Beer, Kathmandu, Nepal

Oysters, Shrimp, Tapenades at Artists' Fete in Uzes, France

Oysters, Shrimp, Tapenades at Artists’ Fete in Uzes, France

Entrecote and Frites in Avignon, France

Entrecote and Frites in Avignon, France

Sherpa Biscuits in Pokara, Nepal

Sherpa Biscuits in Pokara, Nepal

Saucisson in Uzes, France

Saucisson in Uzes, France

Brioche with Caramel Glace

Brioche with Caramel Glace in Lyon, France

Tuna Steak in Collioure, France

Tuna Steak in Collioure, France

Grilled Octopus, Nova Siri, Italy

Grilled Octopus, Nova Siri, Italy

Pork Medallion, Uzes, France

Pork Medallion, Uzes, France

Fresh Fruit, Brie and Lavender Honey on Crusty French Bread for Lunch!

Fresh Fruit, Brie and Lavender Honey on Crusty French Bread for Lunch!

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Barefooting in Sete, France

A summer weekend in Sete is more than a bar scene. It’s a multi-cultural extravaganza.

In fact, there are so many activities going on during a summer weekend in Sete, it’s hard to decide what to do first. Regardless of what you choose, you can’t go wrong. It’s going to be different from anything this Southern girl has ever seen. Just a walk around town is an experience.

A walk to the “central park” presented a chance to see a ride for kids I wish was in every town. Children LOVE getting the exercise racing each other on their make-believe ponies

Sete

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Sete

Park “ponies” for kids in Sete

Summer weekend in Sete

The city is a major seaport for France, so Sete takes advantage of every aspect of being an international coastal town, from seafood markets to private beaches.

Oysters are so abundant in Sete, people of the town enjoy the salty, tender mollusks all times of the day. These pictures were the “small” version. On weekend mornings, people of Sete are gathered in the city market (Halles) enjoying oysters and beer. Shellfish of all types are ready for eating on the spot or to bag up to take away. If you’ve never tried sea snails, you must. But then, you’d better like chewy things, because they will remind you of a tasty pencil eraser.

 

Nighttime in Sete is a thrill to the senses. The views, the music, the whole atmosphere is exciting to see, to feel, and to enjoy.

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Daytime in Sete is beach time.

summer weekend in Sete

Beach club in Sete

 

If you’re going to Sete in the summer and you want to go to a private club on the beach, MAKE A RESERVATION. We didn’t and ended up with one beach chair and one umbrella.
As much as I love the French, there are a few things I just don’t get. The biggest thing is why business people don’t understand the concept of “turning over” tables, etc. For example, we went to a beach club without a reservation. We arrived at 11 o’clock in the morning, and almost all the chairs were empty. Nevertheless, we left because all the seats were reserved. Even when we said we were only staying until 3pm and we’d be willing to move chairs if people with the reservation arrived, we were denied our request.

We left and went down the beach to another “club.” There the nice hostess found us one umbrella and one chair, even though others on her beach were empty. The four of us took turns sitting on the chair and on the sand. I figure the first establishment lost 40 euros business, plus our lunch trade. The second club could have seated us all, then taken in another 30 euros for chairs and umbrellas that were still empty when we left.

Go figure.

summer weekend in Sete

Summer weekend in Sete

Joutes Nautiques in Sete

Water jousting, or “joutes nautique” has been a summer sport and spectacle in Sete since 1666 when the seaport was formally opened. I thought I had missed the season since the most prominent events are held earlier in August. Sea jousting is held throughout sea towns on the Mediterranean, though Sete is world-famous for its teams and tournaments.

To my surprise and delight, we literally ran into an event one afternoon where two teams from Sete were up against each other. 

 

summer weekend in Sete

 

You would never know that the home town team would win either way by the enthusiasm the crews on the jousting boats performed. They were both elegant and fierce.

Each boat is filled with a team of ten oarsmen, one jouster and a “spare,” a helmsman and two musicians.  The “spare” is on board for the next joust.

summer weekend in Sete

 

One jouster on each boat stands on a raised platform, called a “la tintaine” at the stern of the boat. The jouster stands about 10 feet (three meters) above the surface of the water.

 

summer weekend in Sete

 

After a polite “pass by” the jousters and crew are ready for the duel.

 

summer weekend in Sete

 

It would seem the red team stacked the deck … so to speak.

summer weekend in Sete

 

Even so, the blue team was victorious.

summer weekend in Sete

 

summer weekend in Sete

 

Afterward, it’s all about teamwork and getting quickly out of the boat to have a smoke and to celebrate.

summer weekend in Sete

Is it any wonder I love Sete?

 

Thanks, Nancy, for being the “hostess with the mostest.” To readers who want to visit Sete, be sure to look up Nancy’s destination tour company, Absolutely Southern France. She has fantastic tours of Sete and the area.

Also, thanks to Christina Rabaste for welcoming me back to your studio and home to view your art. I’m looking for spaces to put them all! Love!

 

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Check out these earlier posts for more information about Sete, Nancy’s tours, and Christina’s art.

By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sete

Sete: Abbeys and Vineyards

Sete: Eat, Pray (to eat), Love (to eat)

Final Days in Sete: Parties, Artist Friends and Days at the Beach

“The Golden Girls” Loving France: Day 7-8 Sete, Beziers, and Bouziques

The Bad Girls in Sete

For more about water jousting, here’s the Men’s Journal’s view.

 

 

Sete, France on a weekend

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Sete, France: Abbeys and Vineyards

Now that you have a small glimpse of Sete, let me tell you about the places I’ve stayed and new friends along the way.

Ales (borrowed Citroen) and I arrived in Sete Saturday afternoon. (See earlier post.) We rushed to get to the apartment I reserved through Airbnb because my hostess, Nancy, was heading for a wedding in Provence.

Nancy welcomed me to her beautiful home, showed me around, gave brief instructions about feeding the two cats, then she was off. I had the place to myself until late Sunday. After unloading my bags into the bedroom, I walked downstairs, out of the apartment building that faces the Grand Canal, and then into the Petite Carrefour store a few doors down the street. I grabbed a Coke Zero, a bottle of water, wine, beer, and a prepared tuna sandwich. In other words, I bought everything I needed to settle in for awhile. Did I mention the wind was howling all this time, even though it was a gorgeous, sunny afternoon?

Happily, I spent the rest of the day stretched out on the living room sofa, enjoying the apartment and the unforgettable view of the canal through the open French doors.

Sete, France

View from apartment window down the Grand Canal

Sete, France

Early to bed, early to rise, Sunday I put on my comfortable walking shoes and set out to explore the town. I walked from the apartment, up the main canal, to the seawall that was probably a mile away. With the canal on the left, the right side of the street is lined with small shops and cafes. About half way down the street, the one-way roadway divides in two with one side going up a slight incline into the center city.

The left side of the road heads downhill close to the canal, then uphill to join the other street again. The right side of the canal street is lined with one small seafood restaurant after another. In fact there are so many restaurants in a row that you are tempted to believe they must have only one kitchen. The menus are basically the same in each restaurant: Moules (mussels) and fries, oysters, fish soup, Bouillabaisse (a traditional fish stew originating Marseille), tuna, more fish, and a specialty of Sete — tielle, a tart filled with a tomato-y mix of octopus and spices.

I ended up choosing a restaurant near the seawall that was serving a whole grilled fish with tielle as a first course. The family-owned business was tended by the father, wife, son and son’s girlfriend who all spoke English.

St. Clare by the Sea

St. Clare by the Sea, Sete, FranceI knew in advance that I was leaving Nancy’s apartment because it was booked due to a worldwide music festival. Generously, Nancy had arranged with a friend, Genevieve, for me to stay in her guesthouse in St. Clare, overlooking the Mediterranean.

Genevieve drove to Sete to lead me to her home in St. Clare. When we arrived at her hillside home, we sat on the veranda and began chatting like old friends. Her English is perfect since she’s been an English teacher for years. Her son, Alexander, is home for the summer break from University so we enjoyed getting acquainted. He is in his fourth year studying pharmacy.

After visiting for awhile, the neighbor from next door appeared at the garden wall. She invited us to her home for aperitifs at 7pm. (Drinks/cocktails) She and her husband have a home in Paris. They are here at their “beach house” entertaining their grandchildren and guests.

Soon, Nancy arrived to pick me up for our tour of a wine domaine and a twelfth century abbey. Nancy runs a tour company in addition to her Airbnb business. She is entertaining clients from Canada over the weekend and invited me to go with her to preview her tour. She likes to make certain that everything runs like clockwork for her clients. Needless to say, I was delighted to join her.

Abbey de Valmagne

The Abbey de Valmagne is just outside Sete and welcomes nearly 35,000 visitors yearly to admire the cloister, its fountain and gardens, Gothic church, chapter house, and monastic outbuildings.

The illustrious history of the abbey includes the story of an Abbot who, during the Reformation, turned against the church to save his own life. He led an army of Protestants to raid the Abbey and kill his fellow priests and parishioners. For centuries the Abbey has operated a wine domaine which exists today. Huge wine vats are prominent features in the alcoves of the church itself. In addition to the winery, the Abbey is a popular tourist destination for the wine tours and a gourmet restaurant that are on the property.

Domaine Saint Hilaire

Not far from the Abbey is the second stop on Nancy’s tour: the wine Domaine Saint Hilaire and luxurious B&B run by the domaine owners.

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Returning to Genevieve’s just in time for aperitifs with the neighbors, I experienced my first social occasion that was all spoken in French. It’s amazing how well you can get along understanding a few words and body language.

Note: Genevieve’s son, Alexander, has an interesting hobby. He and his friends participate in “re-enactments.” I have some Americans friends who enjoy the Civil War and Revolutionary War faux battles. Alexander is a gladiator! His team has “fought” in the Arena in Nimes.

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