We returned from France over over a month ago, but still the memories linger and must have their due. Here, the fourth and final installment finds us on our last full day of the trip in Sete, a small maritime city near Montpellier.
The first thing upon arriving is to find your way to the top – a challenging climb up steep streets and steps to the highest point, Mount St. Clair. The elevation is a mere 574 feet, but the view is spectacular and lays Sete’s waterways out for you so that they make sense. To the right, the Mediterranean. To the left, Etang de Thau, a sort of large lake or lagoon. And, in the middle, bisecting the town, a series of canals connecting the two. Water, water, everywhere.
Because that climb up and back down will surely make you hungry, the next thing to do is to find a spot at one of the long string of canalside cafes. If the weather is fine, as it was the day we were there, finding a seat around lunch time at one of the outdoor portions of the cafe may involve an awkward wait. Seeing as most of these cafes seem chronically understaffed, also expect a leisurely experience once you are seated.
That said, the local seafood is worth it all no matter which cafe you end up at, and the menus are all very similar. The most famous local dish is a sort of octopus pie which is called tielle setoise. We got the last one in the cafe that day, and savored every bite of the salty crusty tomatoey minced octopusiness of it. Mussels were also on offer, mine steamed and M.E.’s in a rich tomato sauce with sausage. Water all around you, seafood inside your tummy…how much better does it get?
There is apparently a nice art museum in Sete, and a lighthouse which we saw from afar, but we didn’t make it to either. We opted instead for wandering around the town, up and down the canals, poking into some shops and a modern art exhibition, snapping pictures of sites along the water. Here, a pile of fishing nets. There, a row of Crayola colored small boats for rent. Trying to capture the essence of the last place, the last day, of our wondrous trip.
I boarded the train back to Montpellier that afternoon with mixed emotions. Tomorrow we would be making the long trek back to our normal lives via train to Paris and flight home. It would be good to be home, but I felt as though I was leaving a part of me behind somehow. The intrepid traveler who “conquered” this portion of southern France. The adoring Mom who got the rare gift of spending protracted time with her grown daughter and loving every minute of sharing this part of the world with her.
Adieu, France, and thanks for opening your welcoming southern arms to us.