Sète, France

The cruise departs Barcelona bound for Rome on the day after my visit to the monastery at Montserrat, and the first of three ports of call along the way is the French Mediterranean port of Sète.

 

This stop includes a trip of around 20 miles overland to the provincial capital of Montpellier.

Sète, France

Sète and Montpellier may not rank high on many bucket lists, but they ably fulfill curiosity about French daily life beyond the big cities and tourist attractions.

 

Sète, France

 

 

 

Sète sits on a spit of land that separates a saltwater lagoon filled with mussel and oyster fields from the sea, and there are plenty of fishing boats in the harbor.

 

This is a working seaport, the terminus of a canal that connects the Mediterranean to the Atlantic at Toulouse.

Sète, France

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The list of tourist sites and events here may be short, but the place is long on atmosphere and it’s a popular local destination for seaside holidays.

Sète, France

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sidewalk shops around the marina and along the quay beg to be painted or photographed.

Montpellier, France

 

 

 

 

 

Only twenty or so miles up the coast and set back from the sea is Montpellier, and the contrast between the two towns couldn’t be more striking.

Montpellier, France

 

 

 

 

As a department capital, Montpellier has a decidedly white-collar cast to it, and much more the feeling of a small city than a large village.

Montpellier, France

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At its heart are buildings and monuments that reflect its official status, but along its side streets the charm of the provincial south of France is everywhere in evidence.

Montpellier, France

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Narrow side streets wander of at odd angles.  Small markets and sidewalk cafés mark their intersections.

Montpellier, France

Country chateau near Montpellier, France

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plenty of winery tours are available in the surrounding countryside, but it’s hard to pass up instead a tour of a French country villa still owned and occupied by its hereditary nobility.

Country chateau near Montpellier, France

 

 

 

 

It seems that the taxes on the place now dictate that its blueblood owner find a way to make it pay for itself, and he’s become an able tourguide, walking us around the property as he shares his family’s history.

Country chateau near Montpellier, France

 

The vicomte is both a very cultured guy and very approachable one, and he seems to have adjusted to his changed financial circumstances with characteristic French aplomb.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve toured plenty of villas and wineries, but none where I’ve had quite the same feeling of being an invited guest at a private home.

 

 

 

 

 

Today has been a very laid-back day in the Languedoc, and a great change of pace from Barcelona’s near-overload of sights, sounds, smells and tastes.

Tomorrow the ship docks at Monte Carlo, where we’ll also make another land excursion into France to see a medieval village with a stunning view of the Mediterranean!  Click here to come along!

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