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The Republic of France


Sète - France

Holiday in Sète, FranceSète is a seaside town in Languedoc-Roussillon in southern France. Built on the flanks of Mont St. Clair, wedged between the Thau Lagoon, the Mediterranean Sea and the canals, Sète is one of the largest ports on the Mediterranean. At 183 meters high, the Mont St. Clair offers a panoramic view of the city, canals and its ports. Sète is a commune in the Hérault department in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in southern France. Known as the Venice of Languedoc - a port and a sea-side resort on the Mediterranean Sea with its own very strong cultural identity, traditions, cuisine and dialect. It is also the hometown of artists like Paul Valéry, Jean Vilar, Georges Brassens, Hervé Di Rosa, Manitas de Plata, and Robert Combas. Built upon and around Mont St Clair, Sète is situated on the south-eastern hub of the Bassin de Thau, an enclosed salt water lake used primarily for oyster and mussel fields. To its other side lies the Mediterranean Sea. In 1703, when the Saint-Louis church was consecrated, Louis IX, patron of the port, also became the patron saint of the town. He has been celebrated every year on August 25, with canal jousting competitions, music and fireworks, except during wartime. Sète is the eastern starting point of the Canal du Midi, and the ending point of the Canal du Rhône à Sète. In Sète, there is an aroma which is a mixture of scents from the Sea and the garrigue (Mediterranean scrubland) in the air. Sète is also a very cosmopolitan city, in which its foreign communities consisting of mostly Italians, contribute to this cosmopolitan atmosphere. Sète's 12 kilometers of fine sandy beaches separate the sea from the Thau Lagoon. The beach has been approved by the Pavillon Bleu for water quality for many years.

Holiday in Sète, FranceSète's fine sandy beaches offer visitors ample sun bathing and the enjoyment of its numerous beach bars and restaurants. The seaside town of Sète was created on royal decision in 1660 and was born from the will of three men - Paul Riquet, Louis XIV and the Knight of Clerville. Paul Riquet because he had undertaken the digging of the Canal du Midi, and was looking for an suitable outlet connecting it to the Mediterranean Sea. Louis XIV because he had instructed his minister Colbert to find a new sea route for the royal galleys and to create a port for shipping the products of the Languedoc. Colbert in turn entrusted this task to the Knight of Clerville who identified the cape of Sète as the most suitable site for the creation of a seaside port. Le Canal Royal is located between the bridges Savonnerie and Civette is the equivalent of a public square, where the famous jousting tournaments have taken place during the summer since July 1666. The Quay Lemaresquier - the canal of Sète is also known as the Canal Royal. It was dug in 1666 when the port was built. The Canal du Midi crosses the Thau Lagoon, and flows into the Mediterranean Sea, creating a link to the Atlantic Ocean. The Général Durand Quay, also known as The Quai de la Marine, hosts numerous restaurants offering a large choice of Sete's seafood specialities. The Saint Louis Breakwater, built in 1666, is 750 meters long. This jetty enables visitors to stroll in the town center while enjoying the cool sea breezes. The breakwater is also used as a marina and has 300 moorings.

Holiday in Sète, FranceThe Consigne Quay, situated between the seawall and the fish auction market, was nicknamed Ox Bottom Quay after the ancient fishing sail boats called ox boats, which would be lifted so that their stern lay on the quay. These boats would pull fishing nets in pairs, just like oxen pulling their carriage. In the 19th century, the port increased its activity thanks to the trade of wine, wood, sulphur, cereals, and iron. Sète became the first port of cooperage in the world and simultaneously, its population tripled between 1820 and 1870 and the urbanization extended towards the Thau Lagoon. Lazaret Beach and Corniche Beach are the nearest from the city center. Villeroy Beach has numerous beach bars and extends to the Marseillan-Plage. Fontain and Lido Beaches have recently been widened by about 100 meters and offer an exceptional view of the sea. Tours of the canals and sea excursions along the rocky shore with a view of Mont Saint Clair, the marine cemetery and other sea scenes taken in a glass hulled boat. Fully narrated boat tour crossing the fishing port and commercial port. Discover fish farms and shellfish with underwater viewing see strings of oysters and mussels through the transparent shell of the submarine boat. Boarding is daily at Pont de la Savonnerie in the city center at the fishing port.

Holiday in Sète, FranceThe Canal du Midi is a 240 kilometer or 150 mile long canal crossing Southern France. The canal connects the Garonne River to the Étang de Thau on the Mediterranean and along with the Canal de Garonne forms the Canal des Deux Mers joining the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. The canal runs from the city of Toulouse down to the Étang de Thau. The Canal du Midi was built by Pierre-Paul Riquet. It was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. The Canal has 91 locks which serve to ascend and descend a total of 190 meters or 620 feet. It includes 328 structures such as bridges, dams and a tunnel. There are now over 40 aqueducts, but when created by Riquet, there were only three, the Répudre Aqueduct, Aiguille Aqueduct and Jouarres Aqueduct. To cross the other streams, the streams were dammed below the canal and the boats crossed on the rivers themselves. From 1683 to 1693, Vauban improved the canal adding drainage ditches and over 40 aqueducts. Among the most important were the Orbiel Aqueduct and Cesse Aqueducts. The Orb Aqueduct was finished in 1858 and finally, the Herbettes Aqueduct in 1983. At the town of Béziers there was a staircase of eight locks at Fonsérannes to bring it to the river Orb. The locks had to be cut from solid rock, and descended a hillside whose gradient varied. All the locks had to contain the same volume of water, but could not have precisely the same shape. Nonetheless, they were built successfully without need of repair. Surprisingly, this amazing piece of engineering was subcontracted out to two illiterate brothers, the Medhailes, and was built by a workforce composed mainly of women.

Holiday in Sète, FranceBecause of flooding problems, the Canal du Midi was equipped with aqueduct bridges. The first was over the Le Répudre River, but Vauban also designed subsequent ones. Finally, an aqueduct bridge was built over the Orb Aqueduct, bypassing the bottom two locks at Fonserannes. From 1982 to 1983, a new Fonserannes water slope was built for barges alongside the lock staircase, too, though it is now out of service. The design of the Canal included the first canal passage ever built through a tunnel - the Malpas Tunnel. The Canal du Midi passes through a 173 metre or 568 foot tunnel through a hill at Enserune. The Canal also involved building the first artificial reservoir for feeding a canal waterway, the Bassin de St. Ferréol. The second source, built in 1777–1781, was Bassin de Lampy. The construction of the Canal du Midi was considered by people in the 17th century as the biggest project of the day. Even today, it is seen as a marvelous engineering accomplishment and is the most popular pleasure waterway in Europe. Initially the canal appears to have been mainly used by small sailing barges with easily lowered masts, bow-hauled by gangs of men. By the middle of the 18th century, horse towing had largely taken over and steam tugs came in 1834 to cross the Étang. By 1838 273 vessels were regularly working the canal and passenger and packet boats for mail continued a brisk trade until the coming of the railways in 1857. Commercial traffic continued until 1980 when it began to decline rapidly, ultimately ceasing altogether during the drought closure of 1989. Today the Canal has become a tourist attraction and place for leisure activities, with many people rowing, canoeing, fishing or even cruising on luxury hotel barges such as the Anjodi. The canal's beauty is enhanced by rows of stately Plane trees that line each side. The 42,000 trees, which date from the 1830s, were planted to stabilize the banks. In 2006 a wilt infection was discovered that is killing the trees. About 2,500 had been destroyed by mid-2011, at which time it was projected that all would need to be destroyed and replaced in the next 20 years.

Holiday in Sète, FranceSète is only 30 minutes away from the Montpellier-Méditerranée Airport and 45 minutes from the Béziers-Cap d’Agde Airport. Its train station Gare de Sète is approximately 25 minutes by train from Montpellier, and is also served by long distance trains to Bordeaux, Toulouse, Marseille and Paris. Car ferries ply between Sète and Morocco in northern Africa. Sun worshipping visitors to Sète can be on a beautiful white sand beach in a matter of minutes. Situated in the South of France, Languedoc-Roussillon is 3 hours from Paris by train, 1.5 hours from London by plane, and 2.5 hours by road from Barcelona. From England there are direct flights from Liverpool to Nîmes and Carcassonne, from London Stansted to Carcassonne and Perpignan, London Luton to Nîmes, Béziers and Montpellier, London Gatwick to Montpellier, from Bristol to Béziers, from Bornemouth to Carcassonne, from Leeds to Montpellier, from Southampton to Béziers and Perpignan, from Manchester to Perpignan and from East Midlands to Carcassonne and from Ireland there are direct flights from Cork and Dublin to Carcassonne, and from Dublin to Perpignan.

The websites of the 5 Languedoc-Roussillon airports are:

Nîmes Airport
Montpellier Airport
Béziers Airport
Perpignan Aiport
Carcassonne Airport

By rail the Eurostar from London to Paris, and then by high-speed train to Montpellier (TGV). More info: SNCF Rail Information

Information about high speed train services to Languedoc-Roussillon from Paris, Lille and Lyon at: TER - Rail Information

Information about the TER railway network in Languedoc-Roussillon at: Train Station Information on the railway stations in Montpellier, Narbonne, Nîmes and Perpignan.

By Automobile there are four main motorways:
A61 to Toulouse - Narbonne
A75 to Montpellier - Clermont-Ferrand - Paris
A9 to Barcelona, Spain - Montpellier - Lyon
A54 to Montpellier and Marseille

Additional Traveller Resources
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Wine Tasting Notebook

French wine map

The fastest and most direct way to learn about wine is to take good tasting notes. This is no big secret, but simply the way that beginners learn the fundamentals and professionals hone their skills. The wine tasting forms act as both time savers for professionals and training wheels for beginner and intermediate wine tasters. The accompanying guides serve as a great way to jog an experienced taster's memory as well as an excellent introduction for novices to hit the ground running and learn about wine.

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French Wine Map

French wine map

There is not a more detailed, technically accurate or better looking Wine Map of France. The maps are extensively researched and includes adjacent regions in Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Spain. The map includes detail maps of Bordeaux, Côte d'Or and Beaujolais. Each is 24 by 36 inches, expertly printed on heavyweight acid-free archival paper that is suitable for framing. Included with each is an eight page index booklet.

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Wine Varietal Chart

French wine map

Clearly see the big picture of wine grape varieties and how they relate to one another. A beautiful addition to any tasting room or wine cellar. The accompanying reference book, The Wine and Grape Indexes, is the most comprehensive index available of the grape varieties used in worldwide wine appelations. It helps to answer the proverbial question: what grape am I drinking? The Wine Grape Varietal Table is 24 by 36 inches printed in color on acid-free archival paper and is suitable for framing, making it a great gift for any and all wine lovers.

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French wine domains
An Encyclopedia of the Wines and Domaines of France
by Clive Coates

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In this handsome and engaging book, Clive Coates, one of the world's leading authorities on wine, gives us the most up-to-date, comprehensive, and detailed study of the wines of France ever written. Coates's vast knowledge of his subject together with his natural gift as a storyteller make An Encyclopedia of the Wines and Domaines of France as informative as it is entertaining. He discusses every appellation and explains its character, distinguishes the best growers, and uses a star system to identify the finest estates. With more than forty specially commissioned maps that show the main appellations and wine villages of France in detail and a format that invites browsing as well as in-depth study, this book will be essential reading for anyone, professional or amateur, interested in wine.

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