Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Sète: Tielle, macaronade, and climbing Mont St Clair

This past Saturday I went to Sète with Damien, a port town about a 40-minute drive from the center of Montpellier. 

Here's where it lies in comparison to Montpellier, and I've also highlighted Palavas, where I lived for three months last fall/winter.

My French teacher from ILP last spring lives in Sète, and just takes the train in to work each day.
Somewhat like Palavas, Sète is also unique in that there's a huge lagoon on one side, divided by a thin isthmus, with the Mediterranean on the other, as seen below.

And here's a close-up of the part that's actually Sète, so you can see how it's split by canals.

The town is on / next to a hill, Mont St. Clair, which can be seen in this photo from

And the top of that hill became our first destination upon entering the town. It was actually a cooler, cloudy day—which at first I'd thought was a shame, but soon became grateful for as we continued up and up.

As I got warmer from climbing, I quickly took off my jacket, which I folded over one bare arm as we continued slowly up the steeply inclined roads, in the direction of "the top." Walking past the houses, I kept imagining what it would be like to live up there—the descent and then climb you'd have to make either walking or driving, every time you wanted to go anywhere.

A few minutes later, higher still, we passed the youth hostel! I exclaimed aloud my disbelief—if this is how sweaty we are at this point, in short sleeves and no baggage on a cool, cloudy day, can you imagine the poor tourists who have to walk all this way with their backpacks or suitcases, in the blazing heat? And not just upon arrival Any time they enter or leave the hostel. !!!

Not long after that, we made it to a long set of concrete stairs, which seemed as though they'd take us to the top. It was on the bottom of these stairs that I took the jacket off my arm to readjust, and saw a huge sweat stain across it, just from having been slung over my arm. Wowzer! I was so grateful for the cool air around us.

The view from the top was awesome, and obviously cannot be captured in pictures. Yet I still took a few. The "lagoon" is on the left side, and the right side is the sea.

So this is the lagoon...

And over here on the right is the sea.

Very light drops started to fall right about now, and I briefly wished I hadn't left my rain jacket in the car.

But like many "rain falls," it was just a quick, light sprinkle for a few minutes, as we started heading down via the other side.

There were lots of cool murals throughout the town. No doubt I only saw a fraction based on where we walked, but here were two:

We noticed this open door, which turned out to be an art gallery.

After walking through, the guy told us today was an artists' "open house" event, so there were lots of open galleries/studios all over town! He gave us a map, but we didn't have time to visit many more (which I would have liked). We passed another gallery while looking for lunch, so we popped in and visited that one as well.

But then we found the restaurant we'd been looking for, Pasta Politi. Among its many Italian dishes, it serves a Sète specialty macaronade sétoise, which is what both of us ordered.

I was in a total food coma after the meal. I seriously had trouble walking; I just wanted to sit down and nap (which I did, as soon as we found a bench on the shore).

Another specialty Sète is known for is tielle, so I picked one up on the way out of town to have for dinner that night. Tielle is traditionally an octopus "pie," but nowadays they're usually made with squid or cuttlefish.

Tielle, image from Wikipedia
The homemade version from Sète was notably better than the tielle I get from the grocery store.

If you're in Montpellier, Sète makes for a great day trip!
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