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Inspiring Life & Travel in France

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Inspiring Life & Travel in France

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Sete France: Abbeys and Vineyards

Ales (borrowed Citroen) and I arrived in Sete, France, on Saturday afternoon. We rushed 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, and 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. Just a few doors down the street was a Petite Carrefour, where 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. 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, where I enjoyed the apartment and the unforgettable view. The view of the canal through the open French doors was mesmerizing.

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, probably a mile away. With the canal on the left, the right side of the street is lined with small shops and cafes. About halfway down the street, the one-way roadway divides in two, with one side going up a slight incline into the center of the city.

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

St. Clare by the Sea

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

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

After visiting for a while, 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 at their “beach house,” entertaining their grandchildren and guests.

Soon, Nancy arrived to pick me up for our tour of a wine domain and a twelfth-century abbey. Nancy runs Absolutely Southern France, a destination planning 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, 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 that 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 wine tours and a gourmet restaurant on the property.

Domaine Saint Hilaire

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

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

Note: The son of my hostess in St. Claire has an interesting hobby. He and his friends participate in “re-enactments.” He is a gladiator! His team has “fought” in the Arena in Nimes.


Day trip from Uzes to the Cevennes

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