The best of the south of France - right on your doorstep
The ‘Etang de Thau’ is the largest of a string of salt-water lagoons that stretch down the Languedoc coast. Ten metres deep in places, these crystal clear waters are home to flocks of pink flamingos and white herons, sea bream and sea bass, and of course millions of oysters grown on chains hanging from thousands of oyster tables. In fact, these ‘Bouzigues Oysters’, as they are known, are said to be the very best in France. The Tarbouriech family in particular, who run the St Barth restaurant just up the road from La Baraquette, have won awards for their crop. There’s nothing quite so magical as sitting on their pontoon on a warm evening, with a glass chilled Picpoul wine, the oyster beds fanning out towards Sète in the distance.
The lagoon offers no end of activities, too - from horse riding along its shores, to fishing for crabs and shrimps in its shallows, wind surfing and sailing, or simply soaking up the sun on one of the huge beaches that separate it from the Mediterranean. In fact the 25 kilometres of beach that stretches from Cap d’Agde to Sète, known as ‘The Lido’, is one of the longest stretches of sand in France. Along it, stylish beach clubs offer good food and comfortable sunbeds, where you can work on your tan and down iced mojitos. In the evening the party-goers hit the beach clubs for a night of dancing and cocktails.
“The unpretentious port of Sète, in France, offers a sensuous taste of the unspoilt Mediterranean.”
90% of the oysters farmed in the Mediterranean sea are sourced directly from the Thau Lagoon, the seafood capital of the Mediterranean.
Sète and Agde offer something for everyone
At the south of Le Lido lies Cap d’Agde. Its northern half is Europe’s largest naturist beach and ‘village’ - a busy hubbub of restaurants, bars, shops and hotels. Cap d’Agde’s southern half isn't naturist, and offers a number of more intimate beaches with some superb beach clubs. ‘Les Vagues’, on Rochelongue beach, offers some of the best ‘fusion’ cuisine in the south of France.
At the northern end of the lagoon, the bustling port-town of Sète rises from the sea up the hill of Mont St Claire. Sète is very much a working port, home to a huge fishing fleet that brings in half of the Mediterranean’s tuna. This is the Mediterranean at its very best - where you can sit at simple seafood restaurants that line the town’s canals, eating the freshest of grilled fish, while the tuna fleet passes up and down in front of you. From the top of the town, an observation deck has been built giving superb views of the coast weaving its way up to Montpellier to the north, and the oyster beds of the Thau lagoon to the south. If you really want to experience Languedoc at its authentic best, get up early for Sète’s daily market. It’s the busiest in the whole region, with endless noisy stalls selling local produce such as asparagus, French strawberries (far tastier than their Spanish cousins), home-made tapenades, charcuterie, the best Roquefort and goats cheese and of course a huge variety of fish and shellfish.
“I reckon Languedoc has an even richer larder, not least in the matter of shellfish. The Thau lagoon behind Sète abounds in mussels and oysters. Sète's own specialty – tielles – are pies of cuttlefish and onions, and quite the best thing that ever happened to cuttlefish.”