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Sete Cruises

Sete, Some 28km southeast of Montpellier, twenty minutes away by train, SETE has been an important port for three hundred years. The upper part of the town straddles the slopes of the Mont St-Clair, which overlooks the vast Bassin de Thau, breeding ground of mussels and oysters, while the lower part is intersected by waterways lined with tall terraces and seafood restaurants. It has a lively workaday bustle in addition to its tourist activity, at its height during the summer joutes nautiques .

The pedestrian streets, crowded and vibrant, are scattered with cafe tables. A short climb up from the harbour is the cimetiere marin , the sailors' cemetery, where poet Paul Valery is buried. A native of the town, he called Sete his "singular island", and the Musee Paul Valery , in rue Denoyer (Wed-Sun 10am-noon & 2-6pm; 10F/1.53), opposite the cemetery, has a room devoted to him, as well as a small but strong collection of modern French paintings. If you're feeling energetic, you should keep going up the hill, through the pines to the top, for a view that's fabulous when it's not engulfed in sea mist. Below the sailors' cemetery, and neatly poised above the water, is Vauban's Fort St-Pierre , now home to an open-air theatre. Over on the west side of the hill, George Brassens, associate of Sartre and the radical voice of a whole French generation, is buried in the Cimetiere le Py, in spite of his song Plea to be Buried on the Beach at Sete . In espace Brassens (Tues-Sun: June & Sept 10am-noon & 2-6pm; July & Aug 10am-noon & 2-7pm; 30F/4.58), overlooking the cemetery, the locally born singer-songwriter lives again through his words and music, narrating his life-story on the museum's headsets.