The charming coastal town of Sète (or the 'Venice of the Med') in the Languedoc-Roussillon is a mine of cultural gems just waiting to be discovered. And for anyone not sure where to begin the treasure hunt, I would suggest joining Absolutely Southern France's three-hour gourmet walking tour. Our bilingual Canadian guide, Nancy, hosts small groups and is quite an expert herself on anything worth eating or drinking.
The mood was mellow as our group set off under the warm Languedoc sun. Nancy led us at a leisurely pace along glittering canals and bustling streets to sample top-quality produce. None of us had tasted anything like the wonderful Roquefort cheese from the town's legendary cheese-maker! Everything surpassed expectations - including fresh oysters at a celebrated restaurant, seasonal fruit in Les Halles (the indoor market), fish soup to die for and fine 'Frascati' pastry. To our surprise, and thanks to Christophe, an expert sommelier, we discovered that the local Thomas Jefferson viognier (a white wine!) was the wine to accompany Roquefort! Nancy was a charming and knowledgeable guide who treated us to quirky anecdotes on the town's roots, while supplying historical facts and figures. The experience can't be beaten as a fast-track way to get under Sète's skin.
By the way, for anyone with culinary aspirations and time to spend in Sète, Absolutely Southern France offers a Shop & Cook course; also Shoot the Sights and Paint Your Souvenir for those who prefer to record the experience.
Following ABS' successful tours of Sète, Nancy also hosts gourmet tours of nearby Montpellier, an historic, bustling, university town. I signed up for a tour and it turned out to be a great way to explore the city centre without getting lost in the narrow winding streets! On the menu were cheese, bread, charcuterie, macaroons, chocolate, coffee and wine and a good sampling of the history of this fascinating town.
In both Sète and Montpellier the merchants were all very welcoming and ready to discuss their specialities. We felt very much at home!