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Michelle: Sète

February 14, 2011

Sète is known as the “Venice of the Languedoc” (by their Office of Tourism). It’s a quaint little port town just south of Montpellier. Claude and Caroline took me there today for the afternoon. Although the weather was somewhat dreary, this peninsular town is full of charm.

Although I previously called Sète “little,” it is one of the largest ports on the Mediterranean. That being said, the Sea has a large influence on their culture. In the picture above, there’s a statue in the distance of a man holding a lance. He represents one of the regional traditions here of water-jousting. During the festival of St. Louis every summer, Sète holds its annual water-jousting competition. It’s one of their biggest, if not their biggest event of the year.

"Verducci Adrienne (1896 - 1962) Our grandmother. She was the first to commercialize Tielle in 1937. The Tielle: a product of Italian origin (Tielle, in Italian means the "mussel") with a octopus base and tomato sauce. Tielle: a dish that became a family recipe over the years and one of the specialties Sète" ~Cianni

The Sea is also reflected in many of the foods found here. La Tielle and La Macaronade are both dishes representative of the region. La Tielle is a tarte with a fish and octopus filling. Caroline bought one for us to have for dinner tomorrow. La Macaronade is a seafood, tomato, pasta dish which also reflects the strong Italian influence in Sète.

After a brisk walk through town, we went to Musée Paul Valèry for an exhibit on Louis Valtat, a painter associated with the Fauvism despite never self identifying with the movement. Fauvism is best known though the work of Henri Matisse who used vibrant colors and strong outlines to create his forms. Before going to the museum, I was familiar with Valtat’s couturière series but that only represented on small facet of a much larger breadth of work. A lot of Valtat’s early work resembled the work of the early impressionists. There is an exceptionally marked resemblance between his early nudes and the style of Renoir. However, toward the end of his career, Valtat moved away from the pastel and strong brush strokes of the Impressionists and toward the raw, untamed spirit of Fauvism. No pictures were allowed in the gallery but one of my favorites from the exhibit (which I found online) is pictured to the right. I really enjoyed the exhibit. Whereas before, Valtat was just a name buried somewhere in the back of my mind, I now have a new appreciation for the breadth of his work and the artist that he was.

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