So we went to the seaside. Specifically, to the fishing port of Sète which is almost, but not quite, an island – with the sea to the front and, at the back, the étang du Thau, long colonised by oyster and mussel beds. Towering over them is Mont Saint Clair, and three quarters of the way to the top of the mountain, along the Chemin de Huitième Station (the roads are named after the stations of the cross) is where Guy and Sophia had found us a gîte with the most sensational views over the Mediterranean.
Sète is famous for many things: Paul Valéry, sensational stretches of sandy beach, canals, fish and seafood, and its very own and bizarre water version of Medieval jousting.
Within an hour of arrival at the gite, we were canal-side, with a pichet of wine, and a grandstand view of the jousting. We selected our team – allez les bleus! – and settled in to watch the fun.
We won: the red lanceur ending up in the water five successive times.
Which was a great start and a good laugh. And to celebrate, we went for dinner. A fish supper. With, inevitably, in this part of the world, Picpoul de Pinet.
The thing about Sète is that it is very difficult to distinguish one place from another.
We chose Le Grand Bleu. Some atavistic memory had made me think it was good. Had I read a review? Was I thinking of IBM? In retrospect, I think I was confusing it with a famous oyster bar of the same name in Bouziques.
But as we sat down, we thought we were ok. It was early – we had young Dexter with us – and it was busy. With French people.
Problem was, it was too busy. The waiting staff couldn’t cope. And nor could the kitchen. So although the food was ok, it wasn’t the seafood delight that we had envisaged. But what the hell? Only my menu de degustation was actually bad. Everyone else’s was, well, ok. And they did have an excellent Picpoul de Pinet which washed away the majority of our issues.
The following day, we read, swam in the pool, and took it in turns to babysit. Jill and I sneaked out at lunchtime – an excellent salad in Café St Clair – and that evening Guy and Sophia struck lucky with fresh sole and great service in the Restaurant La Marine. And on Monday, Jill’s birthday, we went to the beach and took to the sea briefly before adjourning to one of those beach bars which the French do so well. The girls had Mojitos, which the French don't do so well.
On Tuesday, we drove home via Marseillan and another – this time sensational - sea food lunch in the port of this gorgeous little village.
And so back to St Quentin. And so to bed. A wonderful long weekend which was all too short.
Today from the everysmith vaults: The 30th of August was not just my birthday, Ted Williams's birthday and John Peel's birthday; it was the anniversary of the release, in 1965, of Highway 61 Revisited. So I've been revisiting this album and my collection of outtakes most of this week.