Here’s a unique place I would never have discovered if it wasn’t for the knowledgeable people at Sète’s Tourism Office. They advised me to visit the quaint district of “Pointe Courte”, to get to know the real heart and soul of Sète. This small fishermen’s neighbourhood lies in the north of Sète, between the Canal Royal and the Étang de Thau lagoon.
I began my exploration of La Pointe Courte at the Allée de Jeu de Boules (can a street name get more French than this?!). As I didn’t know what to expect, I started walking to the lagoon, almost blown away by the strong Tramontane wind. To my left I noticed all these tiny fishermen’s houses, built in a rather peculiar and kind of messy way. I think that this district of Sète is still an anarchistic part of France, where rules don’t, or clearly less, apply. Somehow, I felt eyes following me from the high grass, behind fishnets and under abandoned boats. Shy, but curious, cats followed my path while I continued my stroll.
Soon enough I discovered that these cats came from the Animal Shelter, situated on a small peninsula. I wasn’t sure if I could enter this part, but as it was a road without any gates or barriers, my curiosity won me over. Every part of La Pointe Courte breathes marine life, and its inhabitants are very creative when it comes to decorating their sheds and houses. The slower I walked, the more I saw. Fishing boats, signs decorated with shells, driftwood art, funny quotes and so much more! At the end of the road, I even found a tiny oyster bar, with a priceless view of the Étang de Thau.
By this time, I had already roamed around for about an hour, for a walk of not even one kilometre… and my exploration continued. Via the little streets of the actual Pointe Courte, I walked to the Quai du Mistral. Although the houses on this street have been modernised, they still have this authentic look about them. Some of them are real pieces of art. And if you want to have the true Pointe Courte experience, you can even stay at the Cabane d’Isa.
As La Pointe Courte only covers a small area, I loved walking through the little streets with names like “Traverse des Jouteurs” (the Water Jousting Crossing) and “Traverse des Rameurs” (the Rower Crossing). And around every corner I discovered something new. Like Sète itself, La Pointe Courte hosts a few pieces of street art. And these mingle perfectly with the colourful houses and bright decorations.
Ever since the mid 19th century, the main means of income for this area has consisted of fishing and oyster farming, known in French as “conchyliculture”. After Sète’s railway was developed, a few strips of wasteland connected to the Étang de Thau were left. This was the perfect spot for fishermen to build sheds to store their fishing nets, create a small port and in the end to settle with their families. And that is what this quarter is still about, if you take the time to absorb the many magical still lifes of drying fishing nets and traps. If it were a decor for a movie, you would say it was overdone. But here at La Pointe Courte it is part of life, which makes it such a magical place.