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Sète 25 May 2016

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Wednesday morning in Sète is market. All the streets around the daily market are closed to traffic and covered with stalls and people. I think the French like their markets as much as our family does; even if they don't need anything, they always go ...and always find something they need. Streaming away from the market we see dozens of folks with their rolling market baskets. See them, and go the way they're coming, and you find the market.

In the square closest to us, there were a dozen different sellers of plants -- flowers, vegetable starts, exotics. I guess the French gardeners like their starts leggier than we like ours.

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Prices are outrageously cheap, compared to ours or to the supermarket prices. There's no emphasis on "organic," because most small gardening in France is, by decree of the European Union, done "bio" -- without chemicals and pesticides. 

Today the Euro is worth $1.12, so that's about 80 cents for an enormous head of organic lettuce. Every kind of produce is labeled by origin, and most, even the tomatoes, are from France, probably from greenhouses. Much of the fruit, which is gorgeous, comes from Spain.


We come away with lemons and oranges from Spain, a little Charentais melon from France, and some gorgeous red garlic.

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After we survive the press of the market, we walk by the post office for some postcard stamps. Across the street, in front of the Mediathèque (one assumes that's like a library, except for media) we see an amazing statue.

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This puts us in the mood for some culture, so we go to the Hérault's Museum of Contemporary Art, dedicated to art of the moment. Not surprisingly, it's activist art, with some very interesting bits of technology thrown in. Rochelle is reflected in a mirror etched with the decay patterns of subatomic particles recently discovered at the super collider.

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The friendly looking fellow in the image above right is a freedom fighter in the Ukraine. It's worth remembering that the Ukraine considers itself part of Europe, not part of Russia, and supplies most of southern Europe's natural gas. It's feeling more than a little victimized; this display was called "From Chernobyl to the War."

France is presently erupting in one of its periodic strikes, this time over new labor pushed through without parliamentary approval. Most French people seem to shrug: "so there's no gas; so the labor unions are losing their grip over a few extra hours of overtime obligation with maybe a little less pay. So why should we worry? It's all part of our culture." We hope their upheaval isn't going to affect our trip.

What's been going on in the Ukriane next door makes the current labor shenanigans seem terribly silly.

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After his day's work with the city is over, Patrick has offered to take us for a boat ride. Of course we accept. He takes us out into the Med, where's it's windy and bumpy, to see Sète from the ocean side. Then back through the canals -- he shows us where he works, the ferry to Africa, where the cruise ships dock, the fisherman's village and harbor, then out under the bridges into the Étang de Thau, the 25 kilometer long lagoon to the south, where there are miles and miles of man-made oyster beds. He shows us where the Canal du Midi comes into the Étang, crosses it, and exits to ther Mediterranean through the Royal Canal. I tell him we are going to go next to the Canal and ride around on a boat for a week. "Good decision!" he says. We hope so!

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<p>The Royal Canal</p>

The Royal Canal

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Patrick is more willing to try to speak English, but when it comes down to complicated expressions, my French turns out to be better. I try to explain that I am a "recovering restaurateur" but the concept recovering is beyond him, and beyond my French to explain. Nevertheless, between the two of us we communicate well. He tells a lovely story about what happens in Cap de Agde, at the other end of the Étang: he and his wife rode down there in the boat one day, and saw a woman leading her (presumed) husband around on a leash, he on all fours. "Anything goes," says Patrick. "Anything!" He's fascinated, but disapproves. "We never do any of that," he insists.

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