Every two years in Sète (in the Hérault department in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France), a major seafaring festival is held, a parade of old boats and sailing ships. This year’s edition, scheduled from March 22 to 28., will be very special indeed: in fact, the 350th anniversary of the port of Sète (started in el l666, at the behest of Louis XIV: the intention was to provide shelter for ships preparing to face the Gulf of Lion), which, after that of Marseille, is the most important in Mediterranean France. It is not only a seaport but also a river port: in fact, the Canal du Midi, the waterway connecting Sète to Bordeaux, ends here.
HUNDREDS OF HISTORIC BOATS, SHOWS, FOOD
In the past two editions Escale à Sète (this is the name of the festival) has attracted hundreds of thousands of people to the city. The highlight is the arrival of the crossing of historic sailing ships that departed from Barcelona, but not only. Hundreds of vintage and replica boats populate the docks, and in the streets music and food of seafaring tradition. Some of this year’s presences among the 120 boats planned: the 109-meter Polish sailing ship Dar Mlodziezy, the Santa Maria Manuela, a 67-meter Portuguese school ship built in 1937. Or the Grâce, which is a replica of an 18th-century sailing ship famous for its “numbers” (such as cannon shots on arrival in port) and the Shtandart, a replica of an 18th-century Russian frigate. Then work boats, Latin sails, the steamers, Polynesian pirogues, traditional hulls, and anything else that has a story to tell. You can see the full program on the event website, www.escaleasete.com.
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