LANGUEDOC - Living in France
Around the Basin de Thau
The Basin de Thau is a natural salt-water lake separated from the Mediterranean Sea by a narrow sand bar. It is the only navigable etang on the Mediterranean coast. Numerous villages and towns of interest surround it. Apart from tourism with numerous holiday cruisers for hire, it is an important area for the production of shell fish. with large quantities being imported from the cold waters of the French Atlantic coast and raised here. In the warm waters of the Basin the shell fish reaches maturity in a much shorter period of time.            

The Canal du Midi was an amazing engineering project. Started in 1666, by up to 12,000 men, digging by hand, crossing rivers, and tunneling through hills. It runs 235 kilometers, and its waters are replenished from the mysterious Montagne Noir. Throughout its length there are over 100 locks. It was a love affair of man, nature, and engineering. Paul Riquet, born in Beziers, had a dream to join the economies of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, and the Canal was constructed as a result of his ideas
He was so determined to ensure its completion, that he financed the project himself, sacrificing everything. He even used his daughter’s dowry for the cause, and died penniless just prior to its completion Villages and towns reaped profit from its golden days, as can be seen by the grand homes, and chateaux that grace the waters edge
Holiday cruisers on the Canal du Midi
Now canal boats cruise it’s length, full of tourists and leisure seekers. Some lock keeper’s houses still house the keepers, whilst others have been opened as restaurants, art galleries, and holiday homes. The “Neuf Ecluses” (the nine locks) at Beziers is an interesting place to view the canal, as is the bridge that takes the canal across the River Orb. The Canal uses the Basin de Thau to pass between Marseillan and Sete.
Balaruc is a colorful resort, built on the flat land next to the Basin de Thau. With beautiful vistas across the lake towards Sete, it is a pleasure to visit, either for water sports or for therapeutic needs. This is the third most visited spa in France, where many are happy to be basted with a mixture of sea mud, heavily chlorinated and sodium potent spa water. Apparently this has been proved to aide the treatment of bone disorders and rheumatism.
Bouzigues, is a pretty village nestling on the Basin de Thau, and offers glorious views towards Sete and should not be missed by those lovers of oysters and mussels. Visit the museum of the Étang de Thau, on the harbour quay that offers an insight into the fishing industry and the mussel and oyster farms that are so much part of the landscape here.
A town devoted to the production of mussels and oysters, but also a popular tourist resort with sandy beaches on the lake. You will find numerous stalls lining the main streets selling shellfish. Mèze has an aquaculture research center called the “Station de Lagunage”, with information, films, photographs, and displays.
The town’s streets are picturesque around the harbour, and are busy in the height of Summer. A popular attraction is the water jousting where two boats, a red and a blue, are rowed towards each other with jousters standing on raised platforms attempting to knock their opponent into the water with long lances. Meanwhile, ashore, a band plays music to encourage the competitors.
This charming village was founded by a wandering fisherman from Marseille in the 6th century AD. Marseillan is a busy port attracting tourists and fishermen alike. Close by are the famous Caves of Noilly-Prat, that are well worth a visit. It is also a center for the hire of holiday cruisers. Nearby is the village of Pinet, famous for its dry white wine, but also its animated crib in the church. The crib is made up of Santons, dolls dressed to represent different trades and only found in the south of France.
Known as the ‘Venice of Languedoc’, the town is dissected by numerous canals. where you can see boat jousting that dates back to 1666, in all its flamboyance on August 25 (St Louis's Day). Another festival connected to the sea is the festival of St Peter, where the patron saint of fishermen is carried aboard a boat, adorned with flowers, that are later sprinkled over the water.
Water jousting at Sete
Sète is the perfect place to visit at any time of the year. It is always busy with fishing boats, and people wandering its many picturesque streets. If you want somewhere to eat a fish meal - this is the place. After dinner walks are pleasantly rewarded by panoramic views of the sea and the glorious landscape of Languedoc from Mont St Clair, an extinct volcano.
View from Mt St Clare at Sete towards Agde.
The Basin de Thau is on the right and the
Mediteranean on the left

Offers all the necessary needs for beach lovers, with miles of sandy beaches that lie to the north and south on this golden stretch of the Languedoc coast.
Dating back 2500 years, the fortress Cathedral of St Étienne, built in black lava rock, and standing next to the broad river Herault, dominates the town. Many of the old houses in the centre of Agde are also constructed from Lava blocks. Along the riverfront are many good restaurants and the town hosts a good market, all year round on Thursdays.
Visit the local museum “Musée Agathois”, located in the midst of colorful narrow streets, for an interesting collection of local history. The Canal du Midi passes by Agde, and presented Paul Riquet with a problem - how to allow boats to leave the canal, and pass along the River Herault to the sea. An obvious solution but revolutionary in its day was to make a round lock with three exits.
The Cathedral at Agde.
Built next to an extinct volcano, the Mt Saint Loup,, that for over 200 000 years gave the black tint to the natural building materials of the area. A lighthouse and fort were constructed in 1836 on its summit. During the Greek presence in the area, the Cap was a natural refuge at times of storms at sea, and many relics of the Greeks have been found here dating from the 4th century B.C.
This modern seaside resort is another of the new coastal resorts built during the 1960s to relieve the pressure on Provence, and was modeled on an old fishing village. Today it is a magnet for sun lovers, particularly naturists - and its port is home to thousands of sailing ships. The harbour side restaurants are very cosmopolitan.