Escale à Sète: The tall ships festival to Welcome a VIP Guest on March 27
She commands attention wherever she goes and this year’s Escale à Sète will be no exception as hundreds of thousands of spectators, foreign dignitaries and international press turn out to greet Sète’s newest leading lady. No this isn’t the Oscars but the maiden voyage to Sète of the 216-foot Hermione-Lafayette – an exact replica of the Hermione that ferried General Lafayette to America in1780. The supporting cast will consist of El Galeon on her maiden voyage to Sète – and the world’s most magnificent windjammers, schooners, steamships and trawlers. Bring a camera – it will be a breathtaking sight!
Of War and Peace
Hermione-Lafayette comes in peace but the original ship played an important role in America’s War of Independence when she blockaded Yorktown and forced the British to capitulate. Hermione was shipwrecked in 1793 but nearly 250 years later the Centre International de la Mer decided she deserved better. And so, after nearly 20 years of construction, a splendid new ship was born – said to be the most authentically built tall ship in the past 150 years. Her maiden voyage in 2015 retraced the route of her ancestor, from Rochefort, France to the United States
In the Great Maritime Tradition
This year marks the fifth edition of the popular festival of maritime traditions on the ‘Île Singulière’ – and it is possibly the most seductive of its kind given Sète’s natural charm, beauty, deep-rooted nautical culture and status as the Mediterranean’s major fishing port. ‘Escale’, by the way, means stopover, and the tall ships will ‘weigh anchor’ at the end of the Easter weekend.
Let’s escape to Sète! This town loves a party, and music, parades, guided tours, food, art exhibitions, water jousting and more will provide entertainment on dry land, all with a decidedly nautical air. At night the town will be ablaze with ships’ lights.
Never Underestimate the Appeal of a Festival in Sète
My first experience of Escale à Sète was in 2012 when an unprecedented 200,000 spectators far exceeded the town’s expectations. The unthinkable happened: for probably the first time in history, the town ran out of food! Lessons were learned and now the town is well prepared. 2016 saw 300,000 visitors – none of whom starved! How many will arrive this year? Anybody’s guess!
If you miss this year’s Escale à Sète why not make your own ‘escale’ later? Sète is not just any port in a storm – this town of 47,000 boasts a strong cultural identity thanks to five fine museums, numerous art galleries and world-class summer festivals, including photography, film, poetry, jazz, worldwide music, and the trademark St Louis jousting festival.
Just seeking relaxation? The best beaches on the Mediterranean are just a few minutes away, and Sète is renowned for its oysters and fresh seafood. However, Sète by no means closes its shutters when the summer sun casts its last rays. Throughout the year gourmet walking tours at the lively and colorful market, Mediterranean Hands on cooking workshops, wine tastings and much more are on the menu for visitors to experience.
As you can see, Escale à Sète is just the tip of the iceberg for the this “Singular Island”. And so for now, Anchors Aweigh!