Every two years Sète, in the Southern France, hosts a beautiful festival celebrating maritime traditions, sea and old boats. This year, the edition will be richer because it is also the 350th anniversary of the harbour, the second most important harbour in France after Marsille, wanted by Louis XIV at the end of 1600 to offer a shelter in the Gulf of the Lion. But the harbour of Sète is particular because it is both a sea and river harbour: this is in fact the arrival point of the Canal du Midi, the long navigable river which links Bordeaux with Sète and, combined with the Canal of Garonne, the Atlantic with the Mediterranean Sea.
The history of Sète is the history of its harbour and the relationship of the city with the sea is very strong. It is the history of a transitional land, like any port city: Sète belongs to Occitaine and Catalonia, its dialect is mostly Italian but the ships speak French, Arabian and Spanish. At the end of March, for an entire week, Sète celebrates its history with hundreds of classic boats, traditional music and dishes.
In the last two editions, hundreds of thousands people flocked to see the most important attraction of the event: the historic sailing ships crossing from Barcelona to Sète. Tens of ships, copies of old vessels, set sails to the wind in a wonderful show and, once arrived, they show off in the docks surrounded by shoals, marching bands playing old maritime songs and lots of fans.
This year, among the ships which will participate to the festival, there are Santa Maria Manuela, a Portuguese 67-metre training vessel with four masts, built in 1937; Dar Mlodziezy, a Polish 109-metre ship; Grâce, the copy of a 18th-century vessel generally used for particular shows, like shooting its cannons when it arrives at the harbour; the beautiful Far Barcelone and many more. Near the beautiful noble ladies there are some historic boats: Latin sails, working boats, steamboats – maybe less glamorous but with glorious stories.