Now, I do love the Côte d'Azur, I do. Or I have come to love it after my dives for the rare pearls of peace and the past. They can be hard to come by. Not so on the wide-open other side of France's Mediterranean coast. If authenticity is what you seek, Sète, a half hour south of Montpellier, is ready for her close-up. But only if you are shooting a documentary because this girl has a day job. A polar anti-thesis to Cannes, it is the second largest port on the French Mediterranean after Marseille, one instigated by Louis XIVths own Colbert. Materials of all sorts are launched across the world and the fish is as fresh as you can dream of (more of that very soon). The Grand Canal winds its way between the Bassin de Thau and the shimmering sea and yet the ambiance entirely lacks the frothy romance to deserve its nickname as "The Venice of Southern France." Locals, of whom I was lucky enough to have one show me the ropes, call it an island but it isn't quite one. Sète is of the in-between in several senses. Prosperous times have been followed by rough economies and then back again. And it shows. This is not a place to come looking for a dream but to wake up (hopefully not in one of the sailor's bars) and realize that you just might love it somehow, despite or because of the rusty iron balconies, the grated plaster, the glint-eyed sea captains that will threaten a punch if you take their photo. But there are also hipster hotels, a contemporary art museum staffed by pouting young folk draped in black, a burgeoning photo festival and one of the world's most beautiful concert venues in a Vauban fort positioned for sunset over the waves. I just want to take my hankie and polish the corners a bit. But Sète might prefer to be left just as it is, to follow the ups and downs of its own tide.