SITTING outside a canalside restaurant eating oysters in the sun I have to remind myself that only four hours previously I was hunting for a car-parking space at an overcast Edinburgh Airport.

The Ryanair hop to Bezier, in France's Languedoc-Roussillon region, took just over two hours, but I'm already a world away - in a world filled with vineyards, medieval towns, oyster beds and mile after mile of golden beaches.

A 40-minute drive form the airport has brought me to the bustling beachside city of Sete.

Built in the 1600s, to provide a Mediterranean access for the Canal du Midi, the city is still crisscrossed by a multitude of waterways, giving it the nickname the 'Venice of France'.

Nickname aside, at least you won't be charged Venetian prices.

There's not many places where you can enjoy a plate of oysters and a glass of local wine for £5.

Mind you, not many places have one of the world's prime oyster beds right on its doorstep.

The Étang de Thau, a large inland lagoon which protects the north side of the city, produces the prized Bouzigues oysters.

Speaking of food, one of the best, and most informal, places to eat is in Sete's covered market. There, various cafes and bars entice locals and visitors alike by using the best of that day's fish, fruit and vegetables to conjure up fabulous food.

Sete itself, almost cut off from mainland France by the lagoon an d the canals, has an atmosphere all of its own.

Walk into the high town, a network of narrow alleys and lanes, and you would be forgiven for thinking you were in Italy. And you'd be half right. Just as impoverished Italians emigrated to Scotland in the 1860s, so their fishermen cousins from Naples sailed west to establish a community in Sete.

More recent visitors are the artists and artisans who have set up shop in the area, making the most of its cheap rents to create their own cultural quarter.

More unusual visitors are the flamingos. Long of leg and neck, and pink of plumage, the seasonal African incomers add a touch of the exotic to the canals and lagoon.

If all that walking tires you out, head to the sea-facing side of Sete and before long you hit sand; mile after mile of beautiful golden sand, with hardly a tourist in sight.

Largely undeveloped, and backed by grassy dunes and the waters of the lagoon, the magnificent spit of sand stretches for some 26km.

If beats rather than birds are your thing, visit Sete in July, when Radio 1 DJ Gilles Peterson hosts his annual Worldwide electronic music festival.

If the beach and the city begin to bore, Sete also provides the perfect base to explore further afield.

The walled Camargue town of Aigues-Mort, the bustling university city of Montpellier and the Medieval town of Pezenas, where Molliere penned many of his plays, are all within easy striking distance.

Having said that, with its bustling cafe culture, easy beach access, friendly locals and - oh, did I mention the oysters and wine? - I would have been quite happy to join the flamingos and settle in Sete.

Norry Wilson travelled as a guest of the Sud de France tourist development office:

He flew with Ryanair, Edinburgh to Sete:

In Sete he stayed at the Hotel De Paris;

In Montpellier he stayed at the Ibis Montpellier Centre:

See also Languedoc-Roussillon tourism: