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More Beach Towns…and a Sip of Banyuls

October 25, 2014

In my determination to tackle my “to see” list, yesterday I drove to Collioure, about 90 minutes away via the autoroute (tollway). The wind has been blowing fiercely for the last several days, and I had a death-grip on the steering wheel as the gusts buffeted my little Citroën about. Strong winds are pretty normal here, I guess: there were signs along the autoroute warning “caravans” to reduce their speed during high winds.

I have seen many wind farms here in the L-R, and along the Mediterranean coast they’re ubiquitous — probably because of the frequency of high winds, duh.

Anyway, getting off the péage near Perpignan, I took the scenic route between the Étang de Laurate  and the sea through the little beach towns of the Côte Vermeille, the Vermillion Coast, the last of France before you cross the border into Spain. Collioure, Port-Vendres and Banyuls-sur-Mer are all tucked up against the foothills of the Pyrenees, and Collioures is the prettiest, on a peninsula with water on three sides. Taking the corniche route into town offered staggering views of the Med and the steep cliffsides plunging into it, but nowhere to stop and shoot. Grrrr.

The challenging thing about Collioure is parking. Even this far off-season, the lots were full, so since I was hungry my strategy was to find a hotel or restaurant with parking, then deal with the car later. Le Jardin de Collioure satisfied the parking situation, though it was perhaps the only restaurant in town not overlooking the water. The menu had a definite Catalan influence, with offerings of tapas. When I asked the waiter what variety the fish of the day was, he said, “Poisson de lieu,” which I roughly translated, as “Fish from around here.” LOL!

After lunch, thanks to a generous Frenchwoman who gave me the ticket her husband had just purchased, with an hour of parking time left on it, I quickly solved the parking dilemma.  There’s nothing more frustrating than abandoning a destination because you can’t find parking.

Waterfront in Collioure  Street in Collioure

Even this late in October, people were sunbathing and swimming at the stony beach, and it was at least 80 degrees. Café umbrella tables lined the beachfront, and a web of narrow streets lined with shops radiated from the water.   Huge plane trees shaded the promenade, and chalkboard menus offered moules frites and countless other varieties of seafood. Shop window in Coulliere

Le Petit Cafe

From chic Collioure it’s a five-minute drive to Port-Vendres, much more of a fishing port and scenic in its own more rough-and-tumble way. The port is chock-a-block with boats of all descriptions, and across the way, the French navy was sending a ship off to who-knows-where. In all these towns along the coast I noticed that the buildings were painted in warmer, happier tones, with more colorful shutters.

Quayside Port-Vendres

French navy

Colorful boat in Port-Vendres

Strolling the quayside, I came alongside a crowd gathered at the back of a fishing boat. The fishermen were sorting their catch and tossing their rejects back into the water, while the locals, crowding each other for a good spot, stretched their own nets into the water to snag what the fishermen didn’t want. I had to wonder a) why the fishermen were rejecting these fish and b) whether the locals were actually going to eat them.  Rejecting fish


Rescuing fish

My last stop in Port-Vendres was a cute little wine shop offering tastings, mainly of Banyuls, a variety produced here around the town by the same name. Predominantly red, but also available in white, young Banyuls are dessert wines, which are a bit sweet to my taste. I also sampled an older dry Banyuls that was delicious, and reminded me of port, but not as heavy. My purchase was a very crisp and bone dry white from the region.

My villa in Colliuore

My villa in Collioure!

Wine is bottled poetry. — Robert Louis Stevenson

From → Solo travel

  1. What purpose do the “sails” which you photographed hanging in the streets of Collioure serve?

  2. If you have bouillabaisse, I can’t wait to hear your description and see the pictures. It’s one of my favorite dishes.

  3. I assume the sails are for shade. I think they look really neat. Don’t have plans for bouillabaisse, but you never know…

  4. Katherine Matheson permalink

    Fantastic pictures!

  5. Karen Dugan permalink

    I am loving these descriptions and pictures!

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