Collioure: “Pearl of the Catalan Coast”

Where the Pyrenees Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea meet, just above the Spanish border, lies charming Collioure.

We took a walk from our cottage at the “flèche rouge” (red arrow) to the X to search out some of her secrets.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the wind whipped against us as we walked!

The red and gold Catalan flag (reminiscent of it’s Spanish roots) can be seen flying throughout Collioure. See how many of them you can spot…

Our first glimpse of the pretty portside town.

We stopped for a family selfie. Have a look at Mr D’s face (red t-shirt) – he and I had seen a snake slowly slithering it’s way towards us and we were hissing at Mr B to hurry up and get the shot!!! When it was about 100m away from us, it found a hole in the wall and left us to finish in peace!

We made our way down the steps from the street above onto the beachfront path below.

We hoped one of us would get splashed by the oncoming waves on the right, as we walked along the edge, but the tide was low so we were safe.

Looking back towards the pathway from across the bay, the moulin (mill) can be see on top of the small hill on the left and the Fort Saint-Elme above on the right.

Follow me now, on a little rabbit-trail, to explore some of the sights just outside of Collioure. We’ll come back to discover the rest of the colourful village “un plus tard” (a little later)…

We walked up to the mill to get a better look and to take some photos.

This old grain mill was built in 1337.

It ceased operating in the 19th Century and fell into ruin.

It was restored in 2001 and is now used to press olives in order to make olive oil.

In 1552, the Spanish King, Charles the 5th, built Fort Saint Elme, ironically, to protect Collioure from being attacked by the French! Collioure was ruled by Spain until it was taken over by France in 1659.

Le Petit Train took us up the hill, overlooking Port-Vendres, to get a closer look.

The medieval fortress of Saint-Elme is a popular tourist spot. We didn’t go inside but only paused here for a couple of minutes to take a few photos. It was incredibly windy and I had to hold onto a pole to steady myself from being blown backwards!

We saw some gorgeous views of Collioure and the vineyards that surround its shores. The slopes on which the grapes grow are really steep and as a result, the grapes all have to be hand-picked.

Port-Vendres is a fishing port. Fisherman go out at night and shine strong lights into the water to lure small fish such as sardines and anchovies into their nets.

Here are a few photos of this small, secluded “ville” which is lovely and calm; protected from the north-westerly mistral.

And now, we’ve burrowed our way back to where we began … in Collioure.

Henri Matisse, who was first attracted to the vivid and vibrant village in 1905; famously said, “No sky in France is more blue than that of Collioure…”

The strong winds made for magical cloud formations as we crossed the pedestrian bridge to reach the shops and restaurants on the other side of the waterway.

The construction of the Château-Royal was carried out between 1276 and 1344. It was built on Roman foundations and forms part of the harbour wall.

Vauban, architect to Louis 14th, fortified the outer walls in the 17th century, demolishing many little seaside cottages in the process as well as the local church.

The clocktower was built as “un phare” (a lighthouse) in the Middle Ages. The small chapel to the right of the tower is known as the Chapelle-Saint-Vincent.

Situated on a rock just off the mainland, since 1642; the chapel was once occupied by religious hermits or sages. They lived a life of isolation but people were welcome to visit them for prayer or advice.

In the 1684, the bell tower was incorporated into the formation of a church: “L’eglise Notre-Dame-des-Anges” (The Notre Dame Church of Angels) to replace the one that Vauban had torn down.

The brightly painted apartments and storefronts open onto a courtyard that comes alive between 12.30 and 2pm and again at 6pm as restaurant-goers, artists, browsers and buskers mill about creating a vibrant atmosphere. It reminds me very much of Cape Town’s Bo-Kaap.

In summer, thousands of tourists descend on the “Côte Vermeille” (Vermillion = scarlet-red Coast) to “bronzer” on the beaches; sample the bountiful seafood on offer; walk along the shore, licking “une glace” (an ice-cream), while the ripples gently lap at their feet or to participate in one of their favourite pastimes: people-watching.

A meal eaten out. “Moules frites” – a popular, simple and delicious dish of mussels and chips.

A meal cooked in. “Pâtes avec fruit de la mer”.

A quick lunch thrown together. “Une salade provençale” with spicy chicken wings and anchovy-stuffed olives.

Some local treats.

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