radiant sunrise lighting up the cool blue sea,
Collioure is the picture of health and happiness.
Fanciful sherbet colored houses frame her beautiful portrait.
Just one look and you'll see why this southern belle wins my vote for
Homecoming Queen of France's Côte Vermeille.
Collioure has it all.
Beautiful looks, a good personality, and a resumé filled with artistic endorsements.
The pride of Roussillon is a name to remember even if it is hard to spell.
Practically on the doorstep of Spain, this Catalan-influenced town
has everything you need for a perfect seaside visit.
Where to start?
With the beach view of course:
Sparkling blue Mediterranean - ✓
Horseshoe-shaped bay - ✓
17th-century church built right into the sea - ✓
A castle with a view - ✓
A windmill and a fort in the near distance - ✓
Row after row of cafe chairs - ✓
Kids flying kites on the pebbled beach - ✓
Artists capturing the passionate landscape - ✓
Rugged mountains and flourishing vineyards surrounding it all - ✓
And just like the Homecoming Queen, I'm jealous.
Why not me?
No need to be bitter.
For it's alright, just standing in her shadow is enough.
A whiff of her perfume, a taste of her virtue and once again,
I'm happy just for the chance to get to know her.
Let her hog the spotlight.
I'm just here for the dance.
Collioure is like the pretty girl you always admired.
And once you get to know her, you'll like her even more.
a remarkable family-like atmosphere that's made for lazy days and no itinerary.
But just in case you go looking for one, you won't need to stray far.
Walk to the edge of the seafront and into a one-of-a-kind 17th-century church
where -- remarkably -- the foundation is built right into the sea.
With its high altar swimming in gold leaf, Notre-Dame-des-Anges
(Our Lady of the Angels) has somehow withstood the threat of the sea since 1684.
Its unmissable pink domed clock-tower was added in 1810 on
the remains of what used to be the village lighthouse.
The Sea and The Church, infinite, limitless.
My own experience here was not your standard church tour.
After three days of perfect sunshine, an angry storm whipped up very quickly
and we made a beeline for the covered sanctuary of this seaside house of prayer. Little did we expect such a full blown drama, audio special effects ordained
by wind, water and ancient stone walls surrounded on three sides by angry surf.
It turned into a real theater of God.
The sound effects inside the sacred space should be nominated for
Oscar honors -- Best Sound Effects in a disaster movie.
It was chilling and thrilling at the same time.
St. Vincent, protector of sailors and patron saint of Collioure, was nearby
keeping watch from his very own altar,
providing safe haven from the amphibious "attack".
When we finally left the soggy sanctuary, we headed straight to our
favorite café -- to launch ourselves back into tasting the sacred wines
of the region -- but not before we ran into an elderly gentleman
all decked out in -- ??? -- scuba diving gear.
Yep, just walking down the street and no one seemed to notice.
He didn't look like he was heading to or from the water -- just
like maybe he was hanging out and making his way to dinner.
I guess the wind can whip up more than just Mary Poppins.
The Chateau Royal de Collioure is a medieval castle
with top notch views of the bay and a long and complicated history.
Its foundation has been home to Roman conquerors, the kings of Aragon
and the crusading Knights Templar, who allegedly brought back
many riches from the holy city of Jerusalem.
When the present castle-fortress was finally built by the Kings of Mallorca,
Collioure was fast becoming the most important port in Roussillon.
Although bare of castle furniture and typical royal accoutrements,
it's well worth a look.
Old stones, classic arches, iron gates, wooden beams,
and secret doors & tunnels provide the backbone for an imaginative visit.
The view alone is worth the small price of admission but there's a bonus, too.
A very nice exhibit of art - mostly paintings - is on hand to put you
in the mood for more of Collioure's boundless beauty.
a glutton really, when it comes to French food.
The cuisine of this region has distinct Catalan panache with a pinch
of Mediterranean flair and a strong core of French finesse.
The food is fresh, bold and colorful.
Seafood, naturally, is the big draw but you can choose from all manner
of local specialties with tastes as bright and fresh as the town itself.
My personal favorite is a dessert called Crème Catalan,
first cousin to crème brulée but with a twist.
This burnt cream replaces the vanilla of crème brulée with
sunlit flavors of the local lemon and orange.
In one nearby town, I think I even detected a bit of fennel as well.
The local market is a sight to see, a masterpiece of color and variety.
Held twice weekly, local producers set up underneath the shade of
beautiful plane trees, a pretty picture, no doubt, for your memory bank.
This is a town that combines art & cuisine, always a perfect pair.
At hotel/restaurant Les Templiers, good taste comes in two
varieties, one taste for your appetite and the other for your eyes.
With over 2,000 works of artists lining every wall,
Les Templiers is a place where art and gastronomy meet for dinner.
Think about it.
How many times have you stopped in your favorite local
hangout to find an original Picasso hanging behind the bar?
This is a remarkable place.
Famed modernist artists like Picasso, Raoul Dufy, and Mucha gifted
some of their best work, many in repayment for food and lodging.
Such a unique setting, don't miss it!
Collioure produces its own namesake appellation - red, rosé and
white but may be best known for its fortified sweet wine,
Banyuls -- a bright taste of the sun you'll long remember.
This setting was meant for long stretches of café sitting with nothing
but a glass of wine and a smile on your face.
But you may have to wait.
One fine evening, in the mood for something liquid, we stopped by a local café
just as the owner and his barkeep sat down to dinner and a televised rugby match.
Soon, we were both charmed and a bit ticked off.
Not only did they keep us us waiting well over thirty minutes
while they finished their dinner, but they also kept everyone else
on ice --- and no one seemed remotely upset.
I guess food and rugby make for powerful allies and
all who root for the same team are co-conspirators.
It didn't take long to get happy though, as we were soon invited
into the loving fold of the sports crazed fans and the wine flowed on.....
Anchovies, the most misunderstood of fish, is a superstar in Collioure.
You either love 'em or hate 'em, right?
This is the place to get over your childhood aversion to the underrated little fishies. Here you have the chance to eat them fresh -- and yes, they're delicious,
a real gourmet treat -- but the story doesn't end here.
You can see how anchovies are preserved and canned
at a company called Roque not far from the center of town.
It may not sound like one of the most riveting activities (and it's not)
but it's pretty cool to see rows of intensely focused women
hand filet, salt and pack the petite treats into their little tin coffins.
You can purchase the company wares on the spot and hey,
you've got your Christmas list half finished by then....☺
light that masters of pigment & brush have so long sought out.
André Derain, Georges Braque, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso,
Raoul Dufy ...... the list of famous names who painted here is long.
The romance of this town, coupled with a transformational panorama
nearly too good to be true, made this a big draw for starving artists of the day.
I think it's safe to say that Collioure made the man in more than one case.
It put money and fame into the pocket of several budding modernist artists
and even created its own movement (Fauvism) of the day.
These so-called "wild beasts" didn't consider painting by the numbers
of the old masters, inspired as they were by the savage landscape.
Their wild displays of raw Collioure showed off the brilliant sky and sea,
the red roofs and the white sails -- color color color!
They sought to capture a freedom and ease with no concern for order or rules.
It was all saturated pigment and strong brushstrokes -- and when these
paintings finally made their way to Paris, they caused a sensation -- as well
as alarm -- for they were part of a new order that pushed the art world
into virgin territory that few could have imagined.
When you visit Collioure, you'll soon discover what spurred this impulse.
An artist's parade of empty frames have been strategically placed
throughout the city so visitors like you can picture exactly what
Collioure's famed artists saw as they painted.
Perhaps you'll discover your own genius.
And don't miss the local artist studios either.
Bring home your own piece of this paradise.
That's the true spirit of Collioure.
Sensational. Optimistic. Blessed.
It really is the Queen of the Côte Vermeille.