France From The Inside

France From The Inside: Collioure in Southwest France

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Collioure has been attracting visitors from around the world since the word Fauvisim was coined to describe the style of painting produced by Matisse and Derain in 1905.

The quality of light in this part of France's Languedoc region is the attraction, but the history of Collioure has left this place with a wealth of buildings: religious, military and a picturesque fishing harbour.

The Home of the Anchovy

Collioure situated where the Pyrenees fall into the Mediterranean it is still the home of the anchovy, even if the famous little fishes are no longer brought here by fishing boat but trucked in from Port Vendres. The painters were right to settle here. The colours of the vines on the red hills change with the seasons. They ring the town, artistically framing everything. The castles on the skyline and Château Royal on the water's edge are reminders of the turbulent times in this border region. The French army is still in barracks on the hill and Chateau Royale still sends out marines to exercise on the sea.

Artists is still live and work here. In the streets around the old town. Galleries display the current residents work. Around the town are placed reproductions of the most famous works in the positions they were painted from. Frames are placed so visitors can see what the artist saw, compare the actual with the artistic view.

Mix Art and Coffee

Collioure can become very crowded. Aim to begin any visit early. Have breakfast in the restaurant at the centre of the universe, actually called Café Sola, looking down the across the Place du 8 Mai 1945. Take a window seat and watched the town wake up. The dark inside of this Catalan bar hides Frenchman taking their morning coffee and splash of spirit. Mid-morning coffee should be taken inside the ‘Les Templiers’. Here the walls are covered by paintings done by customers through the years. Try to spot the famous artists. Take time to savour the atmosphere, this is still a real bar with real people not tourists. They are sat outside.

Lunch can be where ever you choose. From expensive and chic overlooking the sea to private and romantic in converted wine warehouses or in public on a few tables placed in alleyways with people pushing past. The best will have good fish, as you would expect only 3 km from Port Vendres. Do have some anchovies, you are in the home of the anchovy. Have them fresh, have them marinated in one of a dozen ways and you will never forget why people preserve them in salt to enjoy the flavor far away from their Mediterranean home.

The Collioure's Beaches

After lunch you can decide which one of the three nearest beaches you are to grace with your presence to sleep off lunch. There is the Plage de la Port’Avall with its children and Pedalos. The Plage Boramar is full of beautiful bodies turning a darker shade of brown, just like the Plage St Vincent. The Plage Nord is the serious swimmers between the rocks.

Collioure has been welcoming visitors for generations, go once and you will want to return again and again.
Tags: france
Travel and Culture