Ready for another story to warm up your winter day? Revisit the
French seaside towns of Port Vendres and Collioure with me and my North Carolina friends. You may want to put these two on your “must see” list!
When “The Golden Girls” discovered Port Vendres and Collioure, the quaint towns along the Mediterranean, it was quite by accident. We were looking for an airport near Sete that had cheap flights to Italy. With a little research, we found that the airport in Girona, Spain was only a little over an hour’s drive from Sete. It was not far from the coast, so we could drive along the Med and, hopefully, find a seaside town where we could stop overnight before taking a flight to Italy.
Collioure jumped off the map as the perfect place. The tiny village is the picture-book image of what you’d expect in this part of the world. There was only one problem: Collioure had “no room at the inn.”
Apparently Europeans know Collioure. It was packed with tourists. Not to be discouraged, we settled for the next best thing: Port Vendres, the town just a bit farther down the coast.
We arrived in Port Vendres in the late afternoon. Having driven south from Sete, staying mostly on the “super” highway until we turned east at Perpignan, Canet-en-Roussillon was the first town we ran into on the Mediterranean. We stopped for lunch in a Spanish-looking restaurant, Vigatane, then pointed Sally south along the sea toward Port Vendres. Here’s our view from the car as we went away from the main highway and drove towards Collioure and Port Vendres.
Tired and anxious to get out of the car for the day, we passed through Collioure, then came to Port Vendres and parked Sally in the town square. Just minutes after calling our AirBNB host, to tell her we were in town, Anna appeared at our car
Anna is a tall, blonde and fair-complexioned woman of Scandinavian ancestry. She spends time between her apartment in Port Vendres and a home in the Pyrenees. To welcome us to Port Vendres, she personally guided us around the small business area showing us her favorite restaurants and wine merchant.
Afterwards, we set out for a night on the town.
Returning to our Airbnb “loft” to relax and sleep, we were there just in time to catch sight of the most glorious rainbow — surely a good omen for the next part of our adventure.
We had a full day planned in Collioure, so we started out early in the morning, giving ourselves just enough time to grab a cafe latte and croissant, and to check out the Saturday Market in Port Vendres.
Backtracking, we arrived in Collioure and parked Mustang Sally at a hilltop rest stop. When we got out of the car, we realized the “rest stop” was, indeed, the parking lot for a restaurant. We went into the restaurant, which was busy with staff preparing for lunch, and assured them we would return later for a meal–not just take a free parking spot.
From here we were able to walk through most of the town, wade in the surf, and do a bit of shopping.
Thinking the day couldn’t get any better, we headed back towards the restaurant on the hill. Oh my! What a treat. The entrance to the restaurant was near the top of the hill; but the service area was down a narrow, stone stairway that led to the sea. When we reached where tables were set, we literally stepped onto a yacht, or what appeared to be one because of the shape of the deck. From our table made us feel like we had set sail on a calm sea. The food? It was heavenly.
And the wait staff? Well, one Golden Girl thought he was HOT. You judge for yourself. We told him he could drive Mustang Sally if we could adopt him. Musee Collioure. The artist is in the house. Our lunch was long and leisurely with us all agreeing we are the “luckiest people in the world”. Still we had time to wander into the town’s art museum. The small space handsomely displayed a collection of French artists such as Claude Viallat , Joan Brossa , Dominique Gauthier, Henri Marre, Matisse, and Jean Peské.
Our good fortune was that one of the area’s well-known artists, Francois Bernadi, was working in the museum that day. We introduced ourselves and he seemed as thrilled to meet us as we were to meet him. His exhibit, which spanned his career since 1945, had just been taken down to make room for the new show, but we did purchase posters which he proudly autographed with a personal message. View at the top We had a flight to catch from the Girona airport, which was less than an hour away. Before leaving Collioure we drove to the highest spot in town. From top to bottom, high and low, this is a town that should be on every tour map. Love, love!