Around France

Back to France: The Perfect Travel Plan

 After spending three months with family and friends in the US, I’m back in Uzès.  For the return trip to France,  I came by the southerly route: Barcelona to Collioure.  While sitting at the beach in Collioure, enjoying the views, the breeze, and an Aperol Spritz at a seafront cafe, I realized it was the perfect travel plan.

perfect travel route

 

The Perfect Travel Plan: Choosing Collioure

It’s somewhat surprising that so few non-French know about Collioure. It’s packed with French couples and families, so it’s their secret. Shhhh… don’t tell.

perfect travel plan

I discovered Collioure when my friends from North Carolina, the “Golden Girls,” visited me in France. (Read more here) It’s been on my list to revisit ever since.

A City of Special Light

My return to Collioure was without an agenda.  I just wanted to soak up the “light” that draws so many to the seaside town.

Some of the most brilliant artists spent time in Collioure “following the light.” Among them, Henri Matisse and Andrè Derain. During their time here, they captured every angle of Collioure on canvas.

Because the beautiful city is set between the Mediterranean sea and the Pyrenees mountains on the only east-facing coast of France, Collioure experiences exceptionally long hours of sunshine. Also, the Mediterranean has almost no tides. So when the sun rises over the water, there is no surf to break the sun’s reflection off the sea, nor to diminish the green and red colors of the Pyrenees.

“Collioure has no shadows.” Andre Derain

The light exposure, natural scenery, and historical monuments drew Paul Signac, Matisse, Derain, Chagall, Dali, and Picasso, and hundreds of others to Collioure. In fact, it is here that Matisse experimented with colors. Collioure is the “birthplace of Fauvism,” the 20th-century art movement led by Matisse that liberated the concept of color. He introduced vibrant colors and vigorous brushstrokes in a way never seen before.

“When I put a green,” Matisse would say, “it is not grass. When I put a blue, it is not the sky.” Matisse saw color as a tool to “interpret nature and submit it to the spirit of the picture,” he said.

A City of Artists 

Collioure continues to host artists from all backgrounds. More than 40 art galleries and a Museum of Modern Art are active with hundreds of exhibitions. Visitors can tour along a trail in the village where famous Fauvist works were painted or drawn. 

“Il n’y a pas en France de ciel plus bleu que celui de Collioure… Je n’ai qu’à fermer les volets de ma chambre et j’ai toutes les couleurs de la Méditerranée chez moi.” Henri Matisse

It’s all about the light.

 

The Perfect Travel Plan: Exploring Collioure

Because I visited Collioure as a wandering tourist, not as a travel writer,  I wanted to get into the “moment” if I was going to make this the perfect travel plan. I looked forward to walking, reading local guidebooks, and going with the flow.

Here are sights in Collioure you literally can’t miss

Notre-Dame-des-Anges, Our Lady of Angels, stands on the outcrop of rocks as in 1693. The symbol of Collioure, the baroque pink dome carved by Catalan sculptor Joseph Sunyer was added in 1810.

perfect travel route

 

Château Royal  is across the bay. The Knights Templar built the castle around 1207. The Kings of Majorca built a second castle by the 13th century. In the 16th century, after a brief occupation by Louis XI, the Spanish occupied Collioure again and turned the castle into a modern fortress. France annexed Roussillon and Collioure in 1659.  The castle has been in French hands since that time. 

perfect travel route

 

The history of Fort Saint- Elme began in the eighth century as a watchtower.  The French troops of King Louis XIII took the fort after the signing of the Treaty of the Pyrenees and adapted it for artillery and it was a defense site through the French Revolution.  During WWII the Kriegsmarine occupied Fort Saint-Elme. They destroyed parts of the structure upon their escape from the Allies. It is now a museum. 

Le Moulin de Collioure, the oldest windmill in Roussillon, has been converted from a cereal mill to an olive mill.

Windmill (left) and Fort Saint-Elme

 

The Perfect Travel Plan

Bites in Collioure that are so good

When I’m in the States, I miss French food. So my first stop in Collioure was at dinnertime at La Cote à l♉s What a great find! 

Spending time and money on fine dining wasn’t in my perfect travel plan, so most meals and snacks I enjoyed were chosen for convenience and the scenery.  

A restaurant from my previous trip to Collioure would be on this best travel plan if I had made a reservation in time.  Restaurant La Balette has a menu and view that are unmatched. Reservations are a must. Check out all the photos from my earlier post

Restaurant La Balette

 

A Petite Train Ride

Finding all the incredible views of Collioure was simple, even without a car.  Le Petit Train Touristique leaves every hour from downtown for a  45-minute drive along a scenic route that takes you into the hills above Collioure. With a short stop at Fort Saint-Elme, the train passes through neighboring Pont Vendres on the return. 

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Dog Heaven: Fannie’s Favorites

My new senior adoptee, Fannie, was on her first road trip with me to the US and back to France. Here are some of her favorite moments in Collioure.

Note: Les Jasmins was a “no frill’s apartment that had everything I could want. For example, “Natalie,” the owner was a great host. In addition, Les Jasmins has  the perfect location for a short walk to town; it is private and quiet; COVID clean; and best of all, I love that it was dog-friendly.

A big thanks to our new friend, Pierre. This knight-in-shining-armor made certain Fannie and I made our train in Collioure with all our baggage! 

Next: Reminiscing in Barcelona

12 replies »

    • For Fannie to come into the US from France, then US to Spain, she needed a passport. Your vet can provide one that shows the pet is up to date with vaccinations. I’m not certain outside the EU.

  1. Which of the several apartments did you rent? Love the outdoor eating area, and can’t be sure from the website. Thanks!

    • I booked the “double room with terrace and exterior kitchen.” It was perfect for me and Fannie. If with another person, it’s a queen bed.

    • I hear you! I’m sure it wasn’t quite the same in the army. Hopefully you’ll return to see the town at its best. How are you liking life in Montpelier?

  2. Wonderful blog – as usual very enjoyable and great photos -I’m so needing to come back to France. Is it complicated to travel back and forth with a dog. Mine is Fannie’s size and would like to visit for a month or so and bring my girl.

    • There are several things you need for a dog to travel internationally. One is a passport. It’s not hard to get from your vet. Second, you can’t just go online to buy air tickets. You have to talk with a representative to confirm there are not too many dogs flying in the cabin on that flight. It’s not cheap. One way ticket for Fannie from Newark to Barcelona was $200… plus I lost my carry-on allowance. She was it! You need a airline approved carrier for her. I discovered I should have bought one with wheels. Outside France, you mostly eat outdoors with a dog. No museums, etc. This all sounds very negative, but at the end of the day, I was so happy to have Fannie with me. It was worth it all.

        • Yes! Having a pet companion means you have to have plenty of time for long walks! Let me know how it goes for you♥️🇫🇷

  3. This piece has produced in me such a longing to be in France again. Covid may have stalled all our lives but perhaps it may result in our appreciating how fortunate we are to be able to experience places like Uzes.

    • Collioure is a perfect place to get back into the rhythm of France. It’s beauty, history and art say it all. Thank you so much for taking time to comment. Hopefully you’ll be heading this way soon.

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