Over the Mountains and into France 🇫🇷 Collioure

Hi chums and welcome back to my beloved French France. How I’ve missed this Country! I was sad to say Adios to Espagne, especially as the weather had been so good of late but time is ticking on. We left Besalu and decided that we would experiment with a toll free journey over the Border. The non-toll road runs parallel with the motorway so what could possibly go wrong? Well, firstly for those who don’t know me so well, I have an aversion to steep hills. I don’t like going up and I sure as sh** don’t like coming down. The map makes no reference to the almost vertical little towns you pass through with parked cars either side so you have to breathe in nor does it say anything about the hairpin bends hanging off the side of a mountain. That’s a few more grey hairs for Velu to cover up when I get back to Derbyshire. We follow the co-ordinates to the Aire at Collioure according to the Aires Book. They are generally very accurate and up to date for France. On this occasion however the Aire was closed. Mark is becoming quite ‘French’ with his gesticulations these days. There is a signpost directing us to a new Aire thankfully only 2 minutes away. The fee for 24 hours is 10€ with dump and fill and a free shuttle bus down into town, allegedly every 30 minutes. This is our view for the night.

Pretty good Im thinking. The next morning we set off to explore. I’ve heard only good things about this place. Collioure is on the coast, just south of Perpignan. It is an arty, bohemian town. Matisse lived here in the early 1900s. Many artists have settled here since, there is artwork everywhere you look, on buildings, post boxes etc. Parking is at the top of a VERY steep hillside. Be warned, going down is ok. You need crampons and oxygen coming back up! No sign of the elusive navette (shuttle bus). I suppose it could be a seasonal thing and we couldn’t be bothered to wait around. The town is renowned for its anchovies. We call in at the little traditional shop and museum on the way down and buy some of their fresh little fishies. I’ve only ever seen them In a tin. What a revelation!

We carry on down the hill until we reach the sea. There are lots of coloured fishing boats tied up along the harbour depositing their daily catch of the little silver beauties. At every street cafe and bar, people sit sketching and painting. It’s picture postcard pretty. Our Artist friend Maggie Hookings would absolutely love it here, she would be very much at home.

 

The Museum of Modern Art was unfortunately closed for the day when we got there. I see the look of relief on Mark’s face!! I tease him a bit by telling him we’ll come back tomorrow, he’s not a fan of modern art!! The harbour itself is quite special. It has the imposing Chateau at one side and the pink domed church at the other. Narrow cobbled streets lead back from the harbour housing many quaint shops and galleries and brightly painted houses, each one different from its neighbour. Wherever there’s a space, groups of men gather to play Pétanque and Boules.

T

We absolutely love it. It lives up to every expectation. Such a charming, romantic little place. I could definitely set up home here. I’ve wanted to visit for ages.

The ‘petite train’ runs from the bottom end of town right up to the fort on the hill. Very much worth a few Euros as a tourist! A much easier way of seeing the place properly without needing a knee replacement op at the end of your visit.

We have a few drinks at an atmospheric little bar and then brace ourselves for the climb, akin to conquering Everest, back to the van. Bloody hell though, how many steps?! Moving swiftly on. Wadders musters up the last of his energy to cork the wine and I need to come up with a recipe for supper to include my Anchovies. Here we go. Its a twist on Puttanesca. I roast some halved cherry tomatoes with olive oil, salt and garlic for about 20 minutes. I transfer them to my wok and add spinach, a good slosh of red wine, a bit of lemon zest, a squeeze of lemon juice, tomato purée, chopped capers, chopped olives, chopped sun dried tomatoes and finely chopped red and green chillies. I stirred in the lovely anchovies and a handful of parsley. It’s smelling good! Place a couple of eggs on to boil in readiness and a pan of Buccatini pasta (hollow spaghetti, I stock up on this stuff from M and S or Waitrose, its my favourite pasta). Season with freshly ground black pepper and stir in a handful of chopped cornichons. Drain the pasta and add to the pan of sauce. Serve in bowls with sliced boiled egg and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan. It looks tedious on paper but it’s actually very quick, simple and absolutely yummy!

We watch the blazing red sunset light up the Fort on the hill and then retire for the night. It’s an early start tomorrow. We have quite a few miles to do and I’m very excited to finally be going to Carcassonne.

Catch up with you later my lovelies. Hope you enjoyed our trip. Sweet dreams ❤️😴

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