May 9, 2014
Our next door neighbours in Mazamet suggested that we should visit the coastal resorts of the Pays Catalan. We booked into a small apartment in Port Vendres using Airbnb for the first time. We were a little apprehensive, this being our first Airbnb experience, but the apartment was rather attractive with everything we needed. It was located a few steps from the harbour and the main street which was lined with restaurants on one side and the water just across the road.
Port Vendres is a working port as well as being a tourist destination and it is just what we like, not too busy and rather relaxed. We were able to walk down the hill from our apartment to have a coffee and croissant (although I like a 'pain du chocolat') at a table overlooking the sea. The main game on the coast is about three kilometers to the north of Port Vendres in a little village called Collioure which is more of a recreational port than Port Vendres. It is a pretty village with many small streets full of shops and restaurants. We went to Collioure on a couple of occasions and the second time we took a boat and arrived in time for lunch.
We had already booked at Les Templiers which is famous for the more than 2000 paintings that line the walls. The paintings are by the likes of Picasso and Matisse, as well as a large number of lesser known artists, that were provided to the owner in exchange for food and lodging many years before the artists became famous themselves.
The food was good, if not exceptional, and we were at a table on the terrace under the sun and the trees which made the experience very pleasurable. Collioure was very crowded and in the summer months it is likely to be impossible. The coast from Argelès to Banyuls has the largest influx of tourists of the entire Mediterranean coast and a population of 8,000 swells to over 300,000 in the months of July and August. We are lucky that the weather is beautiful and the crowds have not yet arrived in numbers that would make it unpleasant.
On the boat trip to Collioure we went south to see the caves at Le Cap Béar which is on the way to Banyuls so we decided to drive around the coast to see Banyuls and it was disappointing. The main activity seemed to be scuba diving but for others it was not worth the trip. We went instead to see some 900 year old frescoes near Boulou. They were not easy to find but well worth the trip. They depicted a number of religious scenes that we all know only too well and were relatively well preserved. The church is called St Martin de Fenollar and was built in the 12th century and unfortunately we were not permitted to photograph any part of the church and the frescoes.