Now that Ireland’s had our customary five days of sunshine, it’s time to start looking overseas if you want to soak up any summer rays. But of course, the place has to be nearby, beautiful, historical, and have great weather. It also has to be just a tiny bit off the beaten track. Well, look no further because we have you covered. Collioure France is the place to go!
Located in the south-east of France, it is extremely close to Spain and the entire area is actually a lot more Catalonian than French. The red and yellow flags of the Catalonia adorn the streets and buildings. It is a beautiful seaside town that is rich in restaurants, cafes, and things to do. But why should you make the trip out here? Here is our list of why you should visit Collioure.
One of the most amazing things about getting to Collioure is the sheer convenience. Aer Lingus recently opened up a fight route direct from Dublin to Perpignan. The flight takes about two hours. Then it’s about a thirty-minute drive from Perpignan to Collioure, There are also buses and trains available. No connections, no delays (hopefully!). Just sheer convenience. When we arrived we stayed a night in Perpignan to drink in the culture of the city. It is very old and filled with gorgeous architecture. It has one of the oldest and absolutely massive churches I’ve ever seen. The city used to be entirely walled in with a grand fort in the middle. When I say grand, I mean GRAND. The moat around the fort didn’t contain water; instead, it contained lions. I think I’d rather my chances against the water than you very much!
Perpignan is well worth a night to explore the small little streets, restaurants and cafes before making your way down the coast to Collioure. So what does Collioure have to offer?
In Ireland, the old boats are called Curraghs and the fishermen would toil in the unforgiving seas of the Atlantic to make a livelihood. Collioure is famous for its history as a fishing village, being perched right out in the edge of the significantly calmer Mediterranean. Many famous, ornate Catalonian fishing vessels used to sail straight up onto the beach before being pulled in by the public. There are many paintings depicting this old tradition. Nowadays a few of the boats still sit in the harbour for us to see what their way of life was way back then. Their bright, vibrant colours are a far cry from the black Curraghs!
Collioure is famous for its light. There is something about how the sun glows and shines on the buildings during the day. Initially, I was sceptical. But as we walked through the town, as the sun was hanging low in the sky and shining around the corners of buildings and on the water, I could see that there was indeed something special about this place. A number of famous artists are known to have spent time in this beautiful town. Paul Signac was one of the first artists to spend time here, refining his pointillist style. Henri Matisse spent his formative years here, trying out a number of styles before settling on the one that would define him. Even Picasso himself has visited here. It was a Bohemian paradise for artists in the early 20th century.
Tapas Tapas Tapas
Now, this is a French town, but as I mentioned, it is undeniably Catalonian. I literally have never tasted more delicious tapas than the different ones we tried while here. But one of my favourite tapas experiences was in the restaurant called La Casa Gala. It is a Salvadore Dali-themed restaurant and the food just kept blowing me away. We ate so many interesting and delicious dishes while sharing a porron pitcher of wine. Here’s the owner handling it like a pro:
Others ended up spilling it all over themselves, but somehow I managed to avoid spilling it all over the place. It was here I had one of the most delicious red wines I’ve had in a long time. I remember nothing about it but the flavour and his selection of wines is astounding and when the weather is good, it makes for a beautiful place to sit outside in the alley and watch the world go by.
Additionally, Collioure is famous for its anchovies. From April to September, it is the only fish you should taste. They aren’t cooked per se, but rather marinated. There are no bones, only a glorious texture that I could not get enough of. It has an amazing salty, ocean flavour, and it usually is soaked in oil. It was amazing; I’ll dream about those anchovies.
We also had other dishes with different cheese, snails, and ham. You name it, they served it. I would highly recommend a trip to this restaurant!
Collioure is a place where the sun shines three hundred and thirty days of the year, and they offer a range of great water activities all around the area. If you fancy a quiet dip in the bay of the town, then it is the perfect place for an early morning dip. We drove over to Banyuls-sur-Mer to try out the kayaking. It was a gorgeous day for it, and the beach area in Banyuls-sur-Mer was full of locals bathing in the sun. French people have such a relaxing way of life; it’s really lovely to see how laid back they were. I broke out the drone and let the others make their way over to explore the caves along the coastline. The view from the sky was gorgeous! As well as kayaking, there are other options such as scuba, jet-ski, and fishing trips. The ocean is your oyster!
Where to stay in Collioure
While there, we stayed in the wonderful Madeloc Hotel. It was a short walk from the centre of the town and also boasted a beautiful roof with a swimming pool, Jacuzzi, and ample space to sunbathe and drink in the sun. The rooms were chic, and the artwork all over the hotel was beautiful. I would highly recommend checking out this hotel.
COST: From €109 per night per room
One of the evenings, we also went to the restaurant Le Neptune which has been described as a ‘gastronomical experience’.
That it was. The food here was exception and incredibly creative. I never thought pate and strawberry went well together, but it ended up being delightful. In addition to the taste, the presentation was like nothing else; they really cared about the food that they were putting in front of you.
Le Neptune also boasted one of the most beautiful sunsets across the bay of Collioure. We sat out and watched the sun slow fade into the sky with delicious food at our table while drinking French wine. It was so peaceful and serene. French people really know how to relax!
Wine Tasting and visiting Fort St. Elme
This fort is absolutely fascinating. It is nearly five hundred years old and sits on top of a hill, looking out over the entire region. It was once used as a watchtower and now is a medieval museum full of ancient weapons and armaments. It was really interesting to see how the soldiers used to dress and do battle with each other. The venue is also used for parties and weddings. After we got our fill of history, we went outside to sample some local wines. Collioure has some very interesting and very sweet red wines! We also tried some organic, partially fermented wine, which caused a mixed reaction from our group; I myself thought it had a very interesting flavour. Naturally we also had some DELICIOUS tapas to go with the wine and we sat out, gazing across the town before jumping in a taxi and getting to the airport. It was a lovely way to spend our last few hours in Collioure.
So there you have it, why I think a trip to Collioure would be well worth it. It has an abundance of culture and really is a stunning place to drink in and relax.
This post was written by Journalist On The Run writer Oisin Feeney following a press trip to Collioure France with the local Tourism Board. As always as opinions are that of the author.