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Collioure 19 May 2016

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The wind is howling. Is this what they call the scirroco? Whatever, it's as bad as ever in Caspar, only it's from the east. The ocean is roiled up in whitecaps. Outdoors isn't much fun we went for a ride along the coast south to the four pretty little sister villages of which Collioure is the queen. Collioure's tourist rating right now is about 70% of summer, but Banyuls-sur-Mer is still at about 20%, and Cerbère, the last stop in France before Spain, is at 10%.

On the way south, we took the very rural D68 that goes up the mountain in back of Collioure through steep slopes of wildflowers and broom.

mouse over for more flowers

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<p>Rochelle caught Michael walking along the D68 looking for flower pictures</p>

Rochelle caught Michael walking along the D68 looking for flower pictures

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As you can see, the flowers are in full flight. The town on the water in the distance is Banyuls.

We passed, or were passed, by as many as half a dozen cars on the 16 kilometer wander up the easternmost face of the Pyrénées and back down again, no one in a hurry, everyone polite and well adjusted to the etiquette of narrow mountain roads. At times I was reminded of the road past Kipahulu on Maui, or into the center of Crete ...or in Montclair, where I learned to drive narrow streets. Our little French-built stick-shift Toyota Yaris is easy to drive.

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This is France's southernmost denomination controlée, the region of Banyuls et Collioure. Although one sees many steep abandoned vineyars, there are also many working vineyards, slightly less sloping terraces between rock walls, with criss-crossing pathways for the workers to drive their little tractors. Grapes are the most plentiful product here; the vines themselves are wizened, stunted, with perhaps a dozen leaves on each one. The dogma in southern France is that the harder the vines have to work, the better their juice, and thus, the resulting wine: a very different approach from the Gallo Bros, who figure that the more chemicals, the more wine. 

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<p>We stopped for lunch at the "#1...

We stopped for lunch at the "#1 restaurant in Banyuls" according to French Trip Advisor. Maybe. The welcome was indeed cordial, and our server had enough English so we could amuse each other speaking the other's language. The entree and the dessert were four star, but the main was lamentable. Those are almost tempura shrimp; their batter was almost as crispy as a good croissant and paper thin. (If there had been five of them instead of three, it would have been four stars.) The gateaux au chocolate was creamy in the middle, swimming in a lake of white chocolate, with a piped floret of chantilly and a boule of raspberry sorbet. 

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We can almost imagine, given our experience of Collioure, what summertime must be like in the two end-of-the-line towns. At left, Banyuls' deserted beach; below, the tine harbor at Cerbère.

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Home via the straighter, wider, busier D114. Parking in Collioure is a challenge to my on-a-hill parking skills, but I prevail (at considerable cost to the vehicle's clutch, I fear.) We're hunkering down and listening to the gale. Sautéed mushrooms and onions and a big salad for dinner. 

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