Caspar Institute logoitinerary   < Collioure    21 May Céret >

Collioure 20 May 2016


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The gale having abated, we spent a restful, unambitious day walking around Collioure. We started with "the Royal Castle," one of the most undistinguished piles we have ever visited. The French are apparently desperately looking for something of interest, because a team of archaeologists has the castle keep in complete disarray -- picture below. Collioure, here in a favored spot on the western edge of the Med, is and has been an obvious spot for serious trade for millennia, so there must be something interesting if we only dig deep enough!

The counterpoint: the French have been industriously burnishing their history for the last three hundred years in a sort of anti-archaeological effort to make what was even more important. Preserving a pile like this right in the middle of the busy little town seems to us something of a curse. "Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em" seems a wiser course. I am told we will see more of this raised to a high art form at Carcassonne some time in the third and fourth weeks of this trip. Here the effort falls completely flat.

But we had to give it a chance, and so we dutifully observed the donjon, the chapel, the refectory, the royal quarters, all except the latter completely stripped of anything that would provide context or interest: sloppy stonework. In the royal quarters, an exhibition of antarctic photography.


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However, the castle provides a bit of elevation and a pretty view of the northern side of Collioure's harbor, the more picturesque (and touristic) side, where we live. The authorities have also thoughtfully provided a number of frames to help tourists compose their photos. I have misused this one; I'm meant to be standing on one of the steps, and remembering that this is a view that at one time or another a truly famous artist has composed a memorable painting.

 

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The stroll around the outside of the keep is pleasantly landscaped and wholly devoid of tourists. Here I'm trying to find something interesting in the well written English broadside about the Castle's history, most of which was obliterated by its most recent reinvention in the 18th Century. 

Rochelle has a wonderful little purple camera, and continues to catch me at moments of complete unawareness, as here.

A bit later we came upon the real purpose of this place: a field trip destination for local school children, whose (impossible young and pretty) teachers are explaining their glorious history. The children are, for the most part, just being children on a field trip, bouncing off the walls, exhilerated at being outdoors on a lovely day.

 


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<p>Escaping from the Castle, we strolled...

Escaping from the Castle, we strolled around it on Collioure's broad and well-used harborside promenade clear to the far side. From there, the people disappear and what we see is a picturesque European village not unlike Vernazza in the Cinque Terre ...a resonance that we felt yesterday as well, in visiting the four sister towns along this, the Côte Vermeille (Vermillion Coast.) 

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Why vermillion? Because Azure and Gold were already taken? Because the rocks are partly cinnabar? (Wikipedia says of vermillion, "brilliant red or scarlet pigment originally made from the powdered mineral cinnabar.") Whatever, these rocks at the harbor's southern end have been tortured.

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. Another good (but not photo-worthy) fish soup, and this: the Colliourense Platter at Cafe Leon, scallops and red shrimp in a Catalan red sauce (peppers and tomatoes) with spring vegetables.</p>

Back to our side of town for an early lunch. Another good (but not photo-worthy) fish soup, and this: the Colliourense Platter at Cafe Leon, scallops and red shrimp in a Catalan red sauce (peppers and tomatoes) with spring vegetables.

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A postprandial stroll out onto the rock that's visible from our windows and a picture of our house (inside the frame) to which we soon repaired and enjoyed the southern European tradition of a nap. We'll be staying in this evening and enjoying a monster artichoke and a delicious big salad of our own devising. We're enjoying the "one meal a day out" regimen that gives us the opportunity to stay within our own minimalist locavore diet while experimenting with some of the beautiful local fruits and vegetables we find in the markets. 


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