France’s Catalan Coast –Mediterranean Meditation
As Seen on IVHE.COM Thursday, April 07, 2016
Just over the Spanish border, France’s Catalan coast offers quiet pleasures. From the gnarled arms of long-standing olive trees to the Pyrenees reigning silently over the vineyards and sea, this historical region beckons history buffs and resort seekers alike. About ten years ago, I had the opportunity of visiting Banyuls-sur-Mer, Collioure, and Port Vendres; it was both a restful and stimulating experience.
Birthplace of world-renown sculptor, Aristide Maillol, Banyuls-sur-Mer offers a quiet beach and vineyards nestled in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Also of note is the thalassotherapy institute, Thalacap Catalogne. I enjoyed everything from seaweed treatments to vigorous exercise classes in seawater.
To be amongst the vineyards and see some stunning vistas, consider riding Le Petit Train de Banyuls. The driver stops regularly for photograph opportunities, and it’s a great way to get an overview of the Catalan coast.
Centuries ago, the Knights Templar arrived on the French Catalan coast. Amongst their many engaging activities in Banyuls-sur-Mer, one was wine making. Remnants of their activity remain today, and a tour is available to see a winery started by the Knights Templar.
Banyuls-Sur-Mer itself has a wine named after it—Banyuls Wine. It is a sweet, red wine said to have been produced since the thirteenth century.
Dining in Banyuls-sur-Mer is a lovely experience. Some of the restaurants are tucked pleasantly into old caves where wine was stored; this evokes a warm and cozy feeling.
For rainy days, a visit to the Aquarium of Banyuls-sur-Mer is a treat.
Artistide Maillol’s cottage has been made into a museum. Some of his sculptures are artfully arranged on the grounds, and it’s almost as if the sculptures breathe before you; don’t miss this tour.
Famous for the Fauvists who frequented it, Collioure was often the gathering place of Matisse, Picasso, and other giants of the movement. Said to have existed as earlier as 673, Castrum Caucoliber—a dramatic castle set on the Mediterranean, inspired not only the Fauvists, but continues to inspire artists to this day. Collioure, like Banyuls-sur-Mer, has numerous vineyards.
During my brief visit there, I found the people warm and accommodating, and the crepes—C’est fantastique!
Port Vendres has a natural, beautiful harbor with numerous boats bobbing in the blue. The town moves at a faster pace; a stroll through the streets is definitely invigorating. Port Vendres is also known for its fine seafood restaurants and a rich history.
A Mediterranean Meditation
There is something about olive groves and vineyards on France’s Catalan coast that cultivates patience and meditation. Perhaps it is the centuries-old traditions associated with the harvest, or the sheer age of the olive trees; perhaps it is the spirit of the numerous artistic souls who found solace and inspiration here. Whatever it is, a visit to French Catalonia is a Mediterranean meditation.