Along the coast...

The coastline southwest of Sète – until you reach the Pyrenees and get close to the Spanish border - is quite flat with sand beaches, lagoons, marshland… a paradise for birds.

There are some interruptions, with a few rocky hills, often with the remains of some fortifications. Here is an example – Gruissan with its “Tour Barberousse”, all that remains of a 10th century fortified castle. The old town, to a large extent built by stones from the demolished castle, surrounds the hill by circular streets. On the nearby beach you can find a great number of chalets built on stiles – to escape from periodic flooding. Nowadays they are protected from the sea by a dike, so the ground floors are habitable.

Getting close to the Spanish border and the Pyrenees, the landscape changes radically. We are reaching the “Vermillion Coast”… and also the Catalan culture and language... and Collioure.

There are some records of a “Castrum Caucoliberi” as early as 673 and, being so close to what took centuries to establish as a real border, this place has, of course, had a high strategic value for a long time. The present Castle of Collioure has a long history, starting with the Knights Templar during the early 13th century, then being transformed by the Kings of Majorca during the 13th and 14th centuries, further transformed by the Habsburgs Charles Quint and Philip II during the 16th century and finally by Vauban by the end of the 17th century. 

Apart from the beach, the port and the castle, the town must also be visited for its charming streets and alleys – and of course bars and restaurants.

The place has been appreciated by many artists, especially during the early 20th century. Here are just a few examples.

Close to Collioure is a place named Paulilles, now a protected area, a recreational park, close to the sea. Previously you found here the French Nobel Dynamite Factory, founded in 1870 and closed in 1991. Of some 80 factory buildings only a few have been saved, serving as museum, restaurant… Among the documents in the museum I saw a letter by Alfred Nobel, written in Swedish, to a local collaborator. 


Virginia said...

Lovely area and appreciate your photos and information as I'm not familiar with this part of France. Don't we have a blog friend in Montpelier?

Pierre BOYER said...

Those areas talk to me,
I spend my youth there...
Best regards,


Thérèse said...

Un bel épisode, j’ai appris à aimer Collioure il y a à peine un an comme j’ai aimé Saint Cirq Lapopie plus récemment. Des endroits qui perdent malheureusement leur âme à cause d’un tourisme débordant dont nous faisons partie.

claude said...

Très beau reportage, Peter !
Je suis déjà passée dans le coin et pas plus tard qu'en mai, nous sommes allés faire un tour à Gruissan. J'ai fait la route côtière pour aller en Espagne, l'époque où il fallait traverser villes et villages.

Jeanie said...

It looks like a fascinating place, Peter. I can see why it is so beautifully captured by artists. And photographers like you!

Studio at the Farm said...

Hi Peter,
Your photos are beautiful, your notes fascinating! I am sure you have seen and know more about France than most born in France! I enjoyed visiting this part of France - thank you.

Unknown said...

Thank you, Peter for this lovely post!
Looking at each and everyone of your wonderful photos, all of a sudden I stopped to contemplate the one where those cute donkeys are grazing.
Immediately, it came to my mind that sweet and funny character whose inspiration on Juan Ramon Jimenez would lead him to the Nobel Prize.
That first photo looks like one of Millais paintings.

P.S. Do you know if the Hotel de Crillon has opened already?