Posted by: vlibrizzi | July 23, 2009

Summer Road Trip: Cute Collioure and C’s Chateau Cumpleanos

So, yes, I realize that you might have a problem with my entry’s title today. I know that “cumpleanos” is Spanish, not French. But, if you know me, you know how much I absoluely love alliteration…and well, Anniversaire and Birthday don’t start with the letter C. Plus, the title really sums up our last two days in the Languedoc region of France: exploring Collioure and visiting a castle. 

DSC_1061First, yesterday: exploring Collioure. 

We arrived in Collioure, a seaside town which is only 30 or so miles from the Spanish border on Monday night. We checked into our cute hotel on the main drag, Le Templiers, and grabbed a bite (or should I say, mouthful) to eat at a restaurant called Le Tremail. We each had seafood—-it only seemed appropriate since we are at the beach. C. had grilled calamari, and I had some huitres (oysters) and some other mixed fish. The food was absolutely scrumptious!

We walked off our dinner by taking a stroll along the seaside. The town was absoultely packed with French tourists (the first time we hadn’t heard English in a long time since there were so many Americans and Brits in Spain). As we were walking, we literally stumbled upon a live outdoor karaoke festival. Locals and French tourists would get on stage to sing out their favorite French tunes. We sang along (oui, oui!) and danced. It was so much fun!

Later that evening, we grabbed a seat at a table on the beach, ordered local dessert wine from Banyuls, and watched the waves hit the sand. I love beach vacations!

DSC_1025The next morning, we drove to the base of a nearby mountain and spent our morning hiking to the top to, as Rick Steves says, “commune with the gods.” Well, Rick didn’t say much about the hike…that we’d be nearly scaling cliffs. No, he just wrote a brief sentence saying the rocks are a bit jagged.

So, suffice it to say, I was a bit tuckered out once we got to the top of the Tour de Madeloc. 

But, Rick was right about one thing. The views were fantastic. You could see the sea, the mountains, the old tower ruins. It was amazing! Check out some of our photos below.

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Once we got to the top we were literally in the clouds. Not so great for taking photos, but a pretty cool experience nonetheless.

 

 

 

 

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Later that afternoon, we returned to Collioure (photo of the town from above to the left) and relaxed by watching a stage of the Tour de France on TV (and watched one rider fall and fracture his cheekbone—ouch!). 

 

 

 

 

 

DSC_1045Then, we grabbed some gelato and walked around the town some more. Collioure is truly charming. The streets are all narrow, the buildings are brightly colored, and the beaches are small and cute. And it’s such an artsy town too—there are artists painting in the streets, musicians performing around every corner, and posters of famous pieces of art (by artists sch as Matisse or Duran) attached to walls in the exact spot where the artist painted the painting. The town has jumped high on our list of places where we’d like to retire (don’t worry, Spain, San Sebastian is still way at the top!). 

 

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Here’s some more Collioure photos. In this photo, the town is behind C. You can easily see why artists would flock here to paint. The town is so charming.

 

 

 

 

 

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This photo, of the St. Nicolas chapel, is taken before sunset. Wouldn’t this be the perfect place to get married?

 

 

 

 

 

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And this photo of the town from the St. Nicolas chapel before sunset. Notice, there is a royal castle in the middle of the town. Sadly, it isn’t open to the public. 

 

 

 

 

DSC_1076After a great walk on which we took lots of photos (see evidence above), we had dinner at a restaurant high up on top of a hill called La Voile de Neptune (Neptune’s Sail). The restaurant was completely outside and above our heads, there were boat sails…so it really felt as if you were on a boat. 

To the left is a photo of me taken once we sat down.

The dinner was really great….until the wind started. 

Apparently, sometimes in the Languedoc region there are terrible wind storms that feel almost like tornadoes. 

DSC_1079Well one of these windstorms started….during our dinner….outside….at “the sail.”

You could imagine how the rest of our dinner went. Glasses crashing to the floor. Placemats and napkins flying everywhere. We had to hold down our plates and glasses while we scarfed down the rest of our meal.

Luckily, we were laughing through the whole thing and even took a few photos to show you how strong the wind was.

For example, in the photo to the left, you can see C. holding down his glass and his wallet in one hand while holding his credit card in his mouth to give to the waitress…so that nothing would blow away! It was crazy!

We’ll think twice next time before eating in an all-outside restaurant called “the sail.” As C. pointed out, “It’s not called la voile for nothing.” 

After dinner, we sat by the beach listening to an outdoor jazz concert. Sadly, the concert had to end earlier than expected because of the wind…and oncoming rain, but the group was really good. 

To escape the rain, we hopped into the bar underneath our hotel to grab one last sangria. At midnight, I asked the waiters and bartenders to join me in singing “Joyeux Anniversaire” to C…..it was his birthday!

DSC_1108And that brings me to today…C’s 28th birthday! 

Where better to celebrate one’s birthday than in a castle? To celebrate C’s big day, we drove the hour and a half drive up to the Pyrenees to the famous chateau of Peyrepertuse (say that ten times fast! ). 

Once we arrived, we hiked to the top of the mountain, and then walked around the Cathar castle that was built more than 1000 years ago!

 

 

DSC_1129While C. hiked to the tippety top of the castle and took this photo from above,….

 

 

 

 

 

DSC_1141…I (a total wimp in 100 degree heat) watched a live falcon show. 

The birds they displayed were absolutely beautiful. In particular, I loved the bald eagle that they had fly around the mountain. They really are magnificent creatures…and who knows when I’ll ever get to see a live bald eagle again? 

 

 

 

DSC_1146In this photo you can see the castle. At first glance, it’s hard to tell that it actually is a castle. It just looks like tall rocks. But, once you get up close, you can see that it really is a castle…carved out of the rocks!  And its setting, at the absolute peak of the mountain, is pretty majestic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSC_1149Here’s another view of the castle from below. Pretty amazing, huh?

To C., climbing to the top was the perfect way to spend his birthday.

Once we descended from the mountain, we had a picnic lunch of cheese, olive tapanade, bread, sauccisson, and grapes that we bought at the Collioure market this morning. 

We then got back in our car and drove the 2.5 hour drive to Arles, our next destination. 

 

DSC_1162We had a great birthday dinner at a restaurant called A Cote. The restaurant is literally next to (“a cote de”) and also owned by a famous Michelin starred restaurant called L’Atelier de Jean-Luc Rabanel. A Cote, however, does not have Michelin starred prices…but it does have, in our opinion, Michelin starred food. It’s a small shop with a chalkboard menu that changes daily. C. had a spicy gaspacho for an appetizer, then had a great duck, then a cheese plate of cheeses from the Pyrenees, and finally a plate of cherries and ice cream. It was the perfect birthday meal for him…the whole place was right up his alley. So if you’re ever in Arles, we highly recommend it. 

 

DSC_1157Here’s a photo of C. at his birthday dinner.

Tomorrow…C.’s first day of his 29th year :)….we’ll explore Arles. From what we saw on our walk to dinner last night, it’s a really cute town with a huge Roman colosseum smack dab in the middle. Pretty cool.

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