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Collioure (France)

Collioure view across the harbour Collioure is a very pretty picturesque French town on the Mediterranean coast just the other side of the Spanish border (Cotlliure in Catalan). We visited in early December (2015), but as we've been busy prior to Christmas and having Christmas in England, this is the first chance to write it up. Zina, our dog, is now fully recovered so we can venture out more easily once more, though a very active sporting agenda for our teenagers means getting out and finding new places to explore at the weekend is getting more challenging from the point of view of time so posts to this blog are likely to be more sporadic.

Collioure Royal Chateau Collioure is accessible from Spain either from the very windy coast road up from Llanca, or more easily over the main autoroute crossing between France and Spain at Le Perthus, then driving along the plain beneath the Albera hills towards Argeles-sur-Mer. Collioure is then the first time into the hills south of Argeles. It would also be possible to reach by train and foot from Port Vendres - the next town along.

The journey into France is normally very easy, but because of the terrorist attacks in Paris, the border to Spain now has checkpoints as in the days before Schengen. For us, this meant a queue of traffic about 4km long from Spain to France which added about an hour to our journey. And over Christmas, we saw reports of queues of 21km to cross into France on some of the busiest days of the year.

Collioure fort above the beach Collioure itself is tucked under the hills so you can't really see the town from the main Argeles to Banyuls-sur-Mer road and you don't really see the centre until you actually reach the centre of the town. Since, as per usual, we hadn't looked up another about the town it was therefore a very pleasant surprise to see how charming the old port and castle (Le Chateau Royal de Collioure) were, backed by the old Fort Saint-Elme in the background up on the hill. The town itself is not large with a few small back streets and an easy stroll along the sea front.

The chateau is large and you can pay to visit (we didn't). It was founded by the Knights Templar and formed a strategically important defense of the old Catalonia before the separation of Catalonia into the northern part now in France in 1659. After the French took the town, it became and important part of the French defences and is another of the Vauban strongholds that lie along the French side of the Spanish border (eg Bellegard above Le Perthus and Mont-Louis in the mountains, or Palace of the King of Majorca in Perpignan).

More recently, during the mass exodus of refugees fleeing the Spanish Civil War (the Retirada), Collioure and Argeles were used to house refugees, with Collioure Chateau being used practically as a prison to hold refugees considered dangerous.

The town has connections with impressionist artists, like Matisse and Signac and maintains many galleries in among the back streets. For someone interested in art, a tour combining Figueres, Port Lligat, Ceret and Collioure would encompass many famous early 20th Century painters.

Also in France close to the Costa Brava

White water rafting in Quillan (France) - Villefranche-de-Conflent and Mont-Louis (France)  - Perpignan - Elne (France) - Ceret (France) - Andorra La Vella

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