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Collioure

Collioure is a charming, beautifully-preserved town on the Mediterranean coast, bright colored boats in the harbor, pebbly beaches and sparking turquoise ocean, castle and fort to explore, children's playground, boat rides, fun food. Artists such as Matisse painted Collioure - take a walk through the old town, pastel colored houses with blue doors and bright green shutters, could be a century ago.

Traditionally a Catalan fishing port, Collioure is famous for its anchovies, the small silvery fish so much a part of French and Spanish cuisine. Our visit to Collioure coincided with the local anchovy festival in June.
Read our blog post: Collioure Anchovy Festival: Vive la Fete de l'Anchois.

 

Beaches - Plage Port d'Avall, Boutigue, Boramar, water is shallow and no waves, but beaches tend to be pebbly (not flat sand). Shops are well stocked with beach toys.
Playground - At Plage Port d'Avall is a charming playground (aire de jeux) for small children, with swings and climbing structures. Kids will also have fun riding the small carousel (old fashioned cars are especially fun).
Chateau Royal de Collioure -
Towering above the harbor, defending Collioure, Chateau Royale has a long history. In the 13th - 14th century, the castle consisted of the donjon (tall tower) surrounded by walls, it was a fortified residence for the Catalan king and court.
In the 15th - 16th century, the castle was made larger and more secure to become a well-defended fortress for the Spanish to fight against the French. Chateau Royal was besieged by 10,000 French soldiers in mid 17th century, the Spanish lost, Collioure was now part of France.
The French greatly expanded the fortress into a star shape, adding more walls and bastions surrounding the Chateau and town, building underground rooms, and barracks for soldiers that lived inside the citadel.
Chateau Royal is well-preserved, walls are in great shape, it's a fun castle for kids to run around.
From the entrance, go up the steps to the top of the donjon. Look out over the harbor through leaded glass windows, and decide whether you're the French or the Spanish, defending against attacking forces.
Around the parade ground, run around the ramparts, look for stone and metal cannonballs, gatehouse, a well, and bits of a faded sundial on the wall.
Near the well, follow steps going down to the subterranean tunnels, sign says “Entree des souterrains.” Tunnels are well lit (no flashlight needed), tunnels were part underground artillery rooms, and cells for prisoners in different eras. Tip: The tunnels exit at passageway near donjon tower.
After you've toured the castle, it's fun to go around the back side of Chateau Royal, to see the deep defensive ditches and fortifications built into the rocks. Follow the path around to the ramparts overlooking harbor and Plage Port d'Avall to appreciate just how hard it would be to attack this citadel.
Walk through old town. Wander through narrow lanes that wind up the hillside above the harbor. Houses are decorated in pastel colors with brightly painted doors and shutters, lush flowering vines, cats snoozing on the doorsteps.
From Boulevard du Boramar, walk up pedestrian Rue du Mirador. At the top, check out is replica of a Matisse painting with view rooftops and harbor below - remarkably unchanged. Follow any of narrow lanes back down to Boulevard du Boramar.
Visit a windmill (Moulin de Collioure) -
From Route de Porte-Vendres, turn onto the Impasse du Musee, there's a sign with picture of a windmill, just take the steps up through the olive trees to the windmill.
Hike up to Fort Saint Elme -
From the windmill, take the trail that continues up to the top of the hill and Fort Saint Elme. Follow the yellow sign marked “Fort St. Elme - 0.8 km."
Like Chateau Royal, 16th century Fort Saint Elme was built to defend Collioure. From the star-shaped fortress are panoramic views of red rooftops of Collioure and coastline below.
Fort Saint Elme is open for visits Feb. to Nov. Along with exploring the fort, check out armor, helmets, pikes, cannons in the museum.
Boat rides - Take a short boat ride to Argeles-sur-Mer, resort town just up the coast. Longer boat rides go in a loop with three stops - Collioure, Port Vendres, Argeles-sur-Mer.
We enjoyed riding on the “barracuda" boat, bright red, with big black and white teeth.
Buy tickets on board, kids under 5 are free, family tickets are available.
Petit Train - Tourist train, 45 min. goes up and around the countryside above Collioure - tour tends to focus on local wines grown in the area (of less interest to kids).
Fun food
On Saturday is a farmer's market at Square Banyuls Marceau - fresh fruits and vegetables, local cheese, honey, (shop for fish and seafood too if you're staying in a vacation rental).
Collioure has plenty of patisseries to get delicious croissant, pain au chocolat, there are ice cream shops every block, find sandwiches and everything you'll need for a picnic.

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