It has been a few days since I posted. These are busy days. With only one week in SW France we are trying to squeeze in as much as possible. That doesn’t leave much time in the evening for doing posts, however, there is time for photographs, sketching, and painting. With that in mind here is a whirlwind summary of our first days in Collioure.
We went to the Collioure public market on Sunday and our senses were assailed by the sights and aromas of foods, clothes, spices, and people. Today, Wednesday, the public market repeated and we attended. Much to our surprise the vendors were different! Our favorite frommagerie was not present. Our favorite anchoise vendor was not present. Our favorite vegetable vendor was not present. Merde!
On Monday we drove to the Maillol Museum in the Pyrennes near Banyuls-sur-Mer only to find that it was closed on Mondays. I blame this on my poor French because I read the brochure and mistranslated it. Ce’st la vie! We enjoyed the drive in the mountains and ended up with a marvelous visit to a seaside conservancy area. Paulilles Recreational Park is the site of a dynamite factory that Nobel helped the French establish in 1870. The installation was closed in 1991 and the process began to turn it into a seaside conservancy. We enjoyed several hours walking, having lunch, and photographing this now beautiful location. The historical exhibits about the dynamite factory also were interesting. The dynamite from here blasted the Panama Canal!
Yesterday we decided to visit Castlenou, a medieval town and chateau on the historic register. The claim to “fame” is that this was the seat of Catholicism in SW France during the purge of the Cathars. French Catholics roamed from this castle to kill Cathars and destroy their castles throughout southern France. It is a lovely small village and the chateau was somewhat restored in the late 19th century after being destroyed by revolutionaries in the early 19th century. However, not a word was mentioned of its role in the destruction of the Cathars. We did buy a bottle the Castlenou red wine!
Leaving Castelnou, we drove to Ceret to visit the art museum there. Our visit there two years ago stuck in my mind as a pivotal point in my artwork. I was anxious to revisit the collection. Pierre Brune was the artist responsible for bringing many Fauvist and other early 20th century artists to Ceret. He also founded the museum. In addition to Pierre Brune, the collection includes Jean Marchand, Maurice Canteuil, Andre Masson, Chaim Soutine, Pablo Picasso, Frank Burty Haviland, Marolo, Henri Matisse, Pinkus Kremegue, Arbit Blatas, Andre Lohte, and Joseph Maragall. Many of these may not be familiar names, but they share an exceptional ability to capture the essence and feeling of a place. Many use Fauvist colors, but drawing is the essential ingredient in their exceptional art. All are representational without being realistic. I was in heaven. There are no photos allowed in the museum, so you will have to visit to see for yourself! The links associated with some of the names above will give you a flavor for their work.
Today we began by visiting the market as previously mentioned. Then we went to the waterfront to do some sketching and painting. It was a glorious day in the 70’s and there were so many views to paint it was difficult to decide. However we each settled on a spot on the rocks and painted. Then we moved to a cafe across the harbor where we settled in chairs with glace and water to sketch and paint some more. Here are some of my scribblings from the day:
Late in the afternoon we boarded the Little Train for an hour long tour of Collioure, the surrounding hills, and Port Vendres. This tour took us to the 300 meter mountain that separates the two towns and back along the coast. It was a wonderful trip with unbelievable scenery, old forts, terraced vineyards, cork trees, and roads that I would not care to drive. We met an English couple, Peter and Janet, who now live near Beziers, chatted, and exchanged contact info.
After the train ride we stopped at our favorite late afternoon apertif locale, Les Templiers. This hotel/restaurant’s walls are covered with an extensive collection of Fauvist art. The famous names have been sold long ago, but the art that remains is impressive. What a way to end the day drinking wine surrounded by art.
We walked back along the quay at dusk, savoring the light in the sky and the stark outlines of the familiar Collioure waterfront. Tonight we dined on take out pizza – the local special with anchovies and one with creamy chicken and cheese with herbs. This was accompanied by our Castlenou wine of course.
A great several days in Catalonia!