I don’t remember where my boyfriend found out about Collioure when we were mapping out or road trip through France, but I am so thankful he did. After arriving in Barcelona for a night and getting a rental car, we wanted a quaint destination along the coast that wouldn’t be too far of a drive after leaving Spain. We made our way across the Spanish border and the Pyrenees region navigating the freeway system where we had a harsh learning curve for how the toll booths work.
Apparently going through a green light without taking a ticket = frantically explaining to a machine that you don’t understand what happened since you having nothing to put in at the next stop, and being very thankful for the Spanish you know while cars pile up behind you and make angry gestures. We were relieved to have gotten through the toll booth even though we were no longer on the planned route. We found our way to a two lane road paralleling the main highway and winding through little coastal towns for the remaining hour of our drive.
The ocean was so blue it looked like contrast lighting in France was turned way up. We pulled over a few times marveling at the historic towns and secluded bays until we realized everywhere was going to keep being this beautiful. We kept following our GPS, deciphering her robotic English accent until we finally recognized the pink walls and blue garage of our Airbnb.
As soon as we arrived, this place became one of my favorite little spots in the world. We parked in town and wandered for a minute in awe of this town we had never heard about before. One side of the bay was anchored by an old castle and there was a fort on the other side. The history in this town is immense as it was one of the seats of the Kingdom of Majorca. It looks like it is something out of a fairytale with another large fort up in the hills which is where I took this picture.
We were in Collioure in early January which is a bit of an off season around there so we got to enjoy the beach views without any crowds. While off season meant a lot less places were open, it also helped us stumble into Neptune restaurant where I had one of the best meals of my life.
This place was amazing, the outdoor seating was built off of the side of a cliff on the north side of the bay overlooking the water. It was a formal menu with a comfortable and friendly setting. We were seated right away on an indoor/outdoor patio with panoramic views and groups of people enjoying their afternoon. One of my favorite things about traveling to another country is listening to people talking at the tables nearby. I have no idea what they are saying but the universal act of enjoying a meal together, and laughing and smiling is hard to misinterpret.
My ordering skills on the other hand are another story where the waiter usually smiles with a confused look until my boyfriend helps me out. Enter Michael and his French to help me navigate the menu and order a cheese plate and a bottle of rosé.
I wanted to try everything, partly because we hadn’t eaten since the night before in Barcelona and partly because what I could translate off the menu all sounded amazing. I asked Michael what huître meant and when we said oysters were both hesitant because of how cheap they were. When they came out as the first course in my prix fixe menu we were stunned at how fresh and crisp they tasted, like a perfect bite of the ocean. Each course was better than the first and I was so impressed by the service and quality of the restaurant while still enjoying the feeling of a laid back beach town.
We later found out that Collioure was a hub for incredible fresh seafood because our lunch and dinner the following day included fresh catches and more raw plates that didn’t need anything but a fork to accompany them.
The food was definitely one of my favorite parts about Collioure, but looking back I am still stunned by how vibrant and historical this beach town is.
We definitely plan on coming back sometime in the future and want to share this hidden gem with as many people as we can. My must do things in Collioure would be to eat at Neptune (plan on spending over an hour and over a hundred euros there for the entire luxury experience), tour the castle and the fort and spend as much time outside drinking rosé and admiring the view as possible, just remember the lighter the rosé, the better. The Catalan region has a lot of darker rosés that taste more like sweet grape juice than amazing wine. More on rosé and spending time in Provence to come…