Weekend Trip to Southern France: Céret and Collioure

Thursday, 2 August 2018



Summer was coming and my Norwegian host family started to pack the bags again heading to their private mansion in France. It's been twice this year. But I don't want to talk about their marvelous mansion since it is private and they keep it unknown. It's located in Céret, a charming old town in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains in the south of France, just 25 km from the border of Spain. Therefore, cultural festivals celebrating the Catalan heritage of the region take place throughout the year.

I am lucky to be their au pair and travel for free to a place where I have never heard of and been before. Since I was new on their traveling routines, my host dad didn't stop dazzling me about Céret in our way to the mansion. They are so in love with this place and have thrown their wedding party here with an interfusion of French and Catalan culture. I have seen the wedding album when they wore traje de luces to associate with the annual bullfighting festival held in summer, Céret de Toros.

Céret represents the quintessential southern French town with an exquisite historic old town at its center, avenues of old trees lining its main throughway bordered by cafés, bistros, shops, and boutique whose table and wares are set out on the pavements in the summer. I love cherries and it made me more elated to know that Céret is also the cherries capital. Doesn't it sound lovely?

After a hard thought of how to spend the weekend off, finally I gave up to explore two small towns in Southern France, Céret and Collioure. They were actually suggested by my host dad who promoted me spending days off based on his preference towards small, authentic, intimate, and less-known towns. He also suggested me to bike around the mountain, but perhaps I was just too lazy. I preferred city breaks and never regretted so! It was also tiring to keep changing plans from Monaco, Marseille, finding lavender fields in Provence, to Montpellier, where the bus schedule never fit in.

Céret

Saturday morning, my host family and I drove down to experience Saturday market in Céret. The artisan market stalls filled the old town streets with wonderful arrays of locally produced fresh fruit and vegetables, olives, cheeses, herbs and spices, cured meats, wines and honey. It was definitely not a new experience for me because I have lived in Belgium before and the market had basically the same concept. But I think, everything in Céret seemed authentic and fresh. French people also tended to be more relaxed, warm and welcoming to the customers. 





I was quite tempted to visit the Museum of Modern Art with works by Picasso after my host mom told me that he had lived in Céret while did his artworks in the early 20th century. I am not a big fan of Picasso, but sometimes the art or design museum is a considerable place to find some inspirations. The ticket price for adults is €8 and there is a discount for students.

If a museum is not your thing, strolling around in the small lanes in the center was also soothing. I am a sucker for multicolored building and Céret was a therapy! So many cafés and gift shops are tucked into the narrow lanes leading off the squares. The unique thing about the lanes, they are flowed by clean water along the old town. They reminded me of the worse version in Indonesia where dirty and smelly gutters exist for water flowing in residential areas.

Collioure

I was almost done in Céret and stopped by in Tourist Information Center to pick up some interesting flyers and get an information about the bus towards Collioure. There is no direct bus from Céret to Collioure, but there are two different ways to opt for. First, take bus 400 from Céret to Argeles-Sur-Mér and change to bus 401 to Collioure. Second, take bus 300 or 340 to Perpignan and change to bus 400. The first one is the fastest. The latter is the best if you want to include Perpignan on a trip.

Direct buses from Céret to Perpignan go more often every Monday to Saturday. The ticket price is €1, valid for 2 hours, and possible to be paid on board. Since Perpignan is a bigger city, you could also take a train to Collioure. The ride only takes 20 minutes and the ticket price is €6.80. Though costly, taking a train is the best option if you end up being in Collioure on Sunday where the bus is operated once a day. The train goes more often and don't forget to buy the ticket in advance or online because no train stations are opened on Sunday in the village.

The cheapest way is by Le Bus €1 and it takes around 45 minutes. You can find the timetable here. During summertime, be ready to have a bus full of young people on the weekend. They have the same destination as you; feeling the breeze on the coastline. Traveling by bus was quite boring in the beginning because I only saw the vineyard and mountain along the road. But, the spectacular view of the Mediterranean sea would be coming just when I got into Collioure.




A pearl of the Vermeille coast, Collioure is known as a fishing village. But for me, it is more than that. First, it seemed like a resort, as shown by some high-end shops. Second, it is one of the romantic villages in France, rendered perfect by an almost perpetually blue sky.

To be honest, I am not a beach baby who need vitamin-sea and crammed with vacationers when summer is coming. When I heard about Collioure from my host dad, he just told me that he loves its beach and the impression of being here. He never told me about the romanticism while you roam around in this tiny village!

Collioure is a colorful village with its ochre and pink facades, multicolored Catalan boats, and the bright blue sky and sea. I stepped my feet thoroughly in the small lanes and didn't stop wowing. I am falling in love in a sudden. The facades reminded me of Cartagena, a place where always be on my bucket list. But, I don't know, it seemed like I have to skip Cartagena at the moment because Collioure has brought off the colors enticingly.



I was a solo traveler, an au pair, and also planned to stay over for one night only. Finding a cheap accommodation in Collioure was complicated, especially if I had to bear all the cost on my own. I found a small and the cheapest hotel in Port Vendres, 2 km in the south from Collioure, where people said also well-worth visiting. I agree since it's very different and far less touristy than Collioure.

Le Swan was a place where I spent the night. Its location was quite good and only 6 minutes walking from the bus stop. The owner, Paul, is an artist. He was so friendly and tried to listen to what guests need. He also showed me a route to hike down from Le Swan to Collioure, which only took around 45 minutes. For the price €21 in one night in a female opened-bulk room, you pay what you get and I couldn't complain more to what I had. The cleanliness and privacy are almost zero. But it is cheap, close to Collioure, only me who slept in the female room, so what else I should have expected? The thing is, most solo travelers also chose this place to room for one or two nights.

There is also Wednesday and Sunday market in Collioure where you cand find the same items as any lively markets around France have. The market is held through the year from 8 AM to 1 PM beneath the shade of the trees on the little Place Général Leclerc and extends down along the length of Quai de l’Amirauté. 


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