I’ll be honest, Perpignan, the little Catalan city in Southern France where I now call home is not my favorite place I’ve ever lived. However, it is well placed in between the Eastern Pyrénées and the Mediterranean sea. A few months ago for Valentine’s day, my boyfriend and I spent a day exploring the seaside on the Côte Vermeille, or Ruby/Vermillion Coast. I’m not sure where the region gets its name from, but I can’t help but think of the richly colored wines produced there.
We started out our day in Collioure, which is probably one of the most picturesque little seaside villages I have ever been to. It’s hard to believe this maritime treasure is only twenty minutes away from Perpignan by regional train (or an hour if you prefer the bus). When we arrived it was still early in the morning and the village was coming to life. The local merchants were just opening their shops and a few people were out for their morning walks/baguette runs. We decided to grab a couple pastries from the nearest boulangerie and enjoy them while looking out over the water. I had a pain aux raisins for the first time, and despite it looking so good, I’m still not a fan. I ate quickly though because pigeons and seagulls started lingering around us until a mamie and her grandson came by with some stale bread.
After breakfast we decided to visit the Château Royal; yes even fishing villages can have castles in France! Even though there wasn’t much inside, it was still fun to roam around the medieval grounds and take in the stunning view from the top.
Growing up by the ocean and having a family who goes sailing, I have connection to the water and it was nice to feel that again. The salty air and the sound of sea birds calling over crashing waves made me feel calm and helped me forget about my busy life as a teacher in bustling little city. After our castle exploration we decided to walk to our next destination: Port-Vendres. The trek was about half an hour along the rocky coast. We didn’t do much in Port-Vendres except roam around. This town was definitely more of a commercial fishing port than Collioure, but it looked like it had some good seafood if you like fish. The Frenchie and I just decided to stop in a restaurant and have a glass of wine and relax before we went to our next destination.
After walking so much, we took a five-minute train ride to reach our last stop: Banyuls. In Collioure the beach is a typical French beach with little rocks instead of sand, but Banyuls had a large stretch of golden sand complete with palm trees. We were quite hungry when we arrived so we walked around until we found a restaurant that was serving food late in the afternoon. We ended up at a restaurant/wine bar called 9 Caves. It was a little “bobo” as the French would say (kind of hipster, kind of fancy), but for Valentine’s day, we decided to treat ourselves. Mon amour had some chicken, and I had the vegetarian option which was beet gnocchi with smoked ricotta cheese, shaved radishes, and vinegar pearls. I loved it all except for the vinegar. We paired our meal with some local red wine and shared a panna cotta for dessert.
After lunch we stopped by the tourist office to inquire about wine tastings. We ended up going to an organic wine store for the Domaine du Traginer (we were too close to the oceanfront to actually go to a vineyard or a wine cave). The tasting was free and the sommolière who served us told all about the different wines and even showed us pictures of the wine producers in the field to show us that this wine really was organic and local and not industrial. We also learned that wine from Collioure is dry and wine from Banyuls is sweet, or vin doux naturel. I prefer the Banyuls not only becuase I have a sweet tooth, but also becuase of its special taste. It is usually served as an apéritif or with dessert becuase of its rich molasses-y taste and higher ABV. This was also the first time I used a spit bucket when tasting wine! It definitely came in handy considering the strength of the wine. We brought home a bottle that we plan on having during special occasions. Fun fact: natural sweet wines can be conserved for up to six months after opening!
I can’t wait to go back to these seaside towns in summer and dip my toes in the mediterranean. If you ever have the chance to visit the Côte Vermeille, I’m sure you’ll be enchanted by the sea, sunshine, and catalan charm.
Still longing for the sea? Check out my video about Collioure and listen to some wave ASMR and get inspired for your next beach trip!