Three cheers for Collioure

Ok, I know I promised we were just a post or two away from the bell of the ball: El Bulli. But then I couldn't contain my excitement about my CSA, my blog for Food Network and whoopie pies. Now I'm proud to present the second to last post from my trip. After this will come the one you really want to read.

When, you ask?

Next week.

Why not sooner, you wonder?

Well, I'm leaving today for Austin, Texas to visit my dear friend Nicky. (If you have any restaurant or food recs for what everyone tells me is one cool city, please send them my way!).

We'll celebrate Nicky's 30th birthday and I'll finally get to see her 7-month pregnant belly. I'll start writing my El Bulli post on the 4-hour flight there, and hopefully I'll edit it on the way back. I've already uploaded all the impressive photos Daniel took. How about this: my post on El Bulli will launch by Wednesday of next week. Scout's honor!

But now, before I catch my plane, I have to tell you about Collioure, a sweet seaside town in southeastern France. Just a few miles from the Spanish border, it was the perfect place to spend some time before making our way to Spain.

Truth be told, Collioure didn't have the best food. What it did have, however, were pretty pebbly beaches and color. Lots and lots of color.

Magenta houses next to soft sage ones, stone homes dressed up with indigo windowsills, and the loveliest pastel shutters. Even the pipes outside these places were lavender, teal, peach, you name it. I'd heard that artists such as Matisse and Derain were inspired by Collioure (in fact, it's said that the Fauvist movement began after the two of them spent the summer of 1905 here), and walking through the tiny winding streets, it's easy to see why.

Many reproductions of their work are hung throughout the town, precisely where the paintings were originally done. It's a real treat to see exactly what inspired them.

Even I felt inclined to capture Collioure's charm -- in the form of over 200 photos.

Our routine in Collioure? Walk and eat, then repeat.

The town is known for its sardines, so we sampled some at a little cafe on our first afternoon and while they were good, I was more enchanted with the pan com tomate, a Spanish-style bruschetta made with olive-oil soaked pieces of bread and a sweet and silky tomato sauce. After that came a big salad, grilled dorade, plus some wine and beer.

Somehow, less than an hour later, we were in a sea-blue shop handing over a couple euros for an anchovy tasting.

Anchovies really aren't my thing, especially when eaten all alone with toothpicks, their strong, briny flavor that much more intense.

I had a few nibbles and let Daniel eat the rest.

For dinner, we ate at L'Amphytrion (1, rue Jean Bart), an open-air spot that overlooks a small, stone-covered beach. Lovely view aside, the place was pretty pathetic. Our waiter was rude and unattentive, and our main course -- a big, boiling pot of seafood stew -- was chewy and flavorless. When a German couple ended their meal with a scene about the poor service, Daniel and I were secretly kind of happy. We left soon after and had dessert at Les Templiers, a popular place where famous painters used to hang out. Today, many of their original paintings line the walls.

On the morning we left, I picked up a baguette Catalan. Flat with curled up edges, it had a slight citrusy flavor, a crunchy sprinkling of sugar and a texture that reminded me of pita.

It was interesting, but I prefer regular baguette.

Good food is one of the main things that draws me to a place, but when a town is as pretty and relaxing as Collioure, it's easy to make an exception. Our hotel (don't let the website fool you) was a big letdown. Daniel describes it as a French Super 8, though in its defense, our room did have a lovely view. But if we ever return, I think we'll rent one of those rosy homes and cook lots of good food ourselves.

Speaking of renting, we spotted this sign on one of our afternoon walks. Enticing, n'est ce pas?

See you next week when I'm back with my post on El Bulli. Happy 4th of July!

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