I had a moment last night when I thought Collioure wasn’t for us; a bit too crowded, maybe we would have been better visiting, but staying elsewhere. However, this morning I’m glad we stayed. We would have left last night thinking what a busy old place, but this morning the madness had departed and Collioure was quiet, deserted and truly splendid. We enjoyed a breakfast overlooking the town whilst it set up for the day, and then a lovely walk around the harbour, and it was difficult to leave. We set off and followed the coast back down towards Spain, stopping in Banyuls for morning coffee and a spot of postcard writing in the sun. We also tried some of Cornwall’s finest homemade Chilli Chocolate (that Ade’s parents had bought out), wow what a kick! From Banyuls we drove up to the Tour Madeloc (652m) on a stunning road lined with terraced vineyards, cork oak trees, wild flowers and lavender flowering out of the cracks in the rocks. It was rather breezy however! We were by now loitering, reluctant to leave the Med behind us and head inland. We picnicked on boulangerie baguette and a lovely paté with anchovies and olives, overlooking the Med, before heading towards Perpignan.
On Remi’s advice from last night we had decided to give the city centre a miss as there are lots of road works at the moment, but we thought going to an out of town hypermarket to stock up on provisions and fuel would be OK. Anyone who has ever driven in France will know that on every roundabout or junction there are signs pointing you towards your nearest supermarket, so it is impossible to get lost – wrong! The Auchan in Perpignan is invisible (after the first tempting sign that is). It was a stressful 20 mins of driving with much huffing and puffing, before we stumbled upon it, but we got what we needed; patisserie cakes for us (as the boulangerie we found this morning only had a sorry set of yesterdays leftovers), fuel for Gizmo and an iPad for Ade (apparently, it was too good an offer to miss).
From Perpignan we drove to Forca Réal on roads lined with plain trees, olive groves and cherry orchards – I have seen my first red cherries of the year! There is a real difference to our old and unruly trees and these neat, irrigated orchards (so much easier to pick too). The view from Forca Réal gave us our last glimpse of the Med and the snow capped Pyrenees of the holiday, an occasion we marked with afternoon patisseries and a drink.
Our drive to Carcassonne let us dabble into the Cathar castle route, took us via backwater gorges and through some stunning scenery, where we were often the only car on the road. Unfortunately the rain appeared about half an hour from Carcassonne, but it was dry enough to walk into the Bastide this evening to find a brasserie serving a traditional cassoulet dish; duck leg, belly pork, sausage and beans, yum yum. I have one contented tummy sitting in our mini suite, which if you lean out of the velux window you can see the Medieval City illuminated. My walking shoes are ready for a good hike around tomorrow.!(upload://nWNyauqw9MFucXsjgFNSxI6M7c2.jpeg)