We drive to the picturesque seaside town of Collioure,16 km (10 miles) from the French-Spanish border. Collioure is filled with houses in soft, pastel colors that once inspired artists including Matisse, Derain, Picasso, and Braque.
French Mediterranean coast near Spain
Streets of Collioure
Anchovies have been fished and cured in Collioure since the Middle Ages and they are still prepared here three different ways: salted, in brine, or in oil. The anchovy companies also sell direct to those of us who wander into the small stores in their facilities.
Anchovy processing (and sale)
Leaving this charming town, we head northeast into the mountains to the rustic hillside settlement of Castelnou, with houses built on a web of alleys connected by staircases, surrounding a castle that was built in the 900s.
Castelnou site and city entrance
Streets and views of Castelnou
Returning to the sea, our next stop is Narbonne, located between Montpellier and Perpignan. Established by the Romans in 118 BC on the Roman road connecting Italy with Spain, Narbonne was a bustling port until the 14th century, when the Aude River changed its course and the city lost its access to the sea. In the 16th century, the Canal de la Robine was completed, linking up with France's Canal du Midi and Canal de Jonction to reestablish the city's location on trading routes.
Canal de la Robine
Narbonne old town
Leaving Narbonne, we zip (without stopping) past Marseille, the the Côte d'Azu towns of Saint Tropez, Cannes, Nice to Sanremo, Italy, just across the French-Italian border.