Friday, November 8, 2019

Collioure, Castelnou, and the Orgues d'Ille-sur-Tet, France

I head out to explore some of the towns and coutryside near Perpignon, starting with the picturesque seaside town of Collioure, just south of Perpignan and 16 km (10 miles) from the Spanish border.  Collioure, once Perpignan's port, is packed with houses in soft, pastel colors that once inspired artists including Mattise, Derain, Picasso, and Braque.  I park by the port and wander.

 Mediterranean coast south of Perpignan

 Port of Collioure

 Streets and buildings 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.  I wander by some of the anchovy companies, which also sell direct from small stores in their facilities.

 Anchovy processing (and sale)

Leaving this charming town, I head into the mountains to the rustic hillside settlement of Castelnou, with houses built on a web of alleys connected by staircases around the castle that was founded in the 900s.

 Leaving the sea and heading into the mountains

 Castelnou site and city entrance

Streets and views of Castelnou

  1. Unfortunately, the castle is closed today and I head back into the hills to visit the Orgues of Ille-sur-Tet, a 2 km (1.2 mile) river valley near one of the last high summits of the eastern Pyrenees.  The valley, near the town of Ille-sur-Tet, is filled with massive limestone pillars (orgues or organs) created over four million years of erosion.  It is incredible to wander among these pillars and view the gnarled structures.

 Orgues d'Ille-sur-Tet

I stop for a quick history lesson on the landscape:  The Pyrenees were formed about 45 million years ago, originally stretching all the way to Provence.  Approximately 15 million years later, the eastern part of the chain collapsed and the Mediterranean sea was formed.  Around 6 million years ago, the Mediterranean was almost dried out due to the obstruction of the straits of Gibraltar caused by a plate motion that closed access to the Atlantic.  Three to five million years ago, the Mediterranean was again open to the Atlantic and the sands of the Orgues were deposited and the forces or erosion (still in action) started to wear away at them.

This has been an intriguing day with lots of different experiences.  There sure is a lot around here!

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