The south coast of France is nothing if not beautiful. To the east you have the sparkling seas of the Riviera while to the west, the terrain becomes craggier, less built upon but no less lovely. As you travel west ports get smaller and less glossy – but remain undeniably authentic.
Such is true of Collioure. This charming seaside resort might not have the mega yachts (or mega bucks) of St. Tropez and Monte-Carlo, but it certainly has a local flavour that is unique to the south-west of France. So much so that the post-impressionist movement Fauvism was immortalised here. Apparently the movement was created when artists including Matisse, Picasso and Derain arrived in 1905 and realised they could not purchase black pain in the area. They were thus forced to find a creative solution to their problem. The answer was, of course, the dotty pictures that defined 20th century art. So magnetic was the region that others flocked to the area, and even today Collioure’s church is one of the most painted locations in France, with a record 242 reproductions.
So perhaps the best guide to Collioure is not the usual guide books, but rather a crash course in modern art. Little seems to have changed since the painters left the seaside village, olive and lemon groves are still abundant, grape vines still line the horizon and stone cottages still stand. Cicadas still sing, fishing boats – bringing home the region’s speciality of anchovies – still float, and life carries on very much as it must have done in 1905.