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Day Trips to the
Mediterranean Coast
Bask on the sunny beaches of southern France

Narbonne: Our nearest beach is Narbonne Plage, about an hour from Caunes Minervois. It's nothing fancy - just kilometer after kilometer of wide, flat sand sloping gently into crystal-blue sea. There's not much tide and no currents to speak of, and unless it's windy, hardly any surf. You can wade out until you start to float in the salt-rich water. Perfect for lazy swimming or just lying in the sun.

This isn't the Côte d'Azur - there are no beachfront cafés spreading their tables almost to the water, and no one to rent you a beach umbrella in exchange for a month's salary. Half the population of Narbonne may be here on a summer weekend, but during the week the crowds are light, and if you just wander a bit farther down the beach you may find yourself completely alone. Couples and families, swimmers and windsurfers, foreigners and locals all seem to share the beach in complete harmony and with an air of utter relaxation. Vehicles are forbidden, no one ever seems to have amplified music, but anything else is just fine.

Narbonne Plage is clearly signposted from the A9 motorway or downtown Narbonne. The coast road connects Narbonne Plage with Gruisson, a charming fishing and salt-farming village with a ruined castle, a fisherman's church, and La Cranquette, one of our favorite seafood restaurants.

Collioure: Half an hour south of Perpignan is the old Catalan fishing port of Collioure, its harbor dominated by a massive fortress built by the kings of Majorca and remodelled by Vauban for Louis XIV. Collioure was introduced to the world by Matisse and his fellow fauve ("wild") artists, who painted its quaint harbor, terrassed vineyards and shimmering sea as a melange of post-impressionist forms and lurid colors. Brass picture frames on stands mark the views captured in some of the more famous fauve paintings; tourists use them now for photographs.

Collioure's beaches are small, and each has a different character. The main beach, in the sheltered harbor between the castle and Notre-Dames-des-Anges, the fortified fisherman's church with its lighthouse tower, is backed by cafés serving fresh oysters and champagne, and populated by sunbathers and newspaper-readers. North of Notre Dame is a swimmer's beach with a rocky shore and more active water. South of the castle is a gentle beach with shallow water frequented mainly by children and families. Promenade en Mer launches leave from the main dock mornings and mid-afternoons for tours down the scenic coast to Port-Vendres and Banyuls.

Collioure is popular with tourists and can be a challenge in the summer. But in spring and fall it's a delight, often sunny and mild when the rest of France is cold and rainy. Don't miss Dalí, our favorite restaurant (located just south of the castle). And Collioure anchovies can't be beat!

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