There is something a bit odd about rain and the beach. Not that there is any sand at Collioure, a gorgeous little town on the Mediterranean coast just to the south of Perpignan, like most of France’s coastline, the water laps up on to stones.
Lovely stones, but stones, nonetheless.
Don’t get me wrong, this is no complaint; it is a gorgeous town, replete with all of the accoutrements of beach resorts that combine to give one a warm sense of well-being; among other more guttural feelings that is. It is a charming place, other than the parking, which I have to say was bizarre. In an increasingly frantic quest to rid myself of the car, I found myself driving along a dry (at that time) river bank, grumbling, narrowly missing cars on either side, and feeling disturbingly pleased that Hertz’s car might have another injury. Bouncing over stones, wheels in the air, I decided that the final possible parking-place, at the top of the river bed, was too much even for me.
Which may well have been a wise decision given the afternoon thunderstorms. But I am getting ahead of myself somewhat.
Having parked, we wandered into town; wandering is not as simple in a place heaving as Collioure does with visitors. Thousands are there, just like us, because it is lovely, and there is an odd thing about tourists wandering around; they find a rhythm of pace, they gaze skywards, speed-read menus, and inspect other diners’ meals, all without tripping anyone up. At least 95% do; the remainder don’t. They wander at their very own pace, rather like the one or two people in a concert crowd whose clapping is off beat, and not being equipped with brake-lights, cause minor pile ups whenever they spot something nice.
So lurching along to some syncopated beat behind one such ill-timed family, we lunched at a lovely restaurant, gazing past the stoney beach, past hordes of sun-worshippers, many clothed only in dental-floss, to the glistening blue of the sea. Wonderful seafood, fine local white wine, all was extremely well with the world. And so, having been suitably softened-up, my daughter took me shopping. And then the thunder started, the rain came down and in an instant, the town took on a completely different aspect.
The proportions were all wrong; where previously there had been a natural balance of oglers, shoppers and those involved with the beach, now there were simply hundreds of wanderers in the narrow streets anxiously looking for something to interest them. They sought trinkets that they could want and then build a need for; they craved some sort of kleptomaniacal stimulation. The natural attractions of the beach suddenly off-limits sent families wheeling small children where small children should never be wheeled, at least at those speeds, and ever greater hordes into the tiny shops discussing the variable attractions of art, clothing and tattoos.
And then we thought about our luck at being unable to park on a dry river bed.
Collioure is a really rather special place. I had been previously, but only in the off-season; circumstance dictated that we should be there in the height of the tourist season this time, and so we were. There are, in addition to it lying in a most picturesque setting some wonderful art galleries, pleasant restaurants and delightful shops. And, do you know, there is not a single, overbearing global-brand advertisement to be seen.
Well worth the trip!