Thursday, December 29, 2011

Return to Port Vendres

Today we made a return trip to Port Vendres, on the trail of Charles Rennie MacIntosh, who lived and painted here with his wife in the 20s. We knew that the museum wouldn't reopen until February, but markers have been installed around the town's lovely waterfront at all the artist's favorite vantage points. Each marker includes a copy of the painting created at that point. We thought that would make a great walk.

As we drove the winding coast road we noticed new color on the hillsides, bright yellow broom blooming everywhere. Port Vendres is a deep water commercial fishing port as well as having a large marina, so there was lots to see as we walked in the beautiful, warm sunshine. The effect of afternoon light playing on the hills across the bay, the houses lining the quayside, reflections of boats in the still water all made it easy to imagine what attracted the artist to this town. No doubt he also found some nice places to eat, as we were about to do!

After looking at the menus of several restaurants we decided on Restaurant Le France. It had a patio, and all the seafood available for your meal that day was on display. Unfortunately, the sole was gone by the time I ordered but the menu of the day was a good alternative. We started with some local rose wine accompanied by crispy baguette with an olive tapenade. As we were waiting for the rest of our food, one of the men fishing right across the road pulled out an octopus.  A Norwegian salad with bib lettuce, red onions, smoked salmon and scampi with a really piquant dressing was followed by a lotte fish filet, wild rice, grilled tomato with breadcrumbs and a little baked zucchini square, which I think was mixed with a little egg and dusted with nutmeg. Dessert was one of my favourites, ile flottant. For those of you who have never had this dessert it is essentially meringue -- a soft melt in your mouth kind -- floating on creme anglaise; an experience you never forget!

We continued our walk around the port but still hadn't seen any of the Rennie MacIntosh markers. There were numerous fishing boats, some quite large. Then we discovered the fish market. On display were every kind of Mediterranean fish imaginable, including two kinds of sole, as well as all kinds of shellfish including scallops, oysters and sea urchins. We bought some coquilles St. Jaques, already cooked, which will be lunch tomorrow.

Walking a little further we climbed some steps and there was our first Rennie MacIntosh picture, soon followed by two others. It was interesting to see how the views had changed, a small sandy beach having been filled in with a cement quay, other vistas obscured by port buildings. By now the sun was going down, taking all its warmth with it; it was time to leave Port Vendres. We'll be back as we have ten more Rennie MacIntosh pictures to discover and more lunches to eat.

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