Monday, December 3, 2012

A looping drive through the Col de Banyuls

At last the wind has died down. There is one lone windsurfer floundering in the bay, which means that we can actually go somewhere without fear of being blown away. We decided to quickly have our morning coffee at the Nautica and head for Collioure,  an hour away up the coastal road, in France. At the restaurant we were just about to sit down when we were pleased to see two familiar faces: an English couple whom we had met last winter but not seen since. By the time we left the Nautica the wind had come up a little and there were a few clouds in the sky.

All this caused a slight change of plan. We followed the winding coastal road through the lovely but now stark looking vineyards of Roussillon to Banyuls sur Mer. We more or less dove in the door at Sebastien's restaurant, where there was a nervous moment as the server slowly lifted his sleeve to carefully check his watch. We just made it before the dreaded two o'clock curfew.

Lunch was a lovely piece of grilled loup de mer or seabass. We don't normally eat dessert but Seamus opted for the warm fig tart and I had a grand marnier ice cream soufflé. Both were delicious.

By now the wind had risen so instead of a walk along the promenade, we decided to follow the longer back route through Banyuls to Spain. The road meandered through golden vineyards passing several wine tasting cellars. Then we followed a stream lined with tall grasses on one side of the road and more vineyards on the other. Once we started the steep climb towards the Col de Banyuls, the mountain was lined with vine terraces some weirdly lying on the diagonal. As the switchbacks on the road became sharper, the vineyards were replaced with olive trees, still unharvested, and then the ubiquitous stone pines and rosemary.

We stopped at the top of the mountain that separates Spain from France marked with  memorials to the hundred thousand people who escaped from Spain between 1939 and 1941. From here we had a magnificent view over the vineyards to Banyuls and in the other direction over the Spanish Pyrenees.

Back in Spain we followed the much straighter road passing carefully through a flooded stream. Finally, we were back on the main road to the Port. We stopped briefly at Rabos, one of Seamus' favourite photo sites. Even though it was almost dusk when we got home,  there were still several windsurfers taking advantage of the high winds.

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