Saturday, February 23, 2013

Seafood, modern art, big ships and a favourite author's grave

Today was a very a busy day. It started with a drive up the coast to Banyuls Sur Mer, where we did some shopping before heading up to the next town, Port Vendres to visit the fish market. Unfortunately our timing was out, just missing the open fish market. Instead we settled for some moules and frites overlooking the harbour. Not only was the food delicious but as a bonus we watched the Regal Star container ship arrive from Dakar. It was very interesting to watch the ship being towed into port. First it was perpendicular to the pier and then gradually with terrific force the tug maneuvered the giant ship close to the dock, where it cast its ropes to tie up.

We walked passed the Mirabella III, the luxury yacht that was seized months ago, still tied up to the quay Forgas. It has a giant generator pumping away on the shore. Originally, the owners wanted the captain to take it to a different port where repairs could be carried out. However, the Spanish captain was owed over a hundred thousand euro in back salary and wouldn't move the ship. There are many rumours about other creditors as well, resulting in Mirabella III remaining in Port Vendres.

Since the fish market wasn't open until later, we travelled the handful of kilometres to Collioure, where our first stop was the modern art museum founded in 1930 by Jean Peske. We climbed the stairs to the top of the gallery, which had two rooms of pictures of people showering in their bathing suits. Some were quite funny as the people looked like they were trying to remove sand. We toured the next floor and then looked for pictures appearing in the museum brochure only to find out when we asked that they weren't in the museum, they were examples of local work.

We wandered around the narrow little streets visiting the tourist information office before we set off in the car to find Patrick O'Brian's grave in the new cemetery above the town. On the way we passed the commandos training in a field. Finally, arriving at the cemetery we wandered through the big marble tombs, many with both artificial and fresh flowers. A few even had lovely china anemone displays. Patrick O'Brian's and his wife Mary's grave was made of very simple local slate. You could almost miss it surrounded by big marble tombs on both sides. This was a special moment since we are such big fans and have read all of his books.

I visited the local pharmacie and while standing in line, three of the commandos came in with faces blackened and a bit bloodied limping up to the counter to have prescriptions filled. Today's training must have been pretty vicious.

Finally stopping at the fish market in Port Vendres, we bought some lovely Coquille St. Jacques, squid ink for risotto and two beautiful Atlantic sole, which we have just enjoyed cooked in olive oil, capers and lemon. Delicious.

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