If the first leg of our journey had started with a couple of negatives, the final leg could best be described as ‘fraught’. Although maybe that’s a little deceptive – and certainly the benefit of hindsight allows a somewhat different hue to be cast over it.
Let’s start clearly: in a straightforward world, Saturday’s journey should have taken us from Nîmes to Perpignan, where we would have caught a smaller train to take us on to Collioure.
In the event, we comfortably made the train from Nîmes. But then that left some 20 minutes late after an announcement telling us that we were waiting for a connecting service that had been delayed. Which is annoying when you’re sat in the train that’s waiting, twiddling your thumbs, but is only fair to people who, through no fault of their own, would have missed a connection. Wow … a properly joined-up train network.
Once off, the train reached the penultimate stop of Narbonne with no further ado. And then stayed put again.
Eventually, we were asked to disembark and change to another train on a different platform. What caused particular fraughtness was not this itself (the change – glory hallelujah – involved no stairs or even lifts) but discovering that our four carriages from Nîmes, albeit lightly occupied, were now to be squeezed into the two carriages setting off from Narbonne – already quite densely occupied! And then, when we set off, it was to the realisation that instead of a case of ‘Perpignan next stop’, there were a further three stops before we hit the town that Dali, being bonkers, once described as a the centre of the world!
It was, as it happened, quite logical. Since our train from Nîmes had been delayed, we were now joining the one that we would have made our own connection with in Perpignan. So in the event, we didn’t have to make another change there (where the passengers thinned out considerably), but simply carried straight on to Collioure, arriving at the same time we’d initially planned – in spite of the delays.
This joined-up thinking lark would never catch on in the UK. And we didn’t even have to pay for tickets from Perpigan to Collioure.
After all that, we drew into the town at around 4pm – just as planned – and began the stroll to the house we were renting for a fortnight. There we were met by Mme Rehmet, who looks after the keys and changeovers while the owner, who is Scottish, spends the season in Scotland.
It was with a great deal of pleasure that we heard that there had not been rain in Collioure since something like 23 June.
Breaking the habit of the last few years, we decided not to unpack straight away, but to get ourselves down to the seafront as soon as physically possible. The sun was calling.
We had a diet Coke, booked transats (sunloungers) for the following day on Plage de Port d’Avall – the nearest beach to where we stay in the Fauberg, the old working-class area of the town. I always think of the beach as ‘Bora Bora’, because the ‘Bora Bora Beach Club’ is based at one end of it.
That may sound exotic, but it’s a small corrugated iron shop on a wooden deck, serving food and drink all day, and looking after, say, 20 double sunloungers with parasols, three pedalos and four canoes.
It’s owned by partners, but with one of them, Cyril, manning it for the most part. His is a busy day, from making and serving food to organising all the renting of the facilities – and dealing with idiots in the pedalos: we’ve seen him hve to grab a canoe and paddle out, at great pace, to sort someone out who had chosen to ignore the few, simple rules he’d laid down when they began their hire period.
Cyril, like so many other people we’ve watched over the years in Collioure, works damned hard – but more of that in a later post.
We strolled around the path that skirts the castle to Boramar beach and found seats at Le Petit Café, slap bang in front of the beach. The iconic tower of Notre Dame des Agnes to our left, the soaring stone and rock edifice of the Château Royal to our right; sky of deep blue, sea to match; bathers by the score enjoying themselves.
It was time for sangria; it was time to relax. Anything else really would just have to wait.