When we asked some French colleagues for tips on towns to visit in Languedoc-Roussillon, two immediately named the same place: Ceret. “Why?” Tim asked.
“The light,” one said. The other agreed, but when Tim tried to get them to explain further, the idea of the light kept recurring. We’d read about Ceret already, so our friends’ recommendation placed it firmly on our list. En route between Barcelona (where we’d rented our car) and our B&B in France, we stopped on the way up in beachy Collioure; and on the way down, in more inland Ceret.
Thirty kilometers apart, these two towns are linked by art history. In the early 1900s, Collioure became the summer hotspot for a group of painters known as the Fauvists, including Henri Matisse and Andre Derain. (You can follow a route around town called the Chemin du Fauvisme, leading you past twenty images at sites where the painters worked.)
If you’re not into guided routes, let your eyes draw you where they will. Collioure on a June Tuesday was an easy place to wander around bend after colorful bend, past art galleries and gelato bars and wine shops stocked with local vintages. It was only a struggle to decide if I wanted to spend more time on the beach, or more time poking into shops. Seeing as it was around 90F, the beach won out.
Collioure has a calm, desirable harbor that has made it a fought-over location for thousands of years. Today you can swim in perfectly clear water watched over by an 800-year-old castle (left, in photo above).
When we rode into Ceret a few days later, one of my first impressions was that (minus the beach) Ceret was a brighter version of Collioure. Ceret is also home to the Musee d’art Moderne de Ceret, populated by works of former residents including Matisse, Picasso, Chagall, and Miro.
We spent a couple hours loving the colorful buildings and eating crepes in a shady square. I spent an inordinate amount of time in a local pottery shop. The housewares were beautiful, glazed in wonderful hues reminiscent of the houses outside, and the prices were incredibly affordable. I would love to tell you the name, and I even have the business card in front of me—and yet the name is printed in such an odd font that I can’t read it with certainty (business-card fail). It might be “dukocal’ane” (which looks kind of Hawaiian and therefore is probably incorrect). Well, the address is 6-8 rue Manolo, Ceret.
UPDATE: The pottery shop’s correct name is: du koc @ l’ane. The owner saw this post and sent it to me! Thanks, Corinne!
Although we spent only an afternoon in each of these towns, having seen them I would gladly have stayed longer and spent a night, particularly in Collioure.