The sails are set, the ducks are out, and the patter of tourists begin to echo in this little sunny seaside Catalan-French town. Still, all remains as calm and serene as the Mediterranean that holds us in awe.
While relatively under the tourist radar, Collioure is a popular holiday destination for a lot of Europeans (particularly British and Catalan, and those from neighboring French cities). And many of the bars and cafes that line its vibrant, cobbled alleys do seem a bit too touristy and intimidating, price-wise. But Ron and I were hungry and willing to pay the cost of a substantial Mediterranean meal - give us seafood! - if only we could find a restaurant with two vacant seats.
As we passed by the Bar-Brasserie de la Marine, a table opened up, and we jumped at it in a flash. Luck was perhaps on our side that day because we found that not only could we get a three-course meal for E12.90, but the meal was more than what we bargained for. It was big; it had French (Breton) and Catalan/Mediterranean elements; it satisfied our hankering for the sea; and it was a feast for the palate.
Chateau Royale de Collioure (Royal Castle of Collioure).
A 13th century fortification of the kings of Majorca in the Catalan region. The French built additions to the castle in the 1600s, after victory in the Thirty Years’ War resulted in their acquisition of Northern Catalonia through a treaty.
Inside, you can get lost in a maze of criss-crossing corridors that do not seem to end. Every turn requires navigating dark, narrow, winding hallways with small windows from which to shoot arrows at invading forces.
Some areas of the castle, however, show creative reuse at work today. There is a basketball court in one courtyard, an open-air theatre in another, some museums, and an art gallery featuring ten Rousillon artists in one of the wings.
Collioure, France… where the Pyrenees mountains gently dip into the Mediterranean Sea…
Back from Europe!
Ron and I wanted this vacation to be a restful trip and a historical journey. It was not meant to be a crazy “amazing race” from country to country and city to city. We did pack in three countries - Spain, France, and Italy - as I had already been to a number of northern European countries and we also wanted to be near the mountains and the sea.
We tried to avoid the usual Filipino tourist trail and the world’s most visited cities (with Barcelona being the exception). So, we spent six days in Barcelona, Spain, with a day trip to the Spanish Pyrenees mountains; three days in Lyon, France; three days in Perpignan, France, with a day trip to the coastal city of Collioure; and five days in Turin, Italy.
While we would have wanted to stay longer, the time spent was, I think, enough to get to know each of these cities in a more profound way (at least more so than what a mad dash would allow) and to feel their heartbeat. In any case, Ron could already navigate the streets without a map.
As difficult as it is, time now to go through our materialized memories…
Inside the walled city, Manila…
Downtown Manila boasts of a historically and architecturally significant built environment, from colonial wood/stone and art nouveau houses, to art deco buildings and the later (70s? 80s?) brutalist structures. Many of these structures, however, especially those outside of Intramuros, have been left to rot and are currently inhabited by the homeless. If I were a heritage conservation officer - if we had such a thing - I would be “listing” (in UK fashion) many of the houses and buildings in Manila. Thank goodness for our religious tradition, though. At least the 17th century churches have been spared from dereliction.
Hurrah for houses and family living spaces converted to restaurants, especially those with loads of green! Here’s another one in Marikina City :)
The relaxed, suburban, tree-lined setting of The Red Crab in Clark, Pampanga makes for a very pleasant dining experience. Good food, relative privacy, and unassuming company.
A number of similarly situated restaurants in provinces have shot to fame because of these qualities. And fame often leads to branches in Metro Manila. Unfortunately, in opening up in capital cities, these places lose much of their charm.
Now this is a restaurant that can be hailed for the food and the service afforded by the wait staff. In Oliva Bistro Cafe's two branches - Visayas Avenue and [newly-opened] Marcos Highway - we were greeted and served by friendly personnel who could anticipate our needs. Proves that sometimes, the best dining experiences are found, not in those popular areas, but off the beaten over-blogged track.
I love gardens and am always thrilled to discover that green spaces still exist in the city. Luljetta’s Hanging Gardens and Spa in Antipolo combines the two things I need most in these hectic times - nature and relaxation. The massage pools, spa services, healthy meals, and fresh air will definitely give you an energy boost for rest of the week.