So off we all set at 9 a.m. after tucking into croissants, pains aux chocolat and coffee. Six of us, two cars and a GPS soon named "Betsy-Jane" (BJ for short). She had, we decided, grown up in Wisconsin and had spent one semester of her college year in Paris. Which had done little for her French pronunciation. "Avenue Charles D. Gall" was pretty good although "Barceloney" ran a close second.
Guided by BJ. our aim was to go and have lunch by the Mediterranean in Port Vendres. The roughly two-hour drive is a show-stopper. It begins with rolling sheep-dotted meadows, evolves into mountains, includes a limestone chasm so narrow that rocks hang over the road, and ends with a broad vine-filled valley. The cloudy day made the Cathar castles, perched unimaginably high on solid rock, look very gothic.
Port Vendres, on the other hand, looked busy and bustling as an active Mediterranean port should. We watched a little tug shove and push the colossal "Lady Rosemary" into whatever the marine term is for "parking space," as we sauntered along the quayside in search of lunch.
I neglected to note the name of the restaurant but it's the first one you come to after you've passed the big heaps of fishing nets (in case you're wondering what that crimson/pale pink tangle with what-looks-like-a-yellow-necklace is all about). Like any decent French restaurant, this one offered an all-in three-courser at lunchtime (see menu) as well as eau de robinet (tap water) served in bikini-clad bottles.
Between us we ordered just about everything on the menu, including the grilled sardines pictured here, pictured possibly twice: if you're seeing two sardine shots, it's not some artsy attempt at design but my inability to wrestle the blogspot program into submission. Anyhoo... We never did figure out the ingredients in that savagely green squiggle alongside the plate(s) of sardines. The salad dressing was a vicious purple-pink too. All we could surmise was that someone in the kitchen had a rather too lavish hand with the food colouring. Mind you, one of our party brought up an interesting point. Collioure (just up the coast and the postcard-y shot at the start of this post) is, after all, the birthplace of the unquestionably colourful Fauvist art movement. Maybe this was some kind of culinary hommage.