Cote Vermeille Attractions
The Côte Vermeille ("Vermilion Coast") extends from Collioure (southeast of Perpignan) to the Spanish frontier at the Col des Balitres. The chief town is Perpignan. The stretch of coast to the north is in the Languedoc- Roussillon region.The Côte Vermeille is rugged and much indented, with a few picturesque little towns, now popular seaside resorts, nestling in the inlets. The name of the area comes from the reddish color of the soil. The road along the Côte Vermeille is an alternative to the inland road to Catalonia and the Costa Brava which crosses the frontier at the Col de Perthus.
Elne (pop. 6,410), once the see of a bishop, lies on a hill in the Roussillon coastal plain. In the fifth and sixth centuries it was capital of Roussillon, but it declined in importance after the bishop moved to Perpignan in 1602.
The former cathedral of Ste-Eulalie in Côte Vermeille is one of the most beautiful churches in France. Its right-hand tower dates from the 11th C; the left-hand one is modern. The cloister was built in the 12th and 14th centuries; its cluster columns have richly carved capitals. The Museum displays archeological finds from the area.
Argelès-sur-Mer, which lies a little way inland, shares with Argelès-Plage a beautiful sandy beach 6km/4mi long. The two places, set in a landscape of pinewoods and oleanders, are linked by a narrow-gauge railroad, and offer attractive trips into the nearby hills. Argelès-sur-Mur has a small Catalan Museum. The Gothic church (14th C) contains Late Renaissance panel paintings.
In the Middle Ages the picturesque seaside resort of Collioure (pop. 2,762) was the port of Perpignan, and in even earlier times it was known to the Phoenicians. With its small harbor and its old castle (12th-17th C) it attracted artists like Matisse, Derain, Braque, Picasso and Dufy. The Château des Templiers was once the summer residence of the kings of Majorca and the queen of Aragon. The fortified church dates from the 17th C; its tower formerly served as a lighthouse. There are remains of the town's walls and ramparts.From the church a causeway runs out to the former islet of St-Vincent, crowned by a chapel, from which there are fine views of the coast.
In a sheltered inlet is Port-Vendres (the Roman Portus Veneris), a seaside resort as well as a fishing and commercial port with a Harbor which is now also used by pleasure boats. In the 17th C it was fortified by Vauban as a naval port, and still preserves the Fort du Fanal. To the east of the town Cap Béar reaches out to sea.
Banyuls-sur-Mer, situated at the extreme southern end of the Côte Vermeille amid the last foothills of the Pyrenees, is the chief town of the area of Banyuls, which extends from the coast into the Albères range of hills. A well-known seaside resort with a boating harbor, it is also noted for its institute of oceanographical research, which has an interesting aquarium.Banyuls enjoys an exceptionally sheltered situation in which exotic plants flourish. On the Ile Grosse is a war memorial by the sculptor Aristide Maillol (1861-1944), who was born in Banyuls.
Banyuls sur Mer - Dance Festival
This two-day festival takes place in mid-August.
The last seaside resort before the Spanish frontier is Cerbère, with large railroad marshalling yards - required because the Spanish railroads have a broader gauge than the rest of Europe, so that it is necessary to change trains here. Southeast of the town is Cap Cerbère, a rugged promontory of black rocks from which there is a fine view of the Spanish coast. The French- Spanish frontier is on the Col des Balitres (173 m/568ft).