Pieds dans la Creme!Table Manners Please!
My Dad had a saying when he thought I was tucking into my food a bit too gustily.
" Why don't you take your boots off and jump in?"he would say.. it always made me sit up and take notice.
I am not sure how he would have dealt with this ill-mannered little pigeon that we spotted at an abandoned table as we left a beach cafe.
We had a good laugh about it!
Banyuls wine . . . need I say more?
"Home of sculptor Aristide Maillol"
Banyuls-sur-Mer is particularly famous for two things, sculptor Aristide Maillol was born here and the local wine is well known and excellent.
The sculptures are hard to miss because there are standing metal frames all over town and when you look through them, you see a Maillol sculpture. It's fun.
What many people do not know is that the oldest aquarium on the French Mediterranean coast is located here. It was founded in 1885 by the University of Paris. It is open for visitors in cooperation with the Observatoire Océanologique and as part of the Laboratoire Arago. It's open year round although has longer hours in the summer.
"An active pleasure port"
You walk along the sidewalk enjoying the busy harbor scene, but if you descend to dock level, you immediately become aware of many little businesses under the street. We visited a very pleasant watercolorist and bought a trio of small paintings for our youngest daughter.
"Beautiful entrance to town . . . or exit"
We drove down this road coming into town and reversed ourselves leaving. It is a lovely drive either way and a stunning photo.
Banyuls sur Mer
"Almost in Spain"
Banyuls-sur-Mer is the most southerly French seaside resort before the Spanish border and as a border town has seen several changes of nationhood in its long history.
It was not until 1659 that Banyuls and Rousillon became French when by the Treaty of the Pyrenees they passed from Aragon to France.
Views from the coast road between Collioure and Banyuls are spectacular.
The approach down into the lovely sweeping bay of Banyuls with the old town on the hill on your right gives you a clear view of the coast. But some of the best views are to be had from the top of the old town.
The sea front is rather taken over by restaurants, cafes (on both sides of the road) and gift shops, interspersed with attractive displays of flowers. The main public buildings are at the southerly end of the bay - the Mairie, La Poste, Library and Tourist Office.
We had some difficulty locating the statues of two famous sculptors - Aristide Maillol, who was born in the town in 1866 and died there in 1944 as a result of a road accident . He was a passenger in a car making a journey during a time when the Tramontane, the local strong wind was blowing, the car skidded causing the fatal accident.
Maillol is famous for his large statues of women - some of which can be seen in le Jardin des Tuileries in Paris.
Here you may see his reclining figure of a woman - La Jeune Fille Allongée -and the War Memorial in Place Diana Vierny.
Diana Vierny was his principal model and after his death devoted her life to keeping his memory and works alive.
The Spanish painter Manolo Valiente (1909 - 1991) came to live in Banyuls and some of his sculptures can also be seen.
I would imagine that in summer, specially in August, this will be a very crowded little resort but although there were a surprising number of people about for mid-April we had no problem finding a place for lunch!
"Sea and vineyards all around."
Vineyards reach right down almost to the shore in some places around the town and wine production is an important part of the local economy. much of it seems aimed at the tourist markets with special packaging roadside and Degustation Tables.
At the time of the vendange a great festival is held in the town with all the streets taking part and ending with a mass community picnic/BBQ on the beach. I bet that would be fun!
The area is famous for its strong, sweet red wine. Often served as an aperitif or a dessert wine it is actually a fortified wine, more like a madeira .
You may be given a free aperitif in some restaurants and those I have had were not at all to my taste.
There are dozens of places where you can go for tastings - caves, retail shops, and the vineyards.
The best wines are very expensive and although I have tasted one or two of these it is not (fortunately!) a wine I would want to have more than maybe once a year.