The sculptor Aristide Maillol was born in Banyuls-sur-Mer. There is a Maillol Museum in Paris, but you can visit the farm where he spent his last years near Banyuls-sur-Mer. The farm was called La Métairie and his tomb is there. His statue La Méditerranée is his tombstone. You can visit the tomb and garden for free. There is a charge for the museum.
Wandering the town of Banyuls, you can see several of his sculptures. The first one we spotted was La Jeune Fille Allongée near the Hotel de Ville. I wouldn't have seen it but there was a metal picture frame on the sidewalk and I stopped to look through it. There was the sculpture, framed.
Further down the street toward the aquarium we saw l'Île de France sans bras à Banyuls sans picture frame also.
The museum is open every day except bank holidays. Check the web site for current hours and cost.
If you do nothing else in Banyuls-sur-Mer, take a walk along the shore. There is a beach, harbor and aquarium. Look under the walkway to the harbor and you will find lots of artisan shops and some diving equipment rentals.
Then walk out along the breakwater and enjoy the views. You will see empty metal picture frames in various places. Some frame Maillol sculptures and others frame interesting views of the village. There are explanation plates under the frames and it's fun to find them and take a photo through the frame.
The oldest aquarium on the French Mediterranean coast is located in Banyuls-sur-Mer. 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. (The Aquarium Arago, founded in 1885 by the Univ. of Paris.)
Open 9-12 and 2-6:30 every day in low season; slightly longer hours in high season
Avenue De La Cote Vermeille, BANYULS-SUR-MER, 6665
Good for: Couples
It was a cold, rainy spring and it was chilly when we drove into Banyuls-sur-Mer. It was noon and we were hungry so we parked and immediately started our daily restaurant search. The first restaurant didn't have anything my husband wanted so we moved on. There are many choices in Banyuls. We walked past the Hotel de Ville (town hall) and immediately spotted Chez Claude. It looked lovely and they had a great nineteen euro menu.
We entered and were seated in an inner room near a family of four. We were admiring all the art work on the walls in the warm, friendly restaurant when another woman was seated at the next table for four by herself. We assumed she would be joined by three others and soon a gentleman arrived and he was quickly followed by another couple. The young waiter had greeted everyone in the room but us with traditional French cheek kisses. It was obvious they all knew each other.
When we were there, the restaurant did not accept credit cards. Check before you order if you need to use one.
Favorite Dish: We ordered the hot goat cheese salad and sole amandine that was served with small potatoes in a pungent garlic-pepper oil and an artichoke stuffed with onions and mushrooms. Garnish was a delicious roasted tomato Provençal. We opted for ice cream to end. Lovely, friendly restaurant and as we left Claude asked us if we were English and when we said American, he brought us back inside and introduced us to the four people who had been sitting beside us. The first woman was from Boston and married to the Frenchman who had come in next. The other couple were friends. We all exchanged greetings, chatted a while and wished each other “bonne journée.”
Not only was the food excellent; the ambience was marvelous and Claude was an amazing person. Highly recommended. There is patio dining in nicer weather but do go inside and admire the paintings.
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!