Driving the coast road

Previous post: Central France – St. Enemie and other gems.

Sunday was a day of rest – a leisurely rise, croissants for breakfast, coffee on the terrasse with our view to the Pyrenees, warm October sun in the south of France.  For us it doesn’t get much better.

N &B went off on foot to explore our somewhat uninspired little village of St-André while I received a refresher course on driving a standard, something I hadn’t done in over 10 years.   I hoped to get behind the wheel at least briefly just for the experience.  This went quite well and we learned something about our rental – when one squirts to clean the windshield, the windows automatically go up.  Presumably sensors detect the ‘squirt’ and read ‘rain’ and send a message to the windows to close.  This ‘smart-ass’ feature of our car caused some embarassment.

We were stopped roadside when a local approached our car for a chat.  We were well into our conversation through the open windows when chauffeur B leaned forward to emphasize a point and inadvertently hit the wiper lever … which the car read as ‘must have started to rain’ and immediately the windows started to rise.  Our local managed to extricate himself from the window while B scrambled to undo what he had done.  Too late.  We had been hermetically sealed in and our local was striding off down the road with attitude, presumably muttering at the rudeness of the tourists these days.  Unfortunately we had already identified ourselves as Canadians.

My driving training excursion took us 3 kms to Argeles-sur-Mer – a seaside resort with 7 kms of sand, the longest beach in this Département of France.  In October the beach-side concessions were closed up and the crowds gone.  Our host, Maria, will not venture in to Argeles during the summer months; the influx of vacationers is too great, like ‘ants on the beach’, she said.

Day 2, recovered and ready we decided to drive the very inviting twisty-windy N114 coast road to Spain.  This took us through Port-Vendres – photo by diegojack

The history of this port stretches all the way back to the 6th C when it was known as Portus Veneris.  This is staggering to we folk from the New World.   If you are a hiker you can strike out from here for a French ‘ramble’ or hike into the Albères, which is the specific name for these hills at the eastern end of the Pyrenees.  There is also a coast path – a smuggler’s path – running from Argeles to the Spanish border.

The N114 twists and winds its way around hairpin turns and semi-blind corners down to each seaside village and back up again on the other side.

Banyuls-sur-Mer by boklmWhen hunger set in we stopped roadside for a boot lunch, overlooking the Mediterranean.  These picnics were our usual answer to mid-day nourishment – flexible and inexpensive.

The border was marked but not manned, passports no longer required – quite different from when I had come through here many years earlier when we had to show passports and change our money from francs to pesos to marks to dinars to lira to …

We stretched our legs at a Portbou lookout on the Cosat Brava in Spain –

and stopped for a beer and sangria on the beach.  Then we wound our way cross country on an alternate route home …  passed a hedge of cactus  …

and an olive grove in the filtered sunlight.

In the border town of La Jonquera, while Sister and I poked about, the boys sampled wines before buying two litres for €2.50 or about $3.50. Remember, we are simple folk – it was a rough red but palatable. Wines were available in 2, 5, 10 and 25 litre jugs.

Before leaving la Jonquera we found some charcoal for our planned BBQ supper on our terrasse.  I had been unsuccessful in St-André having asked for ‘briquettes’ which is what we call it at home and is obviously a French word, but it only produced a cigarette lighter.  Apparently the correct term in France is ‘charbon de bois’.  Travel is so educational.

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12 thoughts on “Driving the coast road

  1. I echo the olive tree love. There are still olive groves in CA, and they are my favorite landscape, possibly because they remind me of my childhood. The pictures of the sea are beautiful! Thanks for sharing a lovely trip Lynne. Do you paint from your photos?

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    1. I know – Those folks from the Old World call the bridge ‘new’ even if it was built in the 1700s just because it’s newer than the old one further down the river!

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  2. I love the expression “boot lunch.” We often enjoy a boot lunch when traveling, and you can’t beat the view. I love the way you use both photos and words to tell your story. I’m trying to decide on my next trip, and between the posts that you and Madhu are sharing, I’m having a very hard time!

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  3. What I loved most about France was the great wines we could pick up for 2 and 3 euros! I remember the wine and cheese picnics looking out over the hills from Cagnes Sur Mer! Bliss! Thanks for jogging my memory 🙂

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  4. A lovely drive, but having a car (or anything not human) think for you can be a problem, can’t it? You will be forever known as those “rude tourists who tried to dismember me” by your local visitor. You have probably completely destroyed the reputation of Canadians now! Embarrassing, I’m sure, but it make me laugh.

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