Breakfast. Dropped our suitcases for transfer by La Pelerine to Banyuls sur Mer and were on the trails by 9:20 a.m. Another beautiful, sunny day…perfect for walking…past the acres and acres of vineyards. Bayuls sur Mer is the biggest wine village out of all the Vermillion Coast wine destinations.
It was Sunday and families along the route were taking their own walks, picnicking, driving along the coast and suddenly one car pulled up alongside us. The family jumped out and began chattering away to us in French (of course). I limped into my halting, Je ne parle pas français (I don’t speak French), one of the few sentences I am fluent in and Madame started saying over and over again, asperge, asperge. Completely bewildered. Was she saying, “asparagus”? (My “menu French” is excellent!) In the meantime, Monsieur leaped out of the car, slid down the embankment and started hacking off something green with a pen knife which he presented to us. Sure enough, it was wild asparagus that they were out hunting and really wanted us to take with for une omelette. Non, non…au revoir to this very sweet family, and we moseyed along.
It was just a long, long walk without much gain in elevation until we got to the GR10 (a long distance foopath that crosses the Pyrenees from East to West) by Batterie. This portion was the kind of hike that literally scares the crap (sorry) out of me. Scree (loose stones), drop-offs and steep downhill for about 15 minutes with legs were shaking from fear. Recuperating in a flat area for a short time, I took another look at the directions along with topographic map showing the next segment of the walk to Banyuls sur Mer. This too was steep. That was it. The map showed a road and I didn’t care how much it added to the distance. The road went all the way into Banyuls sur Mer, a charming old fishing village, with quaint narrow streets and excellent beaches. The steep slopes vineyards in the surrounding hills mean that all grapes have to be harvested by hand. A few vineyards have reverted to using the old methods and produce organic wines in the very fertile soil.
There is a market in Banyuls sur Mer on Saturday mornings but today was Sunday. It seems we are always one day too early or too late for markets. Instead of walking the called for 15 km/9.3 miles, I know we did a lot more and entered on the opposite side of Banyuls sur Mer that the hotel was located. Again, it took lots of asking to find the Hotel Sol at Cap d’Osne. It was uphill, a short walk from the main area. We walked for 5-1/2 to 6 hours are were both very tired. A long, windy day on the hills and we still had to walk back downhill for dinner.
A big drawback of traveling “out of season” is many hotels and restaurants aren’t open and those that are aren’t serving meals yet. Hotel Restaurant de la Plage, 12 Avenue de la Republique, was most definitely worth the walk. Mussels stuffed with garlic surrounded by a big salad, wonderful steaks with extremely yummy potatoes made with cheese (similar to potatoes au gratin but even better) and dessert was an assiette (platter) of different cheeses. If you visit, or stay, in Banyuls sur Mer, eat and stay here. Hotel Restaurant de la Plage would turn out to be the best dinner during the trip to France. E-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you visit, prepare to see oranges growing outdoors all year, mimosa and olive trees. Walk up to the Chapelle de la Salette (built in 1863 by Bonaventure Reig), 200 meters/ above the town. There is a Marina, Aquarium or take an excursion to La Chapelle-Tallavaux, a little village where two young shepherds had an apparition in 1846. And, if you like Anchovies (not one of my favorites), they are the big gastronomic highlight in this area.