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Port-Vendres

A 5-minute drive southeast from Collioure takes you to the bustling fishing port of Port-Vendres. You won't find the beauty of Collioure, although the houses clustering around the quayside are in typically southern French pastel shades of yellow and ocher, with terra-cotta tiles covering the rooftops. What you will find is an authentic slice of marine life, where fishing is still a major industry. You can see this firsthand at the Saturday morning market in the port, where stalls sell fish and seafood just off the boats. If you miss the Saturday market, visit the huge indoor seafood market at Les Poissonneries de la Côte Catalane (tel. 04-68-98-46-00; www.cotecatalane.com) near the fish auction, La Criée, on the northern side of the port. Here you will find an enormous range of seafood, an excellent wine selection, an oyster bar, and a wide range of prepared seafood dishes including paella.

One of the best restaurants among the many lining the quay is Le Chalut, at No. 8 (tel. 04-68-82-00-91). This friendly family-run business puts as much care into its 15€ menu as it does its oyster extravaganza for 95€. So you can enjoy mussels, whelks (sea snails), or Catalan cod in a Banyuls wine sauce without paying a fortune.

Port-Vendres was home to the renowned Scottish designer and architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928), who spent the last few years of his life living here -- he said it was the happiest time in his life. Rather than join the painters in nearby Collioure, he stayed in Port-Vendres to capture the village in a series of watercolors. A permanent exhibition of his life is featured in the Jardins du Dôme. Opening times vary but are generally 3pm to 7pm Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday; visit www.crmackintoshfrance.com for information.

The Office de Tourisme is at 1 quai François Joly (tel. 04-68-82-07-54; www.port-vendres.com).

Banyuls-sur-Mer

Drive another 6km (4 miles) south from Port-Vendres and you quickly reach this pretty little seaside village, where the beach curves in one large arc in front of the waterside restaurants and bars. The sight of vineyard after vineyard clinging to vertiginous terraces will give you a clue as to how Banyulencs occupy themselves when not swimming or diving in the waters that were France's first marine reserve. Banyuls is home to a sweet wine that is usually drunk as an aperitif or with dessert, as well as fruity reds and whites. You can visit caves (vineyards) in the village, or have a tour and a tasting in the atmospheric cellars of Cellier des Templiers, a large cooperative of wine growers just outside the village on route des Mas Reig (tel. 04-68-98-36-92; www.banyuls.com).

A visit to Domaine St-Sébastien, 10 av. du Fontaulé (tel. 04-68-88-30-14), a nearby winery, starts with a boat ride along the Côte Vermeille before a tour of the cellars, followed by a wine tasting in the restaurant's panoramic dining room, and finally lunch in its olive tree-shaded garden. Banyuls is the birthplace of French sculptor Aristide Maillol (1861-1944); some of his works are placed around the village. His former house in the countryside outside Banyuls has been turned into a museum, where his sculptures celebrating the female form are on display along with temporary exhibitions of other artists' work. The museum, called the Fondation Dina Vierny, is at Vallée de la Roume (tel. 04-68-88-57-11; www.musee-maillol.com).

Hôtel des Elmes, Plages des Elmes (tel. 04-68-88-03-12; www.hotel-des-elmes.com), a three-star Logis de France hotel, is in an enviable location at the northern entrance to Banyuls, with its own stretch of beach right in front. Its good-size rooms are furnished in a cool, contemporary style, and some have balconies facing the sea; doubles range from 48€ to 129€. The hotel is home to a well-regarded restaurant called La Littorine.

The Office de Tourisme is at 4 av. de la République (tel. 04-68-88-31-58; www.banyuls-sur-mer.com). They have information on guided tours of the village and the surrounding countryside, boat trips along the coast, scuba diving, as well as directions to the other beaches just south of the village.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.