When you first descend the winding coastal road and catch a glimpse of Collioure's captivating natural harbour, you can understand why many French artists including Matisse, Derain, Dufy, Picasso and Dali all sojourned to this picturesque part of the Cote Vermilion (the Vermilion Coast, so-called because of the surrounding red rock).
Many of them escaped here from Paris during the Summer months and rented houses or rooms along the coastline. It is in fact in Collioure through the vibrant new works of Matisse and Derain that the 'Fauvism' art movement of 1905 was born.
I must admit, however, I was surprised when I recently discovered one of my favourite modernist designers and celebrated Scottish artist and architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh also came to reside on these shores with his artist wife and their children. They did in fact spend their final years here and Mackintosh's ashes are said to be scattered in Port Vendres on the coast that he so loved to paint.
What makes Collioure so enchanting are the colours; locals are forbidden to use black and white on their homes. This creates this wonderful palette of colours along the harbour which contrasts against the vivid blue sea and green vineyards. Then, of course, there's the special quality of the light and the famous Roussillon winds create an often cloudless sky.
Cote Vermeille is the only east-facing coast in France and with the dramatic plunging headland of the Pyrenees disappearing into the deep blue Mediterranean sea, it creates a vivid canvas which inspired many artists. Derain described Collioure as having "no shadows" while Mackintosh's wife Margaret called it "this lovely rose-coloured land".
Come and discover for yourself this sheltered spot of Southern France. Follow the Art Trail along this beautiful coastline and soak up the scenes that you've only ever seen before in paintings. Studio Vert is only a 25min drive from Collioure and a double room with breakfast will cost Euro60.
Collioure Modern Art Museum museecollioure.com