Maybe it's because Stephen Clarke has set his latest novel, Dial M For Merde there, but Collioure, a little fishing village on the Catalan coast was packed to capacity despite it being mid September and hors saison. The parking was more cut-throat than central London, the restaurants packed and the hotels full. I can't even begin to imagine what hell this beauty spot is in August.
The last available hotel room – yes, I did leave booking a room until arrival – boasted lamps with broken lightbulbs, a dodgy bathroom with burgundy tiling, a lemon yellow vanity unit and a brown carpet with an assortment of large and alarming stains.
It made the Etap motel chain seem like the Ritz. Fortunately, we only stayed there one night. My advice, after some on-the-spot research, would be to stay in La Casa Pairal, www.hotel-casa-pairal.com. We couldn't because it was fully booked but it had easily the nicest lobby, courtyard and decor with prices starting at €89 a room.
My other tip would be to avoid the sea front cafe with waiters in striped polo shirts, not far from the Neptune restaurant. When I tried to order deux cafe cremes from the surly Ronaldo-look-alike waiter, I was brusquely told to wait. When I dared to ask him again - after several similarly neglected customers had given up and walked out - he replied even more rudely that he had already told me to wait.
And when I told him that I found his manner impolite - and that we were in a hurry as we had to move the car by 11.00am - he told me, in the bluntest possible terms, to go back to my own country as he didn't need people like me coming to his and telling him how to behave.
I tried to think of extenuating reasons for his rudeness and decided that a) his girlfriend had run off with his best friend that morning b) he was suffering from an almighty hangover c) after a summer of crossing a busy road to deliver coffees and croissants to tourists in the boiling sun he had simply reached breaking point. Whatever the reason, he was obviously having a bad day so we left him a generous tip.
Hotels and truculent waiters aside, we had a great time in the south. But I'm guessing the best time to go to Collioure is when everyone else has gone home - probably the end of October or even later.