Prats de Mollo, La Preste and Les Fourquets.Day trip. Pic-nic lunch or restaurant en route.
Le Boulou-Céret-Amélie les Bains-Arles sur Tech-Prats de Mollo- La Preste-Les Forquets/returning the same route.
The road winds it's way along the river Tech into the mountains, passing Céret (famed by artists and the colourful Saturday morning market), Amélie-les-Bains (hydro-bath therapy) and Arles-sur-Tech (in the past known for iron ore industry, now the town lives mainly from tourism and boasts a beautiful 900 century church and convent).
Prats-de-Mollo is situated in the Tech valley and dates back to the counts of Bésalu, 12th century. The town was fortified by Vauban, the famous army architect by whom most of the regional fortresses were erected. The old part of Prats-de-Mollo is extremely well preserved the ancient stone slab dwellings and surrounding walls are in a surprisingly sound state - can it be due to the clean dry, unpolluted air..?
The town has a number of good restaurants (and hotels) for lunch, but true nature lovers should bring a pic-nic lunch and enjoy their meal at Les Forquets in the mountains, where there is a wide choice of spots with a breathtaking view, and where you can cool the overheated feet in the fresh water of a crystal clear stream - you can even drink it (do this before sticking your toes in..) and beware - never put the whole head under the spring water, the sudden chock by the change of temperature may damage the brain. Some places are fitted with built-up barbecues, tables and benches - if you plan a grilled lunch, do it here.
La Preste is a small Hydro-bath sanatorium, planned by Napoléon 3rd who built the access road. The 44 degrees warm water spring from six sources treat the collibacillose. It is recommended to return to base by the same route as the alter- native way leads through the Spanish border and onto very winding roads which tend to take much longer than expected.
Céret, Amélie-les-Bains, Palalda and Montalba.½ day trip with pic-nic lunch at Montalba before returning.
Le Boulou-Maureillas-Céret-Amélie les Bains and Palalda-Montalaba Returning: The same route until Céret, then follow the signs to St. Jean Pla de Corts and Le Boulou.
Most of this area is famous for their cherry production and early maturity, which takes place around mid April. The very first portion is sent to the French president as a sweet reminder of sunny Catalonia. Céret was always the most important center of Catalan tradition and culture in this part of North Catalonia, Vallespir, and is still very popular among artists. The town boasts a museum for modern art with works of Matisse, Chagal, Maillol, Dali, Miro and many others, and you will enjoy a walk in the shade of the huge plane trees and into the old section.
The Tech valley gets increasingly narrow as you approach the hydro-thermal town of Amélie-les-Bains, which is divided in two parts by the river Tech ancient Palalda rises high on the opposite bank of the river, while Amélie is a modern town, built up around the hydro-baths and mainly catering to the needs of the ailing patients. The healing sulfur springs debouch from the Gorge de Mondony and the sanatoriums are placed on the very spot.
The Romans were the first to discover these healing waters and erected Les Bains Romain, which have been restored into fully operational state. Stop at the entrance of the baths and you cannot miss the typical smell from the small spring just next to the door. There are two public and one military establishments here, the latter founded by Queen Amélie, the spouse of Louis- Philippe in 1854, who apparently recognized the sufferings of the rheumatic and asthmatic soldiers.
Continuing towards Arles-sur-Tech, you follow the signpost just at the outskirts of Amélie showing the road up to Montalba. The road is excellent, taking you through sweet chestnut woods- in October these hills are swarming with people collecting the nuts, which are baked and eaten with salt and butter and a glass of wine - delicious! At the end of the road, the tiny village of Montalba "spreads" out - a church, a churchyard and a small street, Rue de l'Eglise and a couple of old stone houses.
The view of the surrounding mountains is magnificent, and you will not regret having brought your lunch with you. If you are lucky dessert, fresh pancakes with homemade jam or honey from the woods may be waiting in the small restaurant on top of the goat- stable-a nice experience for young and old.
Going back to Céret, you have the choice of taking the same route through Maureillas, or following the signs to St. Jean-Pla-de- Corts, which will lead you to the pride and joy of Céret - the old stone bridge, Pont du Diable from the 14th century, probably one of the most photographed bridges in the region.
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