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France Today

Village Catalan.com  - in the Paradise of the Pyrenees


    Excursion 8.

    Carcasonne, La Cité.

    Long day trip (motorway both ways) or 2 days with hotel.
    Excellent restaurants and hotels throughout.

    Getting there:
    Motorway from Perpignan, direction Narbonne, then turning direction Toulouse, then Carcasonne. Follow the signs to La Cité and park in front of the main gate.

    If you choose to stay overnight, you may return via Limoux - Quillan-St. Paul de Fenouillet-Estagel-Perpignan. This road is slower but very picturesque. Limoux is famous for the "Blanquette de Limoux" which resembles champagne but is a lot cheaper. You can buy it in every shop in the region too.

    Europe's largest medieval, fortified city, La Cité in Carcasonne, houses 300 people and is a normally functioning society, not a quiet, dusty museum as you may have feared. Here's a quick peek into history:

     During the 1st century the Romans entrenched themselves here thus establishing the first camp on the spot until the Wishigoths drove them out 5 centuries later. From here they planned and carried out the conquests of Toulouse and Septimania, but, as nothing lasts forever, the now important stronghold fell into the hands of the Franks in the 8th century. This fortified city with the tall towers, remparts and moats played an important role during the inquisition of the Cathars - the Tribunal of the Inquisition had their headquarters in "La Tour de l'Inquisition" in which many people suffered torture and violent death because of their religion.

     Should you be tempted to discover the whole place you may want to stay in a hotel either within the protecting walls or outside just in front from where the view of the fortifications is magnificent after dusk. If possible, try to visit La Cité on the 14th July - an experience for a lifetime!

    Excursion 9.

    Andorra with side trips.

    Long day trip or 2 days.
    Excellent restaurants and hotels en route and in Andorra.


    Getting there:
    Perpignan-Prades(sidetrip 1, see below)-(sidetrip 2, see below) Bourg Madame-Seo d'Urgel-Andorra la Vella-Pas de la Casa (sidetrip 3, see below)-Prades-Perpignan

    In order to experience the below mentioned side trips, you will need 2 days, if you go directly to Andorra and back one day is sufficient.

    Side trip 1:

    Between Vinca and Prades, turn off at Ille-sur-Tet and follow the signs to "Les Orgues" an amazing site with tall natural limestone formations, reaching to the sky.


    Side trip 2:

    Six km ahead from Prades, you can't miss the fortified town of Villefranche-de-Conflent, founded in 1092, served mainly as a stronghold for the Kingdom of Aragon. It is well worth a visit (on foot, the streets are very narrow). On the other side of the road, a few hundred meters towards Vernet-les-Bains, you will find La Grotte des Canalettes, a large cave with natural formations of stalactites and stalagmites. Do not miss a visit to the Paradise of the Pyrenees, 4 kms up the road..

    Side trip 3:

    Follow the signs to Font Romeu and you will find an impressive variety of tourist attractions - swimming pool, horse- back riding center, ice rinks for skating etc. At about 2 200m altitude skiing in winter is popular. Many people come here to enjoy the sun and the extreme dryness of the atmosphere making Font Romeu a perfect spot for a recreational holiday.

    Eleven centuries of peace - how many nations can beat that? The mini state of Andorra covers 464 square km and is the home of about 48933 inhabitants, whose native tongue is Catalan. All though speak French and Spanish and both Pesetas and French Francs are current currencies.

     The winding mountain road leading up to Andorra is in excellent condition, and the panorama superb. This trip has everything to offer: Sloping, green hills, savage, barren gray rocks, clean mountain streams with leaping trouts (an important ingredient in the Andorranean cuisine), small villages with slated roofs, swarms of people, traffic, noise, pollution, overcrowded shops- you are sure never to get bored. It is a question to enjoy both the mountain scenery and jumping for your life in the traffic.

    The obvious reason for the astonishing commerce boom in Andorra is the next to nonexistent VAT on consumer goods here - only land is extremely sparse and therefore equally expensive. Apartment blocks and condominiums dominate the built-up areas, private houses with gardens are rare and outrageously expensive.' Due to the altitude, Andorra enjoys a stable winter climate with plenty of snow and is a popular ski resort area.

    Important: When leaving the country, remember to visit a toilet the customs line may be very long and hot.

    Excursion 10.

    Along La Cote Vermeille and La Cote Rocheuse to Costa Brava, Spain.

    If you choose the picturesque route one way and the fast back the trip takes about 3 hours out and 40 minutes back, not including lunch. There are plenty of pic-nic spots en route but naturally also a wide choice of restaurants on the sea fronts.

     Getting there:
    Argelès-Collioure-Port Vendres-Banyuls sur Mer-Cerbère-Port Bou (border to Spain)-Colera-El Port de la Selva-Cabo de Creus- Cadaqués-Bahia de Roses-Figuères-La Jonquera-Le Perthus(border to France)-Le Boulou

    You can enter the motorway in Figuères and turn off in Le Boulou or choose the local road through Le Perthus.

    This picturesque trip leads you along the beautiful coast and through small typical villages in colourful settings - your camera will be quite busy, remember to bring an extra film. It is very tempting to stop at one of the small sandy bays and have lunch and a refreshing dip before continuing. The Costa Brava is reputed for the large number of summer tourists who make the resorts buzz with life, day and night.

    The town of Roses seems less touristy and not completely dependent on only the busy summer season. The beach front is very attractive, dominated by swaying palm trees and lively restaurants and cafés. The food on the Spanish side is excellent, and fish and seafood very common on the menu. The wines in the region, The Empurdan, go very well with the food. They are available in most shops in La Jonquera and Le Perthus but do not forget to check the clarity - some may have gone off and are not readily exchanged!

    If time allows, pay a visit to the famous Salvador Dali museum in Figuères - the building, the old theatre, is unmistakable and really quite remarkable!

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