Tympan du maître de Cabestany, église de Cabestany
Portail primitif du sanctuaire Saint-Jean-le-Vieux, Perpignan
La tour Madeloc
Palais des rois de Majorque, Perpignan
Côte Vermeille, Banyuls-sur-Mer
From Perpignan, immerse yourself in Catalan culture
Roussillon, the South! This route offers a round tour from Perpignan. After enjoying its sweets and Canet, you will cross small and beautiful towns steeped in history, such as Cabetany or Colioure. You can breathe in the sea air and enjoy the nature along the Vermeille coast and the exotic garden of Ponteilla, while enjoying the relaxing atmosphere of Banyuls. Your route draws to an end near the Pyrenees, Tautavel and Rivesalte, before returning to the starting point.
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Proud of its Catalan identity and its festive soul, Perpignan is steeped in historical heritage: start with the Palais des Rois de Majorque (Palace of the Kings of Majorca), a former stately home so typical of Roussillon architecture. Next, head towards Cathédrale Saint-Jean, taking note of the old sanctuaire de Saint-Jean-le-Vieux in the passage to the left. Leaving by the door to the right, you’ll see the poignant Dévot Christia carved in wood in the adjoining chapel. Allow time for a stroll before reaching Le Canet, a favourite resort inf Perpignan, to spend the evening.
Take the route to Cabestany. The Romanesque art is magnificent, particularly in the church of Notre-Dame-des-Anges: the famous tympanum of the maître de Cabestany (a sculptor of the Middle Ages), on the wall of the chapel on the left, is a must. Next, head towards Elne, a small town surrounded by hills, apricot and peach trees, to discover the Swiss Maternity, a listed historical monument. Then go to the Argelès-sur-Mer Memorial Camp, an overwhelming testimony of the exile of Spanish Republicans in 1939. Spend the evening and night in Argelès or Colioure.
Allow time to visit Colioure with its fortified church, royal chateau and two small ports, animated by colourful Catalan boats. Take the road to the sea, to follow the Côte Vermeille: after long sandy beaches, it’s the land of rocks where the waves come to break … Don’t miss the view from the belvedere of the Madeloc tower and Cap Redéris . Finally, get to the vineyards of Banyuls, the southernmost of the seaside resorts. This beautiful bay, sheltered from the wind, is dominated by an unforgettable landscape of terraced vineyards.
Follow the Pyrenees to Le Boulou. Located at the foot of the Albères, “El Volo” in Catalan is an ideal point set off on an excursion in Roussillon. Admire the white marble gate of the church of Boulou and enjoy the small colourful shops. Take the time to visit the chapel of Saint-Martin-de-Fenollar which features interesting murals, and the church of Saint-Génis-des-Fontaines, with its wonderful carved lintel. Take the road to Céret. The view from the Old Bridge and the Museum of Modern Art are exceptional.
A huge breath of fresh air! Cross the exotic garden of Ponteilla, 3ha of parkland dedicated to botanical walks and lush vegetation from every continent. Next, head to the town of Thuir, which built its reputation in the cellars of Byrrh, an aperitif wine created in 1866. Finally, enter the lower ground to arrive in Ille-sur-Tête for the evening. Don’t miss the fairy chimneys of the Orgues d’Ille: rain has eroded this soft rock rising from the ground like crowned columns of stone conglomerates.
Head towards l’Ermitage de Força Réal a seventeenth century mountain top (507m) chapel. A magnificent 360° panorama awaits! You will see the contrast between the vallée de la Têt’s chequerboard of vegetable cultivation interspersed with shelter belts, and the vallée de l’Agly, where vineyards are found on all sides. Next, take the road to Tautavel at the foot of the foothills of the Pyrenees, where you can visit prehistoric sites. Afterwards, head to Rivesaltes, one of Roussillon’s wine capitals and also steeped in history. Finally, return to Perpignan for a well deserved rest.
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