The Pyrenées-Orientales department situated in the Occitanie
region of southern France was originally part of Spain and only reverted to France in 1659. Since then it has retained much of its Catalan flavour with many of its residents still speaking Catalan and partaking in many of its cultural rituals. The modern department created during the French Revolution was originally called Roussillon but was soon changed to Pyrenees-Orientales (department 66) and has since become increasingly involved with the European Union. The capital of the Pyrenées-Orientales is Perpignan which is crossed by the largest river in its region, the Tet.
Its residents are treated to a warm Mediterranean climate much like the rest of Southern France. Whilst living or visiting Perpignan you have easy access via the rail or road to the equally popular cities of Paris, Toulouse, Montpellier and even south to Barcelona. Due to its southern location as the last major town in Languedoc much of Perpignan is also considered half Catalan and half French. For a lesson in Perpignan’s history and to experience their culture there are a number of sights to see and places to visit. These treasures include Palais des Rois de Majorque, the Cathédrale Saint-Jean and the Jardin de Sant-Vicens. During your time in Perpignan you must sample the quintessential French tradition of snails. The Escargots Du Roussillon Snail Shop is the ultimate place to buy fresh snails and the herbs to accompany them for your evening meal.
The landscape is how you might imagine it, dominated by towering Pyrenées whose foothills are home to some of the most breathtaking sights. Near to the coast as the hills start to plain you will encounter large etangs (inland lakes) home to local and visiting fishermen and surf enthusiasts. Thanks to the Pyrenées picturesque bays and headlands have been created over time, it’s here where the towns of Collioure and Banyuls-sur-Mer sit on the border between France and Spain.
The small Catalan port or Collioure is sheltered behind where the Mediterranean waters meet the rocks of the Pyrenees. The town is blessed with very few tourists although this doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty to explore here. Relax on the beach or take to the streets as Collioure is full or narrow, gently ascending alleys that lead you to some of the most photogenic villages in Southern France. During your walk you will stumble upon the local butchers, bakers and grocers not to mention views between the lanes looking down into the town.
Due to the Catalan charm that fills this area you would think that one more step would lead you into Spain but you’d be wrong a few minutes down the coast is the resort of Banyuls-sur-Mer, known as the Cote Vermeille. Banyuls is a quiet town with still much to discover, the beach has received the prestigious ‘pavillon bleu’ award for cleanliness and facilities which are spread along the seafront for you to enjoy.
Once again you will be guided through the narrow streets that lead to the towns large Mediterranean garden, the Jardin Mediterranean du Mas de la Serre. Banyuls is also well known for their local wine production, in fact there are several caves where you can enjoy an afternoon of wine-tasting – the most popular are La Grande Cave and La Cave du Mas Reig.