Pretty in Perpignan

Not one to pass up the adventurous opportunity that recently came my way, I was more than happy to pack a bag and cruise down to the south of France for a small assignment in Perpignan: a charming little French ville with a Catalan soul.

We here at Fohnhouse love a bit of travel (as do many of you), so we thought we’d share a post with you about our new favourite ‘P’ spot.

Paris Tour E

Having seen how far I’d chosen to go, I decided to break up my journey with a night in Paris – after all, why go straight to Perpignan when you can spend a night in the city of l’amour on a malfunctioning airbed Chez Martin’s?

Right on time my train pulled into ol’ Gare du Nord. Now, while Paris is often cited as being one of the most beautiful cities in world (I do concur), its metro, sadly, isn’t always as pleasurable as the city above. If you’re travelling with light luggage it’ll certainly get you from A to B in enough time to make a connection, but if you’re carrying kids or loaded with suitcases – or you’re just not a fan of steps – I’d recommend heading to the taxi rank upon arrival, or walk if it’s not too far.

After a hospitable evening with my fellow Fohnhouse Cat, I caught my connecting train the following day with relative ease and arrived in Perpignan ready for my express visit.

Upon seeing a stunning view of the Pyrenees as I arrived, I quickly made my way into the city centre to see what else the town had to offer. As cities go, Perpignan isn’t one of the biggest, with most of the popular attractions situated not far from one another, so after a 10-minute walk I found myself at the picturesque Bassa River, which flows gently through one side of town, conveniently beside all of the action.

Perpignan canal through city

Crossing over one of its bridges, the vivid bricks and dominance of the Castillet hit me. Built at the end of the 14th century, the Castillet was first a city gate and then a prison. Having pride of place in the busiest part of town, its gates lead you to a multitude of intertwining pedestrian roads, lined with cafés, galleries, boutiques and a shop filled with all things Catalan – muscat wine and sweet Rousquilles (biscuits), most importantly!

After a number of hours I’d worked my way around to most of the city’s leading attractions and sampled all of the French delights I had been missing, so decided to call it a day. The Palace of the Kings of Majorca is undoubtedly the most impressive structure in the town; however, sadly, it was closed during my visit, so I had to settle for a sneak peek. But for those of you who will now visit Perpignan having read this post, it’s a must see!

Palace of the kings of Majorca

The next morning, wanting to view more of the south, I jumped on a bus and took the scenic route to the nearby town of Collioure (following a recommendation from the friendly SNCF staff). With its stunning vistas, charming locals and warm climate, Collioure was love at first sight, and a great final day in French Catalonia.

Collioure

When one thinks of the south of France, Perpignan isn’t a place that springs to mind. Hidden deep down, however, on the other side of the south, is a city with a unique culture, in an incredible environment, offering swift connections to so much: the popular and beautiful Collioure, the Mediterranean sea, the heart of the Pyrenees, the walled city of Carcassonne, Toulouse, Montpellier, and even Spain, making Perpignan an ideal spot for a getaway. It was good enough for Salvador Dalí when he declared Perpignan station the “centre of the universe”, and it was certainly good enough for me.

Having broken up my outbound journey, I went for a home run on the return leg, taking the night train back to Paris and line 5 straight to Gare du Nord.

I’d never taken a night train before and was told I had the option of a couchette or a reclining chair. Now, a couchette did sound nice, but the impulse just wasn’t there to upgrade to such a simple pleasure, when I could just assume the foetal position in a chair. Yeah. And with that bright idea I spent the night crying out for a couchette. You have been warned! While I was happy with the space inside the train, a chair was not made for sleeping.

But, all’s well that ends well. I had no trouble getting back to Paris, and cruised back to London in Premier surroundings, on the train I’ve now come to know so very well.

Until the next time…

P’s out!

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