Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Perpignan, gateway to Spain

Trip to Not Aude: Day5 (Evening)
Are you done with ruined Cathar castles? Blandine asked me wearily as we climbed down the hill from Château de Peyrepertuse.
Actually, I wasn't. I had another five on my list. But Blandine was showing all the signs of a girlfriend who has about had it up to the gizzard with ruined castles on hills. Another ruined castle, and something would break. It wouldn't be pretty being in the vicinity when that happened.
Why don't we hop over to Spain, I suggested? In the process of working our way from castle to Cathar castle, we were almost at the Spanish border. Blandine, I knew, had a thing for Spain.
I had said the magic words. Blandine brightened. We tacked our sails and nosed the prow of the Mini Cooper towards Perpignan.
Perpignan is, for the French, their Gateway to Spain. It straddles A9, the highway most often used by French vacationers, just on the border to Spain. It was the logical place to stay the night.
It is a city that dates back to the 10th century and has French, Spanish and Catalan influences. It was bounced like a rubber ball between France and Spain over the centuries, first one side and then the other claiming ownership. The architecture in the old city has a distinctly Spanish feel and you get the feeling you are almost in Spain. A feeling that is accentuated by the fact that many street signs are in French and Catalan, and the mishmash of French, Catalan and Spanish that one hears on the streets.
We found an inexpensive hotel and dumped our stuff. And then we trotted out to see as much of the old city as possible before it turned dark. In retrospect, we regretted treating Perpignan merely as a stepping stone into Spain. It is a lovely old city with a wonderful atmosphere that deserved a day to itself, at least. Anyhow, we were at that time of the year when the sun sets late, and we did manage to cover quite a bit in the short hours available to us. Here are some pics I took:-
Perpignan Cathedral




Place de la Républic, the town square with the cathedral at one end and heritage houses lining all sides.



The river Basse cuts through the city, with a grassy walkway running alongside. (This photo is borrowed from Wiki Commons. The light in the canal was too poor for me to take this shot with my iPad).
(Image Credit: Wiki Commons)

Le Castillet, which in its time doubled up as city gate and central prison. (This photo also borrowed from Wiki... for some reason I don't recall I did not photograph it. I think there was a delivery van or something spoiling the view, and it seemed to have taken root there).
(Image Credit: Wiki Commons)
But the best part of Perpignan is walking around the narrow lanes and by-lanes of the old city. We walked around until it was dark, and headed back to the hotel. Unfortunately, none of the photos of the old city that I took panned out. All murky. Oh well, Wiki to the rescue....



(Image Credit: Wiki Commons)
I had a light supper of the remnants of the Cucugnan bread and potted meat, and the last of André's red wine in a beer bottle from Lagrasse. Blandine refused to touch it. She had gotten herself a carton of egg salad from a supermarket. She was sure the stuff had spoiled. I found it had improved. The finest bread in France, and an exceptional potted meat from the region. It had matured over six hours in the sunny back seat of the Cooper.
While Blandine slumbered off, I hunkered down with the iPad to chalk out our trip to Spain.
Next morning, it was Ho for Spain.
Or was it?


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