This summer I didn’t travel as much as I used to. The positive effect of it: I had time to browse my old photos (because usually I just take them and never look back at them while rushing forward). I have discovered a lot of beauty which I shot this February while traveling around Catalonia and Southern France. So, if there are no trips to share from this summer, there is enough to share from this winter. Which is also fine! 🙂
Today I will start posting about our road trip in Southern France. Our route was: Barcelona – Perpignan – Montpellier – Avignon – Aix-en-Provence – Nimes. We stayed a night in every town, except for Avignon and Nimes where we stayed for two nights, and the whole route took totally one week. Staying every night in a new location can be also draining as we found out. As exciting as it is, traveling can be a hard job 😉 But we don’t complain!
So our first stop was Perpignan, just three hours drive from Barcelona. Riding on French motorway is fun, listening to the French radio and Spanish GPS. We successfully missed the exit to Perpignan centre and had to drive 7 km further – just to turn around and drive 7 km back to the centre. Beware of that, if you decide to go to Perpignan. It comes on you unexpectedly.
The thing I loved about Perpignan. It was French! When you just arrive from Spain, you feel the difference immediately, though there are only some kilometers in between. On the main square the oh-so-French carousel greets you (and it does so in every town). The pastel colors of the buildings, the Provencal charm of balconies, the elegant architecture – there was no doubt we were in France. There are not many sights in Perpignan, so we spent our time walking the streets, circling without a map. Which is my favorite kind of exploring a place.
The things I didn’t love about Perpignan. First, as we arrived at noon and went out to eat lunch, we found restaurants closing just in front of our noses. The clock was 2.30pm, when everyone in Barcelona is going to eat their menu del dia. Well, in France it is time when you are done eating, when you have your coffee and a cig and they close until opening in the evening again. What? Have we come to France to eat in the Quick Hamburger? Luckily, there was one place still open, and the food was good, and we were the last guests in the huge space. Anyway, we enjoyed and learnt our lesson.
Second, wondering through the centre we came into a shady neighborhood and got our speed up wishing to get out of it. It looked like a ghetto, the buildings were forlorn, and the whole energy was not nice. And in more streets of downtown there were huge gypsy families, the side streets didn’t feel safe with the sound of a loud quarrel coming from them. Around 7pm every shop closed and people started to disappear, even from the river promenade. All that gave the town a sad atmosphere with no life and induced little wish to explore the town by night.
The thing that made laugh. We were driving all this way and still we were in Catalonia. Technically, it was France, but the region is considered to be North Catalan. And they stick to the symbolism, the colors, and the Catalan pride. If I were an original Catalan, that would make me so proud. But I was a lover of all things French, driving from Barcelona, and it was definitely not what I was looking for 🙂
I would not use superlatives on Perpignan, but I would love to come back and check my first impression. To sum it up, the town was a nice opening to our French trip, a sweet hint of what it might be, though not giving it all at once. That was France flirting with me 🙂
Anyone here who has visited Perpignan? What is your impression of it?