There is not enough room here to describe in full detail the richness, beauty, events, landscapes, gastronomy and lifestyle that you will find in the Roussillon area, but permit us to describe it briefly – and tempt you into discovering this wonderful region for yourselves. To set the scene, the Roussillon plaine stretches down along the Mediterranean sea, we then reach the Spanish Border to the west, and the region is then divided northwards by 3 valleys, named after their rivers – the Tet, the Tech and the Agly.
The Agly Valley including the Corbières starts in Caudiès de Fenouillèdes and finishes in between 2 well known sea resorts Le Barcares and Torreilles. All along, you will be enchanted by the beautiful landscape of vineyards (Caramany, Latour de France, Estagel and obviously St Martin de Fenouillet – that those who watched Channel 4′s recent series Monty’s Vineyard will remember), Historic Cathar Chateaux (Queribus), the Caune de l’Arago in Tautavel (the cave where the remains of the first European have been found) and the impressive Fortress of Salses le Château
The Têt Valley which is the main valley linking the Pyrennean Ski resorts (such as Font Romeu and Les Angles) with the Mediterranean Sea. Travelling south you will find the medieval Unesco listed town of Villefranche-de-Conflent (a miniature version of Carcassonne), then Prades, famous for its festival celebrating the life and works of Pablo Casals, Vinça and its lake, Ille-sur-Tet (famous for its dramatic Site des Orgues), and Thuir (a picturesque town known for its sweet red wine), then passing into the Plaine du Roussillon through the fruit orchards and reaching Perpignan. Let us pause our journey in the Roussillon and talk about our main City. It is a vibrant lively town of 118000 inhabitants and is an eclectic mixture of old and new, crossed by very picturesque canals with beautifully manicured lawns and flowerbeds. Originally the Capital of the Spanish Kingdom of Roussillon it is full of classic, roman and gothic architecture: Palace of the Kings of Majorca, Cathedral St Jean and La Loge de Mer. As well as the history, Perpignan is also a University town which is expanding in business, economy and tourism. Let us now continue our beautiful voyage in the Têt valley by crossing the vegetable garden of our department named La Salanque until we reach one of the most well known sea resorts of the Roussillon, Canet en Roussillon and its long sandy beaches and safe sea. The whole journey takes less than 2 hours so you really could experience skiing in the morning and coastal sunbathing in the afternoon of a same day.
The Tech Valley also links to Spain and features beautiful wild landscapes of cliffs, forests or cork trees and dramatic views. Prats-de-Mollo is a pretty little town at the top of the valley, you will then reach Arles -sur –Tech (famous for its ‘Bear Celebrations’ in the spring), then take the time to visit the thermal Spa town of Amélie Les Bains and then definitely stop in Ceret. This is a well-known fortified Catalan town with an exceptional Modern Art Museum featuring paintings of the most famous painters of the 20th Century who came in the Roussillon inspired by its amazing light and spectacular views (Picasso, Braque, Soutine, Chagall, Matisse, Miro, Tapies and the list is long). Leaving Ceret you will take the direction to Argeles sur Mer (the biggest sea reasort of the area). On your right you will see the beautiful little villages nestling in Les Albères chain of mountains – Laroque des Albères, Sorède, Saint André to name but a few. For a really beautiful drive, continue along the Cote Vermeille towards Spain – you will pass Collioure (the most painted village), Port Vendres, Banyuls-sur-Mer and will reach the last French town before Spain, Cerbère. (Or for a quick afternoon of duty-free shopping in Spain there is also the A9, but not so scenic!)
No doubt you will be wondering about our famous Mount Canigou – no we have not forgotten it, but it is worth having its own paragraph. Some say that its name means Dog Tooth because it bears a resemblance. This is the highest mountain in the Eastern Pyrénées and is the sacred symbol of Catalonia – we would suggest you discover all the stories and legends for yourselves but do feel free to climb it to celebrate the night of St Jean (23rd to 24th June) when a fire is lit at midnight and then there are torchlit processions to bring the flame down the mountain the following day to light fires in every village and town in Catalonia.
We hope we have given you a brief ‘taste’ of the Roussillon region and look forward to meeting you when you come to discover this wonderful Mediterranean lifestyle for yourselves.