TRAVELLED JULY 2015
We were winding through the hushed mediaeval alleyways of Ceret when the silence was broken. A group of youngsters appeared from nowhere. We knew they were English, because they were moaning. Their displeasure? The tourist information bureau was closed. We are in the pyrenees orientale area of France but for all intents and purposes we could have been in nearby Spain. This is where Catalonia envelops France, where you are more likely to see the red and yellow flag of Espana than the blue and white insignia of the home nation. And of course in Spain the afternoon siesta when the sun sizzles is routine.
We landed in Perpignan and in an hour we are in the most idyllic peaceful haven far from a madding crowd. John and Wendy Davey sold their UK home to buy a holiday gite in Arles Sur Tech close to the Pyrenees. We occupy the top two floors with views to kill from wherever you stand. We sit at the edge of either of the two chilled pools and look at the garden which rises 200 metres into the heavens. It's the perfect destination and - by chance - we are their first guests. We are the special ones. And it feels that way.
It was all we could do to drag ourselves from gawping across the valley towards mount Canigou. Light warm evenings are punctuated only by the the visit from a gecko or the flicker of flame from the BBQ. But in an area where tourists are welcomed with open arms but light on the ground, there was much to see. It's summer solstice and in Arles and other nearby towns it's bonfire night to mark the occasion. No health and safety here as the blazing pyre collapses, instead as darkness grows they strike up the band.
Within ten miles we discover the remarkable Les Gorges de La Fou, the narrowest in the world. It's a foot slogging 1800m walk but worth every step. The highways are a pleasure and we nip on to the main route that rattles through the countryside on its way to Barcelona. Over the border to Spain in 45 minutes we find Figeures and the legendary Dali museum is the backdrop to never ending selfies.
After a Tapas lunch it's off to Roses, a beautiful seaside resort with a sprawling promenade and glorious beaches to match. It also seemed unspoilt, small commercially, but big on warmth. France too has its resorts. Argeles sur mer might be Scarborough with sun but the shingle beach puts few off.
But the jewel in the crown is nearby Collioure. The beach area sits around the old castle battlements providing several rocky bathing areas. The streets are tiny and winding and the shops are quirky and quaint. And it's very busy. Meanwhile back in Ceret, close to our tranquil bolt hole, the world is yet to stir from its slumber.
Les Anglais appear to have been and gone. Or maybe they just decided if you can't beat the locals then join then - and nipped off for a sleep!
For more information visit: http://www.casasolavilla.com/