Quillan is a fantastic town, not the least because of the investment the region appears to make in services and infrastructure, despite (or perhaps because of) the economic downturn. There is an impressive programme of events for a town this size, and there has also been a region-wide investment in transport, which means the local train and bus service has not only been retained, but made accessible at a flat one euro per trip to places as far afield as Carcassonne, Perpignan and, I believe, Montpellier!
This week Susie and I availed ourselves of the bus service to Perpignan, departing at the comparatively civilised hour of 7.50am. Accompanied by the three-year-old and the baby it made for an entertaining trip, though I am pleased to say both were on top form – Nicholas slept the entire two-hour trip there, and was (mostly) happily awake on the way back, despite it being his normal bed time.
Cousins out and about in Perpignan
The trip itself is worth doing for the scenery on the route from Quillan – through the Defile Pierre Lys between Quillan and Axat, and then over the pass and down across the rolling plains through castle and wine country from Caudies de Fenhouiledes to Perpignan. The trip would only take an hour or so were it not for the circuitous bus route through the outskirts of Perpignan, including airport and hospital.
Perpignan itself is lovely. It’s long been on my visit list, and I’m not quite sure what I expected, but it pretty much lived up to the anticipation, despite a long walk from the station to the town. The old area consists of a network of well-maintained cobbled pedestrian streets weaving within the old walls, between the cathedral and the Palais des Rois. You could easily see everything in a day, though with the two wee ones, we didn’t actually make it as far as the Palais, despite having most of the day there.
The palm trees give Perpignan a Mediterranean flavour
Place de la Loge, tranquil despite its violent history
Place de la Cathedrale
The public squares all have a different character, but are equally lovely, with a leafy feel, and a vibrant temperament. People are out and about everywhere, with lively banter evident. In the late afternoon, as school finished, families with children and buggies, croissants in hand, trailed through the streets on an informal passagiata. At that time we were having our fourth cafe stop of the day – for a very early early dinner before catching the bus back.
All in all, Perpignan seems like it would be a very livable city and fantastic having the easy access to the Pyrenees, the Mediterranean coast, and into Spain.