Canigo - the sacred mountain of the Catalan people

 

This is a view of the village of Cattlar (foreground) with the town of Prades (centre ground) and Canigou (the sacred mountain of the Catalan people) snow covered in the background. (The picture was taken at Easter time)

 

 

 

Mosset

Magic

 

 

 

 

 

Where is Mosset?

 

Mosset is a small village situated about 7 miles from Prades. (Prades being on the main route from Perpignan to Andorra) In map above some of the local airports have also been marked - the nose of the plane being the approximate position of the airport.

 

 

(Bank at side of road from Mosset down to Prades)

 

Mosset contains a few shops, e.g. a for bread etc, a post office (with a public phone box –operated with a French telephone card available in the Tabac) and a restaurant. The house is situated just below the village but within 10 minutes walking distance. (Faster coming back as it is down hill.)

 

 

The House

 

The house consists of a Lounge with dining area, a kitchen, a bathroom, 3 bedrooms,  workshop and spacious gardens.

 

Two bedrooms are fully furnished with a double bed, double wardrobe (one being built-in), chest of drawers, two bedside tables, alarm clock etc.  The other bedroom has two single beds. Bed linen is also supplied.

 

The fully fitted kitchen has a microwave oven with grill, a 4-ring gas hob (bottled gas), a built-in oven, a double sink unit, fridge with icebox, built-in washing machine and built-in freezer.  All cups, plates, kettle, coffee maker, cutlery, pots, and pans are also present, as is an ice cube maker– useful for warm summer days.

 

 

There is a large garden table, with umbrella (for the sun not the rain) and 4 reclining chairs for garden use.  There is an additional umbrella for the beach and 4 beach-chairs.

 

 

 

There is no bath in the house, (there is a shower), as water is metered this reduces the cost.  The bathroom (if you can call it that without a bath) also has a toilet (English style – not a French hole in the ground) and a wash-hand basin.  (Everything is at full mains pressure, so be careful turning on taps or you might get wet).

 

A thermostatically controlled hot tank supplies the hot water - but note it is low wattage and requires some hours to heat water for a shower etc. (probably 8 hours required to really heat the water for a shower).  Each room is supplied with a 2kW convector heater and the lounge has the addition of a glass-fronted wood-burning stove.  There is also 2 portable paraffin heaters (3kw & 2870W output).  NB these are usually only needed at night during the winter months.

 

The floors are tiled throughout the house and the ceilings of hall and bedrooms are of pine strips. The lounge has a Chesterfield suite, (containing a foldout double bed) with 2 chairs, a table (with 6 chairs) and two electric fans to help keep things comfortable.

 

A laptop safe is also present

 

The outside workroom, (really a garage) contains a petrol-driven lawn mower, and a windsurfer for your use.

 

If you want a less active holiday than visiting all these places, (there are at least 2 or 3 guide books for the area in the house—in English) relaxing in the garden, with the sound of the birds, bees, and the perfumed air, is to be recommended. The rush hour of 20 cars per day should not prevent your enjoyment.

 

The region contains much in the way of wildlife, the forests have deer, and bear are apparently still present in the Pyrenees. (So are snakes [vipers] but you seldom see these - though they have been seen on 3 occasions in the last 20 years in the garden)

 

For security reasons it is advisable to close all shutters, and lock all doors, even if only out for a short time. (A vacant house is always an open invitation to thieves.)

   

Other attractions in the area:

 

Obviously, it is impossible to record all the places of interest, since even after about 40 or so holidays in the area we are still finding new places to go, so here is just a sample.

 

 

 

Swimming:

 

Places to swim include...

 

    * A rock pool just a few hundred yards from the house, at the river, (may be cold) just follow the road/path in front of the gates.

* The lake at Vinça, about a 15-minute drive away. It has a pay car park in summer (1€ per day— summer months only - free, the rest of the year).

This is the lakeside beach (therefore fresh water) at Vinça (pronounced Van-sa) on the road from Prades to Perpignan. It is sandy and about a 15-minute drive away.

 

    * Also there is about 100 miles of coastline all the way from the Spanish border in the South to Beziers in the North. Water temperature in the sea in the summer months varies between 21C and 28C (i.e. warmer than the air temperature at home). Try the beach at Canet (sandy), or the beautiful little fishing village of Collioure (stony) but just sitting in the open air at the restaurant watching the artist paint is worth a visit. The nearest beach on the Mediterranean is about 45 to 60 minutes drive away, but it is an easy road and also permits you to shop in some of the hypermarkets.

    * For all the year round swimming, there is the swimming pool of St.Thomas-les-Bains. This is sign posted on the road from Prades to Andorra. The pool is about a 30-minute drive from the house. The swimming pool is open air; (changing rooms are communal but have individual cubicles) the water comes from an underground natural thermal spring and is cooled from 57ºC to 38ºC to prevent anyone getting burned. Bathing with the mountain views all around is still possible even with snow on the ground.  St.Thomas show in picture below

 

 

    * Also all the year round is the public swimming pool in Prades.

 

 

Gorges:

 

Picture of part of the Gorge du Carança

 

The Gorge du Carança

 

There are many gorges in the area, some so narrow that you can touch both sides at the same time, others e.g. the Gorge du Carança; (on the main road from Perpignan to Mont Louis) contains small suspension bridges as well as metal walkways bolted to the side of the cliff.

 

There is also the Gorge du Galamus (further north near St. Paul), which contains a hermitage and a chapel, (the chapel being a cave)

 

 

Picture of the Hermitage at the Gorge du Galumus

 

Gorge du Galamus – this picture was taken from the car Park

 

Picture of the river below the Gorge du Galamus

 

 

This photo was taken at the base of the Gorge du Galamus, i.e. it is taken from the river directly below the hermitage.

 

Church

A Church of England Service is held (in English) each Sunday (for 6 months of the year) in the Chapel in the town square in Vernet-les-Bains at 10:00 am. All are welcome and everyone goes across the town square to the cafe for a cup of coffee after the service.
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Monasteries & Castles

 

This was the region of the Cathars, (a so-called heretical sect which was eventually liquidated by the Roman Catholic Church [though it took them 200 years to do so], but the Cathars have left a legacy of many castles). Many other castles including non-Cathar castles could be shown, but this might wet your appetite.

 

The area is also excelling for walking. A number of books of walks, giving all details, directions, level of difficulty, photographs etc, are in the house.

 

Chateaux Peyrepertuse

 

Chateaux Peyrepertuse stands guard over the border separating the kingdom of France and Aragon

 

 

Monastery of St. Martin

 

 

St. Martin is a 'silent' monastery and is a 30/40-minute walk/climb up a concrete path, from Casteil, which is a little town above Vernet-les-Bains (near Villefranche-de-Conflent). 4x4's are available and will drive you up and down again. They are reasonably expensive but includes the cost of a visit to the monastery itself. Even without the visit the walk is well worth it as the views are wonderful.

 

Towns:

 

Prades, (shown in photograph on the front cover) 7 miles from the house, is a fairly big town for the region and contains 4 supermarkets, (i.e. a Super-U, an Intermarché, a Lidl (take your own plastic bags) plus one other) as well as having a market on Tuesday morning's which sprawls over all the streets in the town centre.

Villefranche-de-Conflent

(Photograph taken from Fort Liberia, a fort defending the walled village, and connected by an underground staircase through the rock between the two. I suggest you come back DOWN the staircase, rather than try to go UP it.)

 

 

Walking down one of the two streets in Villefranche-de-Confluent

 

There are also walled villages and towns, e.g. Villefranche, (shown above—has some good restaurants, lies just above Prades), or Mont Louis, the highest military post in Europe is a town at the top of the Tet valley (the valley from Perpignan to Andorra) or the old city of Carcassone, a beautifully restored city, used by Walt Disney as the design for the set of Sleeping Beauty. It is also where 'Robin, Prince of Thieves' was filmed.

 

 Caves:

 

There are three sets of caves near Villefranche.  Some you can explore yourself, others are guided tours.  There is also a cave near Mont-Louis, which is worth a visit and at least 3 other caves further inland near Foix.  One has a train to take you round, one has cave-man paintings still on display and a third has an entrance so large that it was used, by the Germans, as an aircraft hanger during the 2nd World War.

 

 

 

 

Inside the Grotte Grandes-Canalettes near Villefranche

 

 

A few other places of interest:

 

The Solar Furnace near Mont-Louis (the insulation tiles for the space shuttle were tested here)

 

Part of the display at Tautavel Museum (the remains of Tautavel Man (580,000 years BC) were found in a cave in the hills opposite the town.)

 

Contrary to popular opinion this is not a picture of me.

 

 

 

Lamanère

 

This is the emblem placed at the entrance to Lamanère the most Southerly Village in France. It can be reached by driving to the Prats-de-Mollo and following the directions from there. It is still possible to sit at a table in the open air at one of the hotels in Prats-de-Mollo, which was the rendezvous point for the Allied servicemen to meet with the Resistance during the 2nd World War. From here they were taken into Spain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Força Real

 

Força Real is a chapel (which is actually behind where the photographer is standing in the picture above) and a communications tower, (built on the foundation of an old castle) on the road from Perpignan to Prades.  You can drive right up to it and find a clear view out over the Tet valley, to Perpignan and the Mediterranean beyond.  (Picture above taken at Easter time)

 

 

 

Cheap(er) shopping

 

 

 

Andorra in the west and the town of Le Perthus on the Spanish border are both duty-free shopping areas. Andorra is worth a visit just to see the scenery on route. (Allow a whole day for the visit)

 

Walks:

 

One of the less strenuous walks that is good for scenery starts from the dam above Mont Louis. This is a walk in the Carlit mountain range. The number of lakes adds to the beauty of these walks.

 

 

 

Taking a break beside one of the lakes of Carlit – apologies for the model but even Blue Circle struggles with this one.

 

 It is possible during the summer months to take a cable car up to into the mountains from Les Angles (cost is about £4 per person per lift up [please check] – coming down on the cable cars is free)

 

 

 

A view of one of the walks with the mountains behind.

 

 

 

 

The Little Yellow train is a good way to see some wonderful scenery (full trip about £20+ per person return [price not checked recently])  It goes from the station at Villefranche to Latour de Carol - probably the best is to take the shorter (and hence cheaper) journey from Villefranche to Mont-Louis,

 

 

 

 

 

Built at the beginning of the century to open up the high plateau, the railway line of the Little Yellow Train is the pride and the symbol of a territory colours of which it wears. The Little Yellow Train follows the Valley of the Tet from Villefranche-de-Conflent, then crosses Cerdagne to Mont-Louis until Latour-de-Carol. In 63 km, the Small Yellow Train connects Villefranche-de-Conflent with Latour-de-Carol and climbs 1200 m up to the station of Bolquère, the highest of France. Its route is particularly attractive and we can discover between Villefranche-de-Conflent and Mountain-Louis, the Stayed viaduct suspended from 65 m above the ground, the Bridge Gisclard to 80 m above an abyss

 

 

 

 

The English Falls – a pleasant walk from Vernet-les-Bains.

 

 

 

View from top of mountain after ascending in the cable car.

 

The Tour de France 2001 - through Mosset

 (Some of the advertising floats - pre-race)

(The race under way)

(The arrow points to yours truly - the only chance I have of being pictured in a sports event.)

Also in area - Rennes-le-Chateau (of Dan Brown - 'Da Vinci Code' fame). It is about 1 hours drive, and worth a visit.

Photograph shows La Tour Magdala (actually the priests library)