22.10.2012 16 °C
Just a couple of hours north of Barcelona, across the Pyrenees is the charming city of Perpignan, cute, tasty, colourful and perfect for a weekend get-away. It’s so stereotypically French that it’s like being on the set of Amélie, or at a French-themed, mini theme park. The old city centre is full of narrow pastel shaded buildings which during the varying lights and shadows of the day display a delightful spectrum of amber hues, perfectly contrasting with their blue-green shutters. Quaint, winding streets full of fashionable boutiques tantalize the coins in our pockets, whilst sticky patisseries and rustic delicatessens awaken our taste buds with gusts of fine aromas.
Saturday in the central Place de la République, restaurants are buzzing with locals perched in the afternoon sun, sipping on a bubbly cidre or two and tucking into steaming buckets of mouth-watering muscles and sides of frites. Later they lazily puff on fragrant cigars, always keeping a watchful eye on the televised rugby match, the melody of which flowing like a wave under the din of kitchen clutter and asthmatic exhalations of coffee machines. Every so often, the twee symphony of the old fashioned merry-go-round strikes up and we are transported back in time to days of the belle époque. A short stroll from the square, the crimson-brown castillet sits on the river-side providing Perpignan with a splash of Catalan culture and topping off the medieval ambiance of the old city. Atmospheric market stalls selling tempting local produce embellish the outside, and entice passers by to purchase a little gourmet treat for themselves.
Sunday morning, and Perpignan is sleepy. The only thing for it is a delicious petit dejeuner and a chance to put our year-seven French to the test. The result, is surprisingly effective, and expectedly delicious. Freshly made creppes with fantastically zesty lemons and a warm café au lait are the perfect start to our day, and set the pace for a laid-back few hours of rambling. Just further out from the nucleus of the old city, a labyrinth of quiescent streets amble to and fro, the sounds of city life muffled behind tall tell-tale houses. Now and again we stumble upon a tiny, forgotten square or an enchanting well frozen in time, and eagerly take photos from every angle in an attempt to capture the perfect arty shot. Our stroll continues through bright, fanciful lanes, and fuelled by exquisite scents of lunch-time preparation we dream about rustic southern French life and moreover, ponder about how much wine and cheese we will realistically be able take back with us.