The village of Le Perthus is where we cross the border. It’s a strange place, we are unsure at which point we left Spain and were back in France. Based on a rather bizarre border agreement which dates back to the signing of the treaty of the Pyrénées, in 1659 Le Perthus becomes Spanish on the left-hand side and French on the right.
Signed on Pheasant Island, next to a river that runs between the two countries it has remained a French-Spanish condominium since the treaty.
Difficult to know where to stop saying ‘Hola’ and start saying ‘Bonjour’.
As we work our way towards the border
the traffic is slow moving we assume it’s passport control that’s causing the holdup. But soon realise there’s no one checking passports just sheer volume of traffic and people looking for a bargain, from perfume, jewellery, leather goods, food, cheap beer and cigarettes to sovereigns this place as it all.
All this stop-start isn’t doing the motorhome any good so it’s a relief once we reach the top.
Peyriac de Mar
We have driven quite a distance today and finally stop at the village of Peyriac de Mar. The aire is in the grounds of the rugby club so as it’s getting late we don’t really get to see much of the village.
But if my memory serves me right we stopped near this area when travelling back from Spain years ago. It’s this part of France you can see flamingos living in the wild all year round.
It’s a lovely place for a walk, there are boardwalks going across the water to help you get up close and personal with these beautiful birds.
After a relaxed and peaceful night, we are soon on the road again this time travelling more inland, so it will be a while before we see the coast again.
As usual, we always take the more scenic, rural route. This part of the French countryside is beautiful at this time of year, surrounded by pleasant rolling hills dominated by agriculture, the fields are a sea of sunflowers and corn, we even spot a parachute formation team coming into land.
Fanjeaux is a sleepy village that was once surrounded by a moat. Today only two of the original four entries serve as reminders of the medieval gates which once controlled entry into the village.
It’s another hot day so once it’s cooled down we have a walk around the village.
From the vantage point, there are spectacular views of the nearby countryside, towns, and the mountains beyond.
It’s here whilst having a drink we get chatting to a lovely couple, Chris and Tessa. Originally from Kent, they now live in this village. They are familiar with Maidstone so there are lots to chat about. Chris is a real character who we could spend hours talking to, so thank you for a fun afternoon.
When we finally wander up the hill back to the motorhome where we meet our neighbours for tonight. They are from Ireland but sadly we didn’t get their names. So if ‘Paddy’ reads this it was nice talking to you and thanks for the water bottle tip. ( If the suns out place a bottle of water on the window screen and by evening it’s hot enough to wash up with). But we are stilling searching for sloes.
As we drive round the bend the sight of Carcassonne is stunning it’s like a fairytale castle from a Disney film.
From the car park its a 10-minute walk but we decide to jump on the free bus that runs every 15 minutes. Set on a hilltop we spend the morning wandering around this impressive walled city with its beautiful architecture and maze of narrow, cobbled streets.
Like so many of the places, we have visited its touristy with lots of shops and restaurants so by the time we were leaving it was quite crowded.
Mazères sur Salet
It’s late afternoon when we find the aire right next to the weir in this village. It’s so quiet here even after the arrival of a couple more motorhomes all you can hear is the water flowing. Apart from the pharmacy all of the other shops are closed. We have run out of bread and I ask at the Maire office if the local shop is likely to open today her reply “Maybe it, maybe it won’t” apparently it’s if the owner feels like it. We spend the rest of the day watching people and dogs trying to cool off in the water.
After spending a month in the Pyrenees back in June we hadn’t planned to come back but a change of plan sees us in this area once again. So we stop at St Blancard to have lunch and I get to see my favourite chateau one more time.
This is somewhere we said we didn’t feel the need to go but we are now pleased we had the opportunity. We are staying at the old despatch depot for emergency services.
It’s about a 20-minute walk into the centre and as we get near the Jardin Massey ( public gardens ) we hear the music. Passing the strutting peacocks we can see a crowd gathering near the bandstand. We soon learn that it’s the International Tango festival and this is one of many events taking place across the city. A mix of all ages, dancing on a sunny afternoon it’s magical to watch. The couples are so connected with each other it’s as if they are unaware of the staring crowd. Listening to the music and watching them glide creates a really moving experience.
We walk further along to the main square with its huge water feature I’m surprised at how much there is to see and how vibrant the area is.
Pau is another place we passed before. We spend just a couple of hours has parking for motorhomes is limited to daytime only.
After a short walk we find the old Funicular, and take the short ride to the Boulevard des Pyrénées. From here there are great views across Pau and the Château.
We find the church of Saint-Martin de Pau and light a candle for our friend Nick Machin who sadly passed away.
It’s late Friday afternoon when we stop in Sauvagnan. The aire is in the car park opposite what seems to be the only bar so we go for a drink. We ask if we can use the WiFi but the code seems to contain the entire alphabet and few numbers thrown in for good luck. Eventually, we get connected much to the interest of the locals. This like so many of the village we have stopped at by early evening everything is closed and quiet.