Day tour around Perpignan, that was what I had in mind after spending two nights in Carcassonne in Southern France before heading to Barcelona. Not much was planned but what I know about this city is that the Visa pour l’image, a major photography festival focusing on Photojournalism is held here annually. It was one of those trips wherein I have a faint idea of a place but hoping to be surprised while exploring it, same with what I did in Toulouse. I just went around, following streets and roads, actually hoping it will lead me to something interesting and letting serendipity take its course. But of course, a clear downside is that some important spots are missed.
Perpignan is a medieval city in southwestern France and the capital of the Pyrénées-Orientales département. It was part of the Catalan Kingdom until it was ceded by Spain in 1659 as part of the Treaty of Pyrenees. The old town center is historic and rich in medieval structures. The Le Castillet, an imposing fortification and one of its kind in France, was the main gate of the town and is now a museum. In the center is the walled Palace of the Kings of Majorca who ruled the Kingdom of Majorca in 1276-1349. These are just a few of the historic structures that makes a day tour around Perpignan memorable and in fact walking around is actually better to enjoy the walled city.
Day tour around Perpignan
I checked in at a hotel and went out to explore. My objective was just to go to the town center and take it from there. I just followed the River Basse, a tributary of the bigger River Tet. It’s banks are carefully cultivated and is actually picturesque. Buildings and trees with cafes under the canopy line both sides and farther while a bridge goes over and into the Le Castillet.
Exploring on foot
The fort is imposing and is perhaps the symbol of this city. More cafes at its side. I didn’t enter the museum at that time but just continued and followed the Rue de Castillet. The buildings were just beautiful with details and more details till I arrived at the gothic Basilique-Cathédrale de Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Perpignan, a beautiful edifice built in the 14th century. The facade is really simple and unassuming but when I entered it, I was in awe. Intricate retables, ancient paintings and there’s even the tomb of King Sancho and Bishop Louis Habert de Montmort with stunning and lifelike marble busts atop their tombs.
The Camposanto at the side of the basilica is a spacious square. This was the former cloister cemetery and a much older chapel at one end still exists. Gargoyles at the sides make the place somewhat eerie but I was more interested at the medieval bas relief.
I continued my walk while passing migrant neighborhoods and where I saw a small fountain with a metal lizard spout. There were two art deco houses too. The Palace of the Kings of Majorca is one of the most important spots but unfortunately, I got lost and missed the entrance. I walked around the perimeter walls instead until it got late in the afternoon.
It was already near dusk when I passed by the Place de Loge. It’s the former stock exchange and a beautiful gothic building and I was just admiring the architecture while sitting at a cafe for some bites and a cup of coffee.
An unplanned and unstructured day tour around Perpignan can of course bring in surprises like what I found walking around the city. Although I might have missed some, consequently, I will have reason to come back again.