The recent holiday to the South of France was great (though I wasn't thrilled with the country on my return to read about the enforced deportation of Roma people, here and here).
The photograph here is the magnificent view southwards from the garden terrace of our villa - the mountains are, of course, the Alberes region of the Pyrenees which separate the south of France from the north of Spain. I wish our garden could look like this (the pool was just to the right!)
We did manage to visit some of the lovely spots around us, despite the kids badgering us about not wanting to "just walk around again" - at 5 and 8 years old, they just wanted the pool, beach or ice-cream! (next year I'm going to have to do that middle-class thing of developing some 'activity sheets' or something which they can fill in as we visit these places of interest - as if I'm ever gonna find the time for that ...).
Independent review of Perpignan put it:
"The strange thing about the Palais des Rois de Majorque (open daily, 10am-6pm, admission €4/£3) is that the high, narrow streets of the old town render it invisible from street level until you reach its vast brick fortifications, which date from the 17th century. Once you're in front of it, though, it's an extraordinary sight - a vast complex, crowned by a brick palace, built for the 13th-century rulers of the kingdom of Mallorca, which then encompassed the Balearic Islands as well as Roussillon. The entrance is on the east side of the complex, and the best views of Perpignan can be found at the top of the walls, from where the Pyrenees are also visible to the south. A drained moat runs round the palace itself, which also contains a Gothic chapel and various stone-walled royal apartments, now home to temporary exhibitions."
Banyuls-sur-Mer where the east of the Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean, with its lovely harbour and aquarium, but a grey-rubbly beach (which looked prettier than when you sat on it and got covered in grey dust!). The town is known for being the home of Maillol (1861 - 1944), a sculptor who specialised in nudes figures, many of which are to found around the town as public art.
And further north up the Côte Vermeille, we had a late dinner one evening in the Catalan fishing village of Collioure. Dinner was one of the many restaurants overlooking the harbour and the 16th century Fort St Elme, beautifully light up at night. A tip for parents is that there is a children's playground right next to this group of restaurants where many toddlers were safely and gleefully playing even at 10pm at night (useful whilst hubby was dispatched to collect the car which we had to park at the top of the hill overlooking this town - the town gets busy for parking in the evenings, be warned).
We visited the ubiquitous Aqua parc of course - there are several 'Aqualand water fun parks' in the Languedoc region. We went to the one at St Cyprien (heading along the coast to Argelès). These theme parks are not identical but the concept is pretty much the same, offering water slides, rapids, wave pools etc. But my, they are expensive about E33 for adults and E18 for kids (about 75 pounds in all?), so people tend to make a full day of it, carting in their huge cool boxes of lunch which you can deposit in the lockers. What can I say - the kids love them, and if you let your English adult guard down, you can too.
Well, that was that, the obligatory holiday post - just a snapshot of what we got up to. We didn't even get to go to the Sigean Nature Reserve, or on The Petit Train Jaune, or to Argeles-sur-Mer, or go walking in the Pyrenees - all nearby activities which we didn't have time for this time. Even more in love this part of France (we much prefer Languedoc to Provence) which we get to know more each year, and where I fleetingly get to practice my inept French. The memories will keep me going until next time. I'd love to hear about your experiences of this part of the world and any recommendations.