|September skies in the South of France|
September in the South of France is still super sunny. Not quite as scorching as the baking August heat but still very pleasant indeed, if a bit breezy. I didn't bring a jumper and was forced to buy one, but hey, we all have to make sacrifices. The temperature is now ideal for site seeing and with many of the summer crowds leaving, it is a lot more pleasant experience.
A little bit further down the coast from Perpignan is Collioure a charming seaside resort with a strong Catalan culture. Its medieval streets once inspired famous artists of the early 20th century like Andre Derain, Matisse and |Picasso. It has a picturesque setting and lots of arty shops and restaurants and gets very very busy in the height of summer. Its culinary speciality is anchovies. Back in medieval times Collioure's reputation revolved around the salting of anchovies, sardines and Tuna. In 1870, 800 fishermen were employed n the anchovy business now only two anchovy salting families remain. Ets Roque and Ets Desclaux.
|Paddle your own canoe|
A couple of hours drive from Perpignan will bring you to another very popular visitor hot spot. The fortified French town of Carcassone with its UNESCO world heritage site, walled medieval town and castle remains an impressive sight.. You can tour the old town walls riding on your caleche and then cross the drawbridge into the city and explore the steep winding streets and the castle itself on foot.
|There's no flies on us!|
Occupied since the neolithic period the town is situated at a strategic site between the Atlantic, the Mediterranean sea and the range of mountains called the Massif Central, which run through the middle of this part of France. Everyone wanted to control Carcassone.
The Romans obviously liked to be in charge of everything and Carcassone was no exception. They were there until the demise of the Western Roman Empire and the city was taken over later in the fifth century by the Visigoths. The Visigoths were a western branch of the nomadic tribes of the Germanic peoples. Great name! The town has certainly seen lots of action during its colourful history.
|Still fighting over Carcassone!|
Carcassone also thrived as a trading post due to its location and saw many rulers come and go who gradually built up its fortifications over time. The Cite de Carcasonne was restored by the architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc in 1853 and added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1997. It has the turrets, the moat, the draw bridge and the perfectly preserved pretty medieval streets with lots to see and is so is very much on the tourist map.
|Ramparts with a view Carcassone|
Souvenir shops and restaurants serving the local speciality cassoulet abound. Cassoulet is a kind of stew or casserole with sausages and beans and vegetables and is ideal fayre for the hungry day tripper. The day I was there the castle and ramparts were open free of charge as it was 'a special day.' Not one to look a gift rampart in the mouth, up I went with rather a lot of other visitors and we all tramped up and down the stairs and noted the expansive view from the aforementioned ramparts - ideal for spotting any potential assailants.
Driving back to Perpignan past the endless vineyards as dusk fell, we saw some of the amazing skies that this part of the world regularly displays for your evening entertainment. Less crowded than Carcassone, Perpignan I reflected, is less of a tourist destination and more of a real French town and all the more attractive for that. There's still lots more to explore though..
|Red sky at night - winemakers delight|