|International Property Shares
Where can you find an authentic French fishing village on the Mediterranean sea and accessible by train?
|Cerbere on the Sea- a 1/8th share is available here|
By Annabel Simms
May 2012- Daily Telegraph
Where, I asked a French friend, can you find an unspoilt little place on the French Mediterranean, accessible by train, which isn't crowded in August?
Cerbère, he suggested, which he had once driven through on his way to Spain. He hadn't stopped, he admitted, but had noticed the village-like seafront, the little harbour, the beach and the gigantic arcades of the railway, built by Eiffel's firm, which seem to be carved out of the Pyrenées above the town before disappearing into the tunnel to Port Bou, Spain.
I eventually found a holiday flat in the town, flew to Perpignan, and took the short train ride to Cerbère. In spite of the flat's inconvenient hilly location, I was charmed. There was a single, old-fashioned seafront shop selling buckets and spades and a small selection of no-nonsense clothes and espadrilles. There were no trendy bars.
We quickly found a tiny beach, even less crowded than the town strand, close to the friendly La Coba café, with staggering views over the Mediterranean and hardly any customers. Later, on the seafront La Plage restaurant, we gorged on fried squid, made as I had first tasted it in Greece 40 years ago, accompanied by a perfect aioli.
Over the next few days we went on a series of train adventures: to the beautiful but melancholy site of Walter Benjamin's grave in Port Bou, 10 minutes away through the tunnel between France and Spain; and to medieval Girona, an hour from Port Bou; and to Collioure, a picturesque town beloved by artists and very crowded, 15 minutes from Cerbère. We also spent a day in equally crowded Carcassonne, and visited lovely Narbonne, a dignified but lively city whose Roman past seemed almost tangible.
En route to the station for these trips we kept passing a huge Art Deco building, sporting the word "Hotel" in fading letters but looking as if it had been closed for years. It turned out to be Le Belvédère du Rayon-Vert, a luxury hotel built in 1928, which closed during the Spanish Civil War and never regained its former glory. But it has retained its grand staircase and high ceilings, and, I discovered, some of the rooms have been converted into holiday flats, with original tiled floors, iron-shuttered windows and balconies overlooking the Med.
Life centres around the grandly named Place de la République, in reality a small village square, where we watched an impressive display of the local Catalan dance, la Sardane. It is a circle dance which anyone can join at any moment, accompanied by an 11-piece orchestra, la Cobla. It looks easy, with grandparents and children joining in, but isn't, as I discovered when I joined the free dance class held every Monday on the seafront. After that we were part of the local life.
On our last day of this second trip we walked across the hills from Collioure and decided to carry on down to Port Vendres, founded by the Phoenicians in 600BC, its name a corruption of Portus Veneris (Port of Venus). It is still a major port for fruit from Africa.
It was a contrasting pleasure to return, via an 11-minute train ride, from this astonishing discovery to the quiet, faded splendour of the Belvedère, drink a Banyuls blanc (the local aperitif) on the balcony, watching the sun going down over our deserted little beach across the bay, then stroll down to La Plage for freshly grilled sardines, before joining what seemed like the entire population of Cerbère, men, women, teenagers and children, already seated by the seafront and singing along to traditional songs played by the 11-piece orchestra.
People here are relatively poor, but they are rich in other ways. When we ran out of 50-centime pieces for the table-football machine at La Coba, the patron gave us another. "Pour vous faire plaisir," he said, smiling.
Now is when our owner group begins to book their 2013 time at this petite jewel on the sea. One of the beauties of fractional ownership is that with 8 owners, you pay your own share of the running costs. In 2012, these were only 400 euros per member. With the Mediterranean blue and coastline of Spain on your doorstep, this is a slice of heaven.
1/8th deeded share at $59900.
| Things to see and do |
Arles-sur-Tech: beautiful Roman church with 12th century cloister; 13th century palace with private art collection; factory outlet with traditional Catalan fabrics and espadrilles. Just beyond the town are the Gorges de la Fou, a spectacular canyon plunging 100 metres down. There's a trail and you can hike in.
Banyuls-sur-Mer: large aquarium; port; spa ("thallassotherapie" in French); visits to wine caves; and the Aristide Maillol museum.
Castelnou: fortified, medieval village built into a mountainside and dominated by a park your car outside the village and walk in, making your way up the narrow (sidewalk width) winding cobblestone streets. Halfway up to the castle there is a lovely restaurant with a large terrace and a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside.
Céret: frequented by Picasso, Georges Braque and Juan Gris in their early years, Céret features a museum of modern art (which Picasso helped establish). High in the mountains, the medieval town is noted for its corridas and its cherries, which are considered to be the best in France. Directly south of Céret is the Pic de Fontfrede. At 1,000 metres up, it offers a view of the entire Roussillon region, right to the sea.
Collioure: popular with tourists, for the natural beauty of its site, as well as the Chateau Royal, a superb 13th century castle which belonged to the Kingdom of Aragon, until France wrested it back in the 17th century. Plan on at least an hour and a half to visit the entire castle. Afterwards, you might want to settle into a cozy chair at a cafe along the beach and contemplate the sea. Collioure also has an excellent market every Wednesday. By the way, if you've always hated anchovies, try some of the fresh product for which Collioure is justly famous.
Elne: an ancient Roman city midway between Cerbère and Perpignan. Its marble cloister (11th-12th century) is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the region.
Font-Romeu/Odeillo: Font-Romeu is an oddity, having been created solely for the purpose of fostering tourism, in the 1920s. It's popular with skiers and other athletes for its sunny, dry climate. Nearby Odeillo features a "solar oven", an 1,800m2 parabolic mirror which concentrates solar energy, producing temperatures of up to 35000 C.
Ille-sur-Têt: Just outside the town are "Les Orgues" (the organs), bizarre rock formations that can be viewed from a distance or visited up close. The town also features a fireman's museum (Musee du Sapeur-Pompier) and a centre for sacred art, with pictures, sculptures, silver chalices and reliquaries.
Le Perthus: a border town which lies half in France, half in Spain and is mainly frequented for its duty free shopping. One can also visit the fully restored, 17th century fort (built during the reign of Louis XIV to keep the Spanish out) and an archaeological site with Roman ruins, known as Les Panissars.
Perpignan: The capital of Pyrénées-Orientales and Catalan to its very roots. It was Spanish long before it was French and the evidence is all around. Main attractions are: the Palace of the Kings of Majorca; the Hyacinthe-Rigaud museum; the gothic cathedral; Le Castillet, a castle which is now a folk art museum; the Loge de Mer; and the Campo Santo, a hallowed burial ground. Perpignan is also the cultural centre of the region, with numerous theatre, music, dance and arts festivals throughout the year, including the month-long "estivales" during July.
Port-Vendres: a jewel of a town and just a short drive from Cerbère. Serves as a fishing port, marina, and commercial port, all nestled into a neat, rectangular harbour, with shops, restaurants and cafes all around. In late afternoon, the fishermen come back with their catch and you can buy directly from them.
Prades: former home of the famous cellist Pablo Casals. Each summer, Prades hosts a classical music festival, with concerts held in neighbouring St-Michel de Cuixa (see below). The Eglise St-Pierre is famous for its immense altar-piece, sculpted in the 17th century and an outstanding example of Baroque art. En route to Prades, you may wish to visit Eus, an extremely beautiful village nestled into the mountain-side.
Prats-de-Mollo: High in the mountains in the valley of the river Tech, the ancient fortified city of Prats-de-Mollo is noted for its Romano-Gothic church with an impressive collection of gilded wooden altar-pieces, as well as a 17th century fort.
St-Martin de Canigou: an 11th century abbey, abandoned during the French Revolution and restored in the 1920s, St-Martin is perched 1,000 metres up Le Canigou, sacred mountain to the Catalan people. Now inhabited by a religious order, the abbey, including its cloister and church, can only be reached by hiking up the mountain (about a 40-minute walk along a paved trail). The visit is conducted in complete silence
St-Michel de Cuixa: a medieval monastery, which is still occupied by Benedictine monks. The visit includes a subterranean crypt, the church and the lovely cloister with its 12th century chapiteaux.
Salses: a well-preserved 15th century fort, complete with dungeon, built by the Spanish to protect the Catalan territory from the French -- a unique example of medieval military architecture
Serrabonne: 11-12th century priory, one of the great masterpieces of Roussillon Roman sculpture; noted for its tribune, sculpted out of pink marble amidst huge blocks of grey schist. Serrabone is reached by a means of a tortuous mountain road, full of hairpin turns, but spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.
Sigean: a reconstructed "safari" park, spread out over 260 hectares. It can be visited by car or on foot. The residents include: lions, Tibetan bear, white rhinoceros, camels, antelopes, zebras, leopards and alligators.
Tautavel: It was in this tiny, mountain village that Tautavel Man, deemed to be half a million years old, was discovered in the 1970s. The cave where the discovery took place can be visited, in addition to the first-rate museum, which is dedicated to prehistoric studies and features a reconstruction of this fine specimen of homo erectus, sound and light displays and a variety of interactive exhibits.
Vernet-les-Bains: a delightful town at the foot of Le Canigou. Noted for its pure mountain air and thermal waters. The 12th century Eglise St-Saturnin is well worth a visit, but it's also pleasant to stroll around the entire town, including the medieval quarter surrounding the church.
Villefranche de Conflent - a fortified city, built from pink marble. Inside the ramparts are cafes, souvenir shops and artisans' boutiques. Walk the full circuit of the ramparts, stopping to admire the Eglise St-Jacques. Dominating the city is the 17th century Fort-Liberia, which can only be reached by climbing the "thousand steps" - a great way to keep fit and get a panoramic view of the Têt river valley.
-visits to the many Cathar castles in the region. The Cathars were a sect that broke away from the Church in the 12th and 13th centuries. To protect themselves, they built great castles high up in the mountains. Alas, they were brutally crushed by the French Crown and the Pope. The faithful were burnt at the stake.
- Le Petit Train Jaune: a yellow excursion train with open cars that takes you high into the Pyrenees
- Rennes-le-Château: a chateau with a mysterious treasure, possibly hidden by the Knights Templar
- the Roman cities of Narbonne and Béziers
- Sète: an island-city with a mountain at its centre and a network of canals; birthplace of the great chanteur Georges Brassens
- Montpellier: a cosmopolitan cultural crossroads; capital of Languedoc-Roussillon; modern and medieval
- Toulouse: a cultural and intellectual feast; visually beautiful and wonderful for strolling and exploring
- Andorra: a country within a country; beautiful scenery; great duty-free shopping
- Barcelona: the coastal capital of Catalunya; the richest, liveliest and most dynamic city in all of Spain. Main attractions include: the medieval quarter; cathedrals and museums (including a Picasso museum); La Rambla (a kilometre-long pedestrian walkway); la Boqueria (the old market); la Barceloneta (the port area), the Olympic installations; and the fantastically bizarre architecture of Gaudi, a native son.
|Catalonia on the Sea- It's easy for any nationality to join our owners group|
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