The Eastern Pyrenees, the southernmost French department, is full of sunshine, just like the Catalan flag, the regional pride. Between the Mediterranean and the Canigou, the emblematic peak, Roussillon displays a strong character. Around Perpignan, the agricultural plains follow on from the wine-growing lands, while the cultural and historical treasures are legion between the sea and the mountains. Not forgetting a few good restaurants, welcome after a round of golf in Saint-Cyprien, Montescot or Falgos, the Golfy clubs in Catalonia.
Set back from the Mediterranean beaches, the Saint-Cyprien Golf Club found its feet in 1976, a precursor at a time when coastal urbanisation was still being rationalised. Between the ponds, the plain and the forest, all the ingredients are gathered on 200 hectares to have fun and to get some fresh air. In almost 50 years, the 27 holes have forged many swings… where the tramontana and the sailor disturb the trajectories of balls in all seasons.
On the way back to Perpignan, the Golf de Montescot, born in 2009, has grown in size in fifteen years even if, here too, the wind can be formidable. On a slightly undulating terrain, the 9 holes take advantage of the Pyrenees and the Albères massif on the horizon. With a double tee on each hole, variety is established between the outward and return, before enjoying the terrace facing the Canigou!
The road after Céret winds its way up to Saint-Laurent-de-Cerdans, where espadrille workshops flourished in the last century.
The Golf de Falgos has been pointing at the horizon of the forests of the Haut-Vallespir since 1990. From the top of its 1100 metres, the course overlooks the bay of Rosas on the outward journey, before facing the Canigou from the green on the 12th. An ideal setting to relax, to rest, to forget everything between the course, the balneo and the table… The layout follows the undulations of the Pyrenees, meanders through the vegetation, all under the Catalan sun which shines more than 300 days a year.
Where to stay ?
In the heart of the Saint-Cyprien golf course, the Horizon Golf Pierre & Vacances Premium residence, opened in 2021 on the initiative of the Roussillhotel group, is ideal for a stay close to the golf courses. The flats are spacious and bright, they overlook the swimming pool or the fairways, meals are taken in the clubhouse, the beach is accessible by bike as well as the port and shops of Saint-Cyprien.
3 km from the golf course, the hotel Les Bulles de Mer **** offers a wild setting between the sea and the lagoon, a sandy lido sheltered from view where it is good to rest. Between the natural materials – wood, wicker, linen… – and the marine tones, the rooms are perfectly designed, functional, with a view on the sea or the lagoon. The Sand Spa is a welcome place to relax after the game or to wait for the return of the champion… The table at Les Ganivelles tends towards the organic and local. In addition to the classic meals, the chef concocts Pic-Nic baskets for a day at the beach or a stroll to discover the Catalan talents.
In Canet-en-Roussillon, the hotel Les Flamants Roses**** is an institution for those who appreciate the quality of a stay by the sea. With its 63 rooms and suites renovated in 2022, the flagship of the Roussillhotel group, this establishment is designed for your relaxation. The marine & fitness area is the highlight, a place where relaxing is a must. At the Horizon’s table, the flavours of land and sea are sublimated by the chef Sylvain Marsault. Not to be missed: the Wednesday buffet evenings where the chef lets loose while the music sets the mood.
At the Domaine de Falgos, everything is lived on site, an undeniable advantage. Less than 100 metres from bed to tee, that has its charm! Between the 25 rooms and the 7 flats, part of the accommodation has just been redone, while retaining the warm tones of the Toiles du Soleil, the tradition of the Catalan weavers. Behind the thick walls of this farmhouse – a former 18th century sheepfold -, the weather is good in all seasons. The table gives priority to local recipes, both from the mountains and from the seaside, not so far away as the crow flies. Between the swimming pool, the spa, the massages, the hammam, the sauna, the gym, the solarium…, everything is thought of for your well-being. You won’t want to leave !
Along the Catalan coast, from Canet to Cerbère, from beaches to steep hills, the landscape changes quickly even if the sun remains its common denominator. At the beginning of the 20th century, the light which invades Collioure seduces the painters Matisse and Derain. This small port lives on anchovy fishing before the Impressionists made it their haven of inspiration, enchanted by the changing light of the morning and evening winds. At the end of the port, the bell tower of the Notre-Dame des Anges church inspired many during the 20th century. Even today, many artists of various talents try their hand at this natural painting, a gift from Heaven.
It is impossible to come to the Catalan region without tasting the cargolade ! This dish of snails cooked in their shells over an open fire is a convivial dish to be shared with small grilled sausages.
It is said that a cargolade cannot be successful if there are less than ten people. In Bompas, on the outskirts of Perpignan, during the summer, thousands of gourmets flock to share it to the sound of a sardana and a few glasses of Grenache, Banyuls, Mury or even Muscat de Rivesaltes, wines full of sunshine. As soon as the Top 14 resumes, around the Aimé Giral stadium, the home of the USAP – Perpignan’s rugby club – the cargolade is part of every pre-match party. A good way to warm up your voice before supporting the Blood et Gold…
Between the cloister of Elne with its Romanesque and Gothic architecture, the plane tree shaded alleys near the Castillet which today houses the Casa Pairal – the Catalan Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions – and the Sea Lodge, on the banks of the Têt – the river which crosses Perpignan -, the walks are worth looking up.
In Céret, the land of the cherry, since 1950, the Museum of Modern Art has given pride of place to the artists of the 20th century who lived in the town. In 1957, Pablo Picasso donated a series of 28 dishes on the theme of bullfighting to the museum, a unique work. At the same time, Henri Matisse donated 14 drawings of the port of Collioure made in 1905, again a treasure. We could also mention Chaïm Soutine, Marc Chagall, Juan Miró, Raoul Dufy, Aristide Maillol, Édouard Pignon and others, all seduced by the idea of giving to posterity, they who received the light of these lands as a gift. Renovated in the 1990s, this museum offers a sober architecture, composed of two patios and beautiful spaces for the exhibition of works, while giving pride of place to light.
No Good Friday in Roussillon without the procession of the Sanch ! The day before Easter Sunday, the penitents of the most famous procession, dressed in black robes – red for the regidor symbolising the condemned -, their faces covered with a pointed bonnet, wander through the streets of Perpignan.
Other towns in Roussillon also have their Sanch processions, some of them at night, lit by candlelight which amplifies their spiritual dimension. The brotherhood of the Sanch – the blood in Catalan – was created in 1416 by the Dominican monk Vincent Ferrier. Its vocation was to accompany those condemned to death to the gallows and to offer them a religious burial.
Between mysticism and folklore, the Sanch has been able to pass through the centuries without losing its soul… even if, today, it is subject to selfies! During the rest of the year, the brothers of the Sanch – 450 at the most – are involved in Christian charity work throughout the Catalan region.