Sunday, 9 August 2015

Travel Report: Sorède, South of France



View of either Les Masif des Alberes or Le Canigou mountains - I'm not quite sure which!
In February 2015, after downsizing from our old family home, my parents bought a house in Sorède, France. My husband and I have had an incredibly busy year, however we managed to find a free weekend recently and nipped over to France for a long weekend to check out the house and the area.

Sorède is located in the Pyrénées-Orientales department in the South East of France. This is also known as the Languedoc-Roussillon region. The village itself is in the foothills of the Massif des Albères mountain range which separates France and Spain, and is only a few kilometres from both the beaches and from the Spanish border.




Sorède is a very quiet and green village, away from the tourist area of Argelès-sur-Mer. It is an authentic French/Catalan village with friendly locals, a few bars and shops and a market. As it is in the catalonia region, name signs are duplicated in both French and Catalan, which I found particularly interesting.


Sorede Village
The river running through the centre of Sorede
The village itself is somewhat isolated and we were glad to have use of my parents' car in order to explore the area. There are regular buses, however my French is very basic and I was not certain that I was reading the timetables correctly!

An odd sundial in Sorede
Sorede Village

We flew into Perpignan-Rivesaltes Airport, where my parents met us in my dad's old convertible - a great car for a hot country, but by the time we arrived at their house some 30+ minutes later I was more than slightly windswept! It is worth mentioning that the flight from London Stansted to Perpignan-Rivesaltes is approximately 2 hours and was with Ryanair who do some great deals. Despite travelling in the height of summer, out flights were approxiamtely £150 each. If we were to travel outside of July and August, the flights reduce to around £80-£100 per person.

The house itself requires a bit of work and a bit more furniture, however it has huge potential. It is a 3 bedroom bungalow with plenty of indoor living space, situated on a private road. There is a sun terrace down one side of the house and large areas of land to both the front and back of the property including enough room for a swimming pool, which my mother is currently in the process of planning! There is also a lovely summer kitchen in the back yard which is, essentially, a barbeque area.

My parents new house!

The sun terrace
The summer kitchen
 

A perfect place to read - under the olive tree

View from the terrace
My mother next to a fountain that she uncovered in an overgrown tangle of greenery - previously completely hidden from view!





































After a quick lunch, my dad was keen to explore some of the local area, so we set off up the mountain towards Notre Dame de Château. The drive was typical mountain tracks, throwing up dust and providing an amazing (albeit terrifying!) view to the valley below. At the top of the track, we found The Chapel of Our Lady of the Castle, a religious building, and some incredible views. There was a hiking track but with the temperatures hitting approximately 31°C, we thought it would be sensible to save that for another visit.

Picture from Les Masif des Alberes - near Notre Dame de Chateau

Photograph taken from near Notre Dame de Chateau

The heat of the day zapped our strength, so after a bit of exploring we returned home for some relaxation time. I took my Kindle and settled in the shade under the olive tree in the back yard, along with a refreshing G&T. We then headed off to the port at Argelès-sur-Mer for an evening stroll and a spot of dinner.

Gin & tonic, Kindle and a fantastic view

The following day involved some further exploration, this time to the hamlet of Lavail. Whilst we drove along the typical mountain roads to the top of the village, the areas of interest are actually at the bottom of the mountain where the river flows down and settles in a range of rockpools, some deep enough to swim in, surrounded by lovely smooth boulders which would be great for a spot of sunbathing.

Rockpool at Lavail

After a relaxing day at the beach on Saturday, we were due to fly home on Sunday but not until late evening and so we decided to see a bit more of the area during the day. We had an early start and drove down to Collioure to look around the market (Wednesdays and Sundays). The Telegraph has described Collioure as being similar to "St Tropez without the 'flim-flam, froth and laughable prices'". That same article goes on to say that Collioure is regularly amongst the sunniest and warmest spots in France.

Collioure is a small seaside town based around a beautiful castle. It is a truly gorgeous town with lots of history and a maze of streets leading down to the harbour. There is a small beach in the town centre and an assortment of restaurants and cafés.  The town makes much of it's connection with the famous painter, Matisse.


The castle at Collioure
The harbour at Collioure
In the height of summer it gets very busy and, for that reason, we arrived in town around 8.30am to ensure we could find parking. We then went for a little stroll around the market before treating ourselves to a relaxing breakfast of crepes and fresh baguette on the waterfront.


Unique decor at a restaurant in Collioure

Collioure
Collioure
I would have liked to stay a bit longer in Collioure and I would have liked to visit the castle, however we were somewhat pushed for time and my dad really wanted to drive us further along the coast to show us the other little villages along the route.


Collioure

Collioure

The harbour at Collioure

We loved our time in Sorède and my parents new house. Having a home-away-from-home gives you some of that home comfort whilst still being on holiday. We found that one of our favourite ways to pass the time was to take our books onto the sun terrace, with a G&T or stubby bottle of beer, and read together in silence, listening to the cicada bugs in the evening or having incomprehensible conversations with the friendly non-English-speaking neighbours (Monsieur Bob!) as they went about their day-to-day business. I love that there is so much history in the area and I am looking forward to returning next year in order to do a bit more exploying. Carcassonne is not too far away and is a place that I have wanted to visit for years. I am also keen to travel over the border into Spain and take my husband to the Dali museum in Figueres (approx. 35 minute drive). My husband is equally keen to drive down to Barcelona for a day in order to show me the sights (2 hours drive).

Our verdict - what a great place for a relaxing week/weekend away!

P.S. Apologies for the poor photos. They were taken on my mobile phone, which I dropped a number of times whilst on holiday causing the camera to break!

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