Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Rivesaltes and Maury
By Richard James
This Guide was last updated on 22 April 2010
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The old Catalan/Majorcan capital, split by the River Têt, has a condensed centre easy to explore on foot; the heart of its old town is found along and south of the Têt’s tributary, the much slimmer Basse. The 13th century Palais des Rois de Majorque and other interesting historical sites recall the region’s complex past, fought over by kings of Aragon and France following the eclipse of the Mediaeval Catalan kingdom. Part of the city centre, particularly alongside stretches of the river and into the old town, is car free; there are plenty of shops, bars and restaurants to stroll around or sit outside. Perpignan railway station, inexplicably cited by Salvador Dalí and numerous travel guides, is still undergoing a major overhaul to better accommodate the new high speed train line to Barcelona.
The real capital of Vin Doux Naturel country, Rivesaltes has an appealing old centre (ignore the more industrial outskirts) and makes a good stop-off for visiting the northern Roussillon area. Its large, tree-edged, petanque-playing square offers shaded benches, low-speed dusty strolling and wine tasting opportunities at the local wine cooperative's nearby shop.
Maury might seem like a small quiet village much of the time yet virtually overnight it has become the centre of the Roussillon wine universe, where you could spend a couple of days at least visiting the many different growers in and around town. You can’t miss Calvet-Thunevin’s showcase orange stone winery on the main road as you drive into town, which size-wise has now been eclipsed by Department 66’s new mega-cellar up the hill on the right (see Domaine Pertuisane’s entry under ‘Producers’). Park outside the cooperative shop and cellar 50 metres further on, which also makes a good starting point.
The last main town on the long road west to Font-Romeu and Andorra, where the landscape really starts to turn mountainous, it makes a good base for serious walkers, climbers and skiers.
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