Saturday, February 21, 2015

Weekends Away: les PBV of the Pyrenées Orientales - Castelnou

Last weekend the weather was going to be rubbish all over the country except in the Pyrenées Orientales so guess where we went for our weekend away...

It was still too cold for the motorbike, so we took the car and bombed down the motorway to Perpignan, then left it and took to the back roads in search of a place for lunch. I suggested we find somewhere near Plus Beau Village Castelnou. As it happens, there's the perfect spot for a picnic a couple of miles from the village which gives you a splendid view as you sit on the stone wall munching.
Perfect view from the picnic spot overlooking Castelnou
I had made us a super healthy salad with vinaigrette boosted with turmeric and cayenne, as requested, so together with the view, mind and body were in perfect harmony. :)

We arrived in the village in need of a coffee, and were delighted to find a little honey shop which did coffee just inside the main entrance. There was the most delectable smell of cooking pain d'épice so I bought one on off the shelf and asked the guy to cut off two slices for us to eat straight away. It was the most delicious pain d'épice I've ever tasted. It was difficult resisting the urge to eat the whole lot in one go.

Castelnou, mosaic gallery on the left
The main road up takes you past a mosaic gallery which had some beautiful, original pieces inside. I thought the zig-zag one hanging outside was rather nifty too.

Mosaic from gallery in Castelnou
At the top of the village is a castle which you have to pay to visit. We decided it would be worth a look, and it was. As it was out of season, the restaurant and snack bar were shut, so it was very peaceful. The castle has been restored, including an attempt at recreating a banqueting scene complete with piped music.

Banqueting scene - quite a riot, what?
There were some interesting panels of information on the walls, but on the whole it was not terribly kid-friendly if they're the sort (like mine) who want to have a hands-on experience. Not being kids with an attention span of less than ten seconds, we read the panels that told us about high society in the Middle Ages; food, drink, entertainment, and so on, and what the plebs endured. Elsewhere we read about the history of the castle and the family that owned it.

View of Castelnou roofs from the château
The previous owners of the castle had some right funny names. Just click on this genealogical tree for inspiration for your own family. Thinking I'll suggest Udalgar for the name of my first grandson and see how well it goes down, what do you think? Udder for short?

Lords of the manor family tree
 How about Ermessende for a girl? Funny how these names have fallen out of fashion, innit.
Pomegranate tree
Someone near me has a pomegranate tree and gave me some of the fruit. It was unfortunately so sour it was inedible and I threw it out before I got my brain into On mode and worked out whether I could make a syrup, or use it in cakes. I wonder how sweet the pomegranates are here.

This is a gite, owners on the eccentric side from the look of it, probably British

Imposing entrance to Castelnou
I remember coming to Castelnou in about 1990 when I was living in Perpignan with my then boyfriend (future ex-h). We had decided to have lunch at the Michelin starred restaurant with some friends. They were all interns, and it took them so long to extricate themselves from their departments that by the time we got to the restaurant it was too late and they refused to serve us. I was gutted, but have not held a grudge at all, indeed not...

From what I discovered on Trip Advisor, the restaurant D'Ici et d'Ailleurs is no longer what it was 25 years ago (who is?!).

There was an advert outside the walls for a visit of the Byrrh factory in Thuir. As we were staying in Thuir that night, it got us thinking.


  1. I had to google 'Pain d'epice' - sounds good! No to the names. And I was once invited to Lords Cricket Ground but turned it down for my BIL's 40th Birthday and don't bear a similar grudge *cough* Looks like an interesting time away :)

    1. Oh! You must have been gutted too. I hope the party was at least a good 'un! :)

  2. Looks a gorgeous place - those first two photos are especially good.
    What is it with reading panels in museums and historical places - we are just the same: if there are more than two sentences we glaze over.

    1. I forced myself to concentrate, and even took a photo of the first two as they contained the most interesting (for me) information on food, drink and entertainment. :)

  3. Finally catching up and enjoying your travels....the names delighted me and should certainly be revived!
    As long as the nicknames that went with them are as well...Bertha Bigfoot, Wilfrid the Hairy....

    1. Aren't they marvellous? :) I think many are Spanish in fact which is why they look extra foreign.

  4. Another amazing destination for a weekend trip. I love going off-season to be able to savour the atmosphere and architecture without the crowds.

    1. Oh yes, me too. The weather might not be as lovely, or the trees and flowers so pretty, but the tranquil visit makes up for it.


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