FrenchCatalanHoliday

Finestret and nearby activities

Finestret is sheltered by the ridge of hills from the main valley, which provides good road and rail links from Perpignan and the coast, via Prades, to the ski resort of Font-Romeu and further into the Pyrenees. Both sea and mountains are within 45 minutes drive.

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ORCHARDS & VINEYARDS: The main valley contains vineyards, but is also well known for its fruit - and the autumn colours are magnificent. The region's wines are excellent - from the Muscat and Banyuls apéritif/pudding wines to some fine local reds and rosés.

THE LITTLE YELLOW TRAIN & SKIING: One highlight close by is the medieval fortified town of Villefranche-en-Conflent, and its grottes (cave complexes) with spectacular stalactites and stalagmites. From Villefranche you can take the Petit Train Jaune (Little Yellow Train) which winds up into the Pyrenees at a leisurely pace, dropping walkers in picturesque villages or skiers higher up in the ski resorts. Mont Louis is another fine fortified town on the train route. The ski resorts are from about 50 minutes' drive away from the house.

BEACHES, THE COAST, CASTLES AND SPAIN: Languedoc-Roussillon offers not only wide, sandy beaches and mountains, but also the stunning Cathar castles and vineyards of the Corbières hills, within an hour's drive to the north. The region is dotted with Cathar castles, museums, vineyards and orchards, churches and monasteries, and feels truly Catalan.

Towards the coast, you can reach Perpignan, capital of Roussillon, in 30 minutes, and the Mediterranean within 45 minutes. Head south to the little fishing towns and beaches of the Côte Vermeille - Collioure is a beautiful old small town with fortified harbour and château, and Le Racou is a pretty seaside village with a good sandy beach.

The Spanish coast (the Costa Brava) with its little coves and villages is a little further. The border is reached within an hour, and the beautiful towns of Cadaques and Figueres beyond. Barcelona itself is only a couple of hours' motorway drive away.

Location
Finestret is 4 km from the village of Vinça, with its fresh water swimming lake and beach, and cafes, restaurants, shops, bank and pharmacy. The small town of Prades, home to the renowned Pablo Casals music festival is 10 km away, with weekly markets, supermarkets and other facilities. 5 km further on is the medieval fortified town of Villefranche, from where the Petit Train Jaune offers you a spectacular open top service to the mountains and ski resorts around Font Romeu.

The light has attracted many painters – the Fauvists, Picasso, Dali – and their work can be found in the museums and galleries. Alternatively, simply enjoy the excellent local wines and fruits, and regional cuisine.

Activities nearby
You can walk or cycle from the village, reaching Mont Canigou on foot or by 4x4. The area as a whole also offers skiing, swimming, tennis, canyoning, and canoeing. There is an adventure park on the river Tet in the nearby village of Marquixanes - ideal for children and adults - where you can cross the river by high wire, or take rubber tyre boats on the river itself.

The Star boulanger - you pass on the way to the house

Every region of France has its star boulanger. In the Pyrénées Orientales to the west of Perpignan, Henri Poch is the local hero. Working in his Boulangerie du Couvent, a former convent just off the RN116 main road leading from Perpignan to the Pyrenees, he produces bread and patisserie which people drive from miles around to enjoy. His offerings include the Catalan specialities coques catalanes sucrées ou salées (rousquilles, tourtau à l’anis, croquinyols, petits feuillets garnis, pa de la San Jordi).

Read more in this local blog: http://www.gillespudlowski.com/54750/produits/perpignanille-sur-tet-les-pains-dhenri

Boulangerie du Couvent, 100, route Nationale, 66130 Ille-sur-Têt

Tél. +33 (0)4 68 84 15 65


WINES

Languedoc-Roussillon benefits from over 300 days of sunshine per year, and has been France's volume wine producer for years. Its wines have been steadily improving in recent years as new wine producers and techniques have entered the region. Here are some favourites:

sieurdarques.com - some great Methode Champenoise sparkling wines (Aimery is found in Prades' local supermarkets and very drinkable and good value, but many more are available). The Methode Champenoise was actually developed here - earlier than in Champagne - by monks, in 1531 (the name of some of the wine). Limoux Chardonnays are also excellent. Limoux (south of Carcassonne) is about 1.5 hours' drive from Finestret.

terrassous.com - produces some excellent whites, roses and reds: L'Original is a wise choice as an everyday wine of any colour. Terrassous wines include Muscat, the naturally sweet white drunk locally as an aperitif, but can equally be consumed as a digestif. The Ambre version is more golden and slightly less sweet. Terrats, south of Thuir, is about 35 minutes' drive from Finestret.

terresdestempliers.fr - particularly known for its sweet reds, drunk as aperitifs or digestifs, the grands vins of Banyuls and Collioure also include excellent reds, and some rose and white. Banyuls is about 60 minutes' drive from Finestret, Collioure slightly closer.

vigneronsdemaury.com - less well known than Banyuls, but worth mentioning also are the vineyards around Maury, in the Agly valley north of Finestret's main Tet valley. Maury produces a notable sweet red, but also variations on Muscat, including the Ambre version and an even darker Tuile. Also some good reds, and rose and white.

The region is dotted with vignerons, and the better wines are found to the north and east of Finestret, in other directions becoming more mountainous and/or better suited to fruit production or other agriculture. (Sadly competition from Spain and elsewhere means the fruit producers are diminishing, overall.) The Muscat de Rivesaltes sweet wines are well known. Local rose is slightly darker in colour than rose from other parts of France, but much drunk in the hot summer months.

Most of the wines can be seen and ordered online, and there is even one home tasting service (in France of course). Delivery costs tend not to be very favourable, though, and visiting and tasting on site is much more fun...


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