Perpignan, France Hotels, Resorts & Hotel Accommodations

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PERPIGNAN
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Perpignan is a commune and the préfecture (administrative capital city) of the Pyrénées-Orientales département in southern France. Perpignan was the capital of the former province and county of Roussillon (Rosselló in Catalan). Population (2004) : 116,700 (Perpignanais) in the city proper. The metropolitan area had a total population of 249,016 in 1999 and more than 300,000 inhabitants today. read full wikipedia reference about Perpignan, France

This far south, climate and geography alone would ensure a palpable Spanish influence. But more than this, a good part of PERPIGNAN 's population is of Spanish origin - refugees from the Civil War and their descendants. The southern influence is further augmented by a substantial admixture of North Africans, including both Arabs and white French settlers repatriated after Algerian independence in 1962.

While there are few memorable monuments to visit, Perpignan is a pleasant city with a lively street life. Its heyday was in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, when the kings of Majorca held their court here, and it is from this period that most of its historical interest derives. Well placed on the main Mediterranean coast international lines of communication, it is much the best base for exploring the eastern end of the Pyrenees, and the Cathar castles of the Corbières .

The best place to begin your exploration of Perpignan is at Le Castillet , built as a gateway in the fourteenth century and now home to the Casa Pairal (daily except Tues: mid-June to mid-Sept 9.30am-7pm; rest of year 9am-6pm), an interesting museum of Roussillon's Catalan folk culture, featuring religious art, agricultural and pastoral exposés, and all sorts of local crafts. From the roof there is a great view of the dominant pile of Canigou, while to the northwest you may be able to pick out the Château de Quéribus , standing clear of its ridge. A short distance down rue Louis-Blanc you come to the place de la Loge , focus of the renovated and pedestrianized heart of the old town. Dominating the cafés and brasseries of the narrow square is Perpignan's most interesting building, the Gothic Loge de Mer . Designed to hold the city's stock exchange and maritime court, and decorated with gargoyles and lacy balustrades, its ground floor has been taken over by an incongruous fast-food joint. Side by side next door are the Hôtel de Ville , with its magnificent wrought-iron gates and Maillol's statue of La Méditerranée in the courtyard, and the fifteenth-century Palais de la Députation , once the parliament of Roussillon.

From place de la Loge, rue St-Jean runs down to the fourteenth-century Cathédrale St-Jean on place Gambetta (Mon & Wed-Sat 10am-noon & 2-5pm, Tues & Sun 2-5pm), its external walls built of bands of river stones sandwiched by brick. The interior is most interesting for its elaborate Catalan altarpieces, shadowy in the gloom of the dimly lit nave, and for the tortured wooden crucifix, known as the Dévôt Christ , in a side chapel to the south. Dating from around 1400, it's of Rhenish origin and was probably brought back from the Low Countries by a travelling merchant. Past the chapel, on the left is the entrance to the Campo Santo , one of France's oldest cemeteries, dating back some 600 years (same hours as cathedral).

From the cathedral, rue de la Révolution-Française and rue de l'Anguille lead into the close, dilapidated maze of the Arab and Romany quarter , where women congregate on the secluded inner lanes but are seldom seen on the more public thoroughfares. Here there are North African shops and cafés, especially on rue Lucia, and a daily market on place Cassanyes . At the heart of the quarter, the wide and grimy place du Puig is overlooked by a Vauban barracks converted into public housing. Just past it, at the top of a shady uphill street, is the elegant Catalan church of St-Jacques , dating from around 1200, on the edge of La Miranda gardens (July & Aug 8am-noon & 2.30-6.30pm; rest of year 8am-noon & 2.30-5.30pm), laid out on a section of the old city walls. It is from this church that the Procession de la Sanch sets out on Maundy (Holy) Thursday.

A twenty-minute walk away through place des Esplanades, crowning the hill that dominates the southern part of the old town, is the Palais des Rois de Majorque (daily: June-Sept 10am-6pm; rest of year 9am-5pm). Although Vauban's walls surround it now, the two-storey palace and its great arcaded courtyard date originally from the late thirteenth century. Thanks to the Spanish-Moorish influence, there's a sophistication and finesse about the architecture and detailing - for instance in the beautiful marble porch to the lower of the two chapels - that you don't often find in the heavier styles of the north.

Finally, at 16 rue de l'Ange near place Arago, you'll find Perpignan's museum of art, the Musée Rigaud (Wed-Sun noon-7pm), dedicated to the work of the locally born portraitist Hyacinthe Rigaud, who became official painter to the court of Versailles in the early eighteenth century. The collection also includes works by Dufy, Maillol, Picasso, Tapiès, Appel and others.

  

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