Chapelle saint laurent du montChapelle saint laurent du mont
©Chapelle saint laurent du mont|RNT - Stéphane Ferrer yulianti
Micro-adventure from Argelès-sur-MerCultural escapes

Micro-adventure from Argelès-sur-Mer: Cultural escapes

By choosing Argelès-sur-Mer as your holiday destination, you can easily travel to Argelès and beyond to discover some of the nuggets of our heritage and the unique history of this corner of France. A cultural micro-adventure in history, always under the sun, between sea and mountains.

The "Retirada"

A journey through Franco-Spanish history

In 1939, Argelès-sur-Mer became the first place of internment for Spanish resistance fighters fleeing Franco’s fascism. Nearly 450,000 Spaniards crossed the border into France. The French government chose the beach at Argelès-sur-Mer as the location for the internment camp, which would house 200,000 people. More than 80 years later, the town pays tribute to a key moment in its history. A few steps away from the Argelès-sur-Mer Camp Memorial, which can be visited to better understand this historical episode, the Marianne Gallery is hosting an exhibition of photos and drawings until 15 July: ¡ Ayuda! Swiss and Quaker aid at the Argelès camp (1939-1942). The exhibition features some thirty photographs by Mary Elmes and Elisabeth Eidenbenz, and 18 drawings by artists Ubaldo Izquierdo Carvajal and Josep Narro, interned at the camp. Less than 15 minutes drive north of Argelès-sur-Mer, these visits are completed by a stop in Elne at the Château d’En Bardou, the “Swiss Maternity Hospital”, a site transformed into a maternity hospital between 1939 and 1944 thanks to the Swiss Relief Service for Children of War Victims.

Romanesque & Gothic discoveries

This itinerary begins in the north of the territory, in the commune of Elne, to discover a jewel of the department’s religious heritage, the ancient episcopal city. Visible from the sea, the cathedral blends Romanesque and Gothic styles. Here you can visit the cloister of grey marble veined with blue, whose capitals evolve from the Romanesque of the Roussillon workshops of the 12th century to Gothic art. Classified as a Historic Monument, the site was the seat of the bishopric of Perpignan-Elne until 1602.Then, head for the mountains in the Argelès hinterland to discover a hidden nugget of local heritage. After 7 kilometres of winding roads, and a few minutes walk, we reach the chapel of Saint Laurent du Mont (Capella de Sant Llorenç-photo above). Built in stone, this small Romanesque church was built in the 12th century and served as a parish church for the inhabitants of the hills. End of the walk in the heart of the village of Argelès-sur-Mer, to visit the imposing Notre-Dame-Del-Prats church. Romanesque and mainly Gothic in style, the building is mentioned as early as 920 and underwent a reconstruction in the 14th century.

Castle life

From the Château de Valmy, a bed and breakfast and wine estate, you can easily go for a walk on the mountain side – in particular for the hike to the Tour de la Massane – or enjoy the park and visit the estate. Here you can also opt for a dinner facing the sea, with a view of the vineyards, at the Table de Valmy restaurant.

Further north in Canet-en-Roussillon, on the stony hillside of Esparrou, the eponymous Château is worth a visit. Involved in cultural life and associations, the place regularly hosts events and concerts and acts as an artists’ residence.

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