Set in the old part of town and recently converted, the property is welcoming and comfortable - described by several previous guests as "home from home" - just five minutes' walk from the centre of town yet very tranquil and private. The 108sq.m. flat boasts its own large private, sunny and very pretty terrace, fully furnished and ideally equipped for the self-caterer (including bbq) yet minutes' walk from several restaurants. It offers every modern comfort and amenity including secure wifi, a small reading library, maps of the local area and a small DVD library. Winter visitors will welcome the wood-burning stove and fireplace (initial supply of wood provided) for cosy evenings. Adult bicycles are provided together wth safety helmets and coolbags for picnics (plus non-breakable wine glasses!).
There are regular buses and trains into Perpignan (with fares costing just €1-2!) giving easy and quick access to the coast, the mountains and Spain - with or without bicycles!
The apartment is one of two in the property which are totally independent from each other: all they share is a front door into the main building - as well as the parking space outside the house, use of which can be negotiated should both properties be booked at the same time. The same is true re use of the bicycles. Thereafter they have their own lockable entrance doors. PLEASE NOTE: the top flat is a maisonette and occupies the first and second floors of the whole building . The bottom, smaller, apartment, occupies only the ground / basement floor.
The flat offers the following facilities:
- Welcome File containing essential information about the property and lots of information about places to visit and things to do
- TV and DVD
- unlimited wifi
- docking station for MP3 etc players
- CD/radio player
- electric cooker and oven
- electric toaster
- washing machine
- fridge freezer
- iron and ironing board
- hair dryer
- picnic cool bag with ice blocks
- electric fans
- wall-mounted electric radiators (for winter use)
- garden furniture (with cushions)
- private sunny terrace
- bath with powerful overhead shower
- separate toilet
- adult bicycles with cycle helmets and high visibility jackets
- garage parking for one medium-sized car (bookable according to availability on a first-come, first-served basis)
- beach towels and mats
- reading and dvd library
- selection of games (scrabble, playing cards etc)
- maps of the area
If you're looking to explore this southern Languedoc Roussillon region of France with its attractive mixture of Mediterranean climate and French and Catalan heritage, miles of sandy beaches and snow-topped mountains, then the small town of Le Soler makes for the ideal location - with regular flights coming in to nearby Perpignan from London Stansted, Birmingham, Southampton, and Paris airports. Just 6km from Le Soler is the university city of Perpignan, capital of the Pyrenees Orientales department, and the last French city before the Spanish border - and an hour and a half's motorway drive to Barcelona and just 80 minutes by high speed TGV train.
Perpignan is a vibrant and youthful city famous for its lively cultural life (including the annual 'VISA pour l'image' international photojournalism festival and a plethora of great tapas bars, cafes, restaurants and bistros where time can be effortlessly whiled away over endless cups of coffee or glasses of Rousillon wine. There is great shopping to be had in the narrow maze of streets in the old Saint Jean district, where you will find designer boutiques as well as more familiar global brands.
A stroll eastwards along the La Basse canal leads to a tree-lined park along the Allées Maillol where you'll find one of the many examples of work by local artist Maillol, inspired by the city and the region.
Perpignan dates from as far back as 927 AD, and there are many architectural and historic sites worth visiting around the city including: the iconic Castillet tower – former gateway to the city and now serving as a museum and gallery; the vast 16th Century Couvent des Minimes monastery; the Cathedrale Saint-Jean; the Campo Santo cloisters (housing the oldest cemetery of its kind in France), and of course the gothic Palais des Rois de Majorque from where the visitor is afforded a great view across the city.
For those who want a bit of sporting action, then Perpignan is, of course, the place to catch a bit of rugby – this local passion is represented by the Catalan Dragons (rugby league) and the Union Sportive Arlequins Perpignan or USAP (rugby union), both teams playing at the Stade Aime Giral.
Getting away from city life isn't too difficult in the Pyrenees Orientales department. Whilst Perpignan is the economic and cultural centre of the department, it is a relatively small city and within 8 minutes' drive to the west lies the small Catalan town of Le Soler, with its tennis and basketball courts, fishing lake, parks, small observatory and popular cafes. Just a short 20 minutes drive to the east you will find yourself by the blue Mediterranean Sea with its miles of sandy beaches at Canet-Plage.
The resort at Canet is somewhat over-developed and not to everyone's taste, but like most of the coastline here it carries a Blue Flag and is an ideal spot for trying out watersports of all kinds. Both north and south of Canet are pretty inland lagoons, perfect for bird-watching or learning about the local trades of salt making and oyster farming - and a great place to take the bikes!
If wine-tasting is more your thing, then 10 minutes' drive to the west of Le Soler is the small town of Thuir (pronounced tweer), where you can visit the winery where the famous local aperitif Byrrh (pronounced beer) is still produced, along with other wine-based drinks such as Cinzano and Dubonet. If local markets are of interest, then don't miss Thuir's vibrant all-day Saturday market (though the one in Le Soler is also very attractive).
The Roussillon region (the old name for the Pyrenees Orientales) is one of the most prolific wine-producing departments in the Languedoc Roussillon and within an hour's drive in almost any direction you will come across towns which have their own distinct wine product and history. To the north of Perpignan and Le Soler (and technically in the Aude department) is the Fitou region which was one of the first to be awarded its own “appellation” back in 1948; to the west is the Agly River valley and the town of Maury, which produces a delicious sweet wine rather like Port; to the south there is the coastal town of Banyuls-sur-Mer where the golden coloured Banyuls sweet wine is made .
Banyuls-sur-Mer is a must for the diving and snorkling enthusiast as this is one of the access points for the Reserve Marine – a protected marine environment, home to an exciting variety of fish, which stretches around the rocky coastline of the Côte Vermeille all the way to Cebère, the last French town before Spain.
The Côte Vermeille very much represents the typical French coastal scene: between rocky outcrops lie intermittent quiet bays lined with pretty sea-side towns, in particular the delightful and rather romantic Collioure. A top spot for art lovers (esp. of Fauvism), this town was once host to the likes of Matisse and Derain and now houses many galleries selling local contemporary art.
Further to the south-west of Perpignan and Le Soler is the other arty hotspot – the very pretty town of Ceret, where none other than Picasso once lived, who along with other celebrated names helped form the Modern Art Museum of Ceret. This Museum hosts an important permanent collection featuring work from Chagall, Miro, Matisse and of course Picasso as well as regular visiting exhibitions. Further up into the mountains from Ceret is the thermal spa town of Amelie-les-Bains where you can relax away all your aches and pains in the hot thermal spings.
Exploration to the west of Perpignan and Le Soler, and into the wild countryside under the emblematic presence of Mount Canigou (a spiritual symbol for Catalans), will lead you to discover medieval fortified villages such as Castelnou and Villefranche-de-Conflent which testify to the violent past associated with this region. For nature enthusiasts there are gorges, caves, and the strange rock formations called les Orgues to explore. To the north-west, heading into the Aude, there is the Tautavel Museum (with informative exhibitions describing the lives of prehistoric cave dwellers) and the important Cathar fortresses of Peyrepertuse and Queribus.
Other places of interest include:
Prades (Catalan Prada de Conflent) (20 mins' drive way) - site of the Catalan Summer University (Universitat Catalana d'Estiu).
Banyuls-sur-Mer (Catalan Banyuls de la Marenda) (90 mins' drive away) famous for its Grenache-based Banyuls wine, birth place of Aristide Maillol, and home to an extensive protected maritime reserve offering excellent diving and snorkelling opportunities.
Prats de Molló (90 mins' drive away) - important defensive castle of the 17th century facing south to the Pyrenees.
Salses (25 min' drive away) - important defensive castle of the 16th century, on the ancient frontier with Spain.
Les Angles (an hour's drive away) - popular destination for skiers in the winter and for hikers in the summer
Thuir (10 mins' drive away) - fascinating home to the factory producing famous aperitifs such as Dubonnet, Martini and Byrrh and boasting a railway siding designed by Eiffel himself!