Céret > Andorre-la-Vieille
07/11/2021 - Stage 15 - 191,5 km - Mountain
On the road
Population: 481,691 (2019)
Sub-prefectures: Céret, Prades
Surface area: 4 116 km2
Specialities: wines (Rivesaltes, Banyuls, muscats, Byrrh), veal, Catalan cream, cargolada (charcuterie), botifarres (black pudding), mel i mato (cottage cheese with honey).
Sports clubs: USAP Perpignan (rugby union), Dragons catalans (rugby league).
Competitions: Roussillon circuit (karting)
Tourist sites: Palace of the Kings of Majorca, Canigou peak, Saint Martin du Canigou abbey, Quéribus castle, Saint-Michel de Cuxa abbey, Céret modern art museum, Canalettes caves, Salses fortress, seaside tourism in Collioures, Argelès-sur-Mer.
Economy: agriculture, arboriculture, viticulture (Banyuls, Rivesaltes, muscat), tourism, electronics, mechanics, plastics.
Websites / FB / Twitter: www.pyrenees.fr, www.tourisme-pyreneesorientales.com/ @pyrenees_fr
The seat of an important seigniorial family, the Oms family, in the Middle Ages, Oms was also the scene of bitter fighting in 1794 during the wars of the French Revolution against the First Coalition (Roussillon War).
Construction: 12th century
Characteristics: externally, the Romanesque origins of the building are attested by the Romanesque apse, the fortified bell tower (reworked) and the Romanesque portal, with three arches. The church consists of a single nave of three bays (the last two bays flanked by side chapels on either side), ending in a semi-circular apse with a cul-de-four vault.
Classification: Historic monument since 1964
Prunet-et-Belpuig (Pop: 60)
Chapel of the Trinity
Construction: 9th to 13th century
Characteristics: the church has two naves of unequal width. The northern nave, which ends in a large semicircular apse, dates from the 11th century. At the end of the 12th century, a south aisle was added.
History: originally a parish church under the name of St. Peter de la Serra. In 953, a church was consecrated by the bishop Riculf II, bishop of Elne. Only the foundations remain from this construction. The present building dates from the 11th century and was extended in the 12th and 13th centuries. In the 17th century, the church was dedicated to the Trinity.
Special features: it houses one of the most beautiful Romanesque Christs in Catalonia. Probably dating from the 12th century, it was unfortunately damaged by an abusive "restoration" in the 18th century and was recently restored to a state closer to the original.
Classification: Historic monument since 1951.
Bouleternère (Pop: 950)
Irrigated by canals and planted with peach and nectarine trees, Bouleternère nestles in the hollow of the mountain, dominated by a rectangular keep, unique in the region and which has been dated to the Visigothic period. If the "modern" town was entirely devoted to farming outside the ramparts, "old Boule" is astonishing with its two 13th century towers, its high walls with their parapet walk, its three semicircular gates and their guardian virgins: ND del Congost (end of 13th century), ND d'Espérance (18th century), the prison, the square and the community well, the narrow streets and dead ends in which solid Catalan-type houses are clustered, cramped and all on top of each other, as well as the ancient fountain and its coat of arms.
You have to go up again to discover what makes this bastide so interesting and beautiful: its two churches and its keep. Beaten up by winds, those of nature and those of history, their solidity and permanence are impressive.
Vinça (Pop: 2,000)
Vinça is mainly known for its dam, whose artificial lake floods the valley below the town, but it is also full of remarkable heritage features. The historic centre is surrounded by the old city walls, of which only fragments remain, such as the Barri gate (1245) and the Marcevol gate (1330). There is also the Carmelite convent, the former Capuchin convent, which still contains two 18th-century tabernacles, six oratories and the chapel of San Sebastián. The church of Vinça houses a piece that is worth discovering: the organ. It was built by Cavallié-Coll, but its condition required a recent restoration. To the west of the town, along an arm of the artificial lake, is the Escoumes beach, a nautical base with restaurants, playgrounds and the possibility of pedal boats and canoes.
Vinça dam and lake
Characteristics: It is 55 m high, 191 m wide and required 142,000 tonnes of concrete. The Vinça dam has a water retention capacity of 25 million m3.
Special feature: although the dam cannot be visited, it is possible to cross it and see it up close, and also to go to the other side to take the paths that lead to the old Roman bridge of Rodès.
The lake: extends for about 5 km and its width in its central part varies between 150 and 1,200 metres. Its theoretical height is 246 metres. It is bordered to the north by the heights of Fenouillèdes and to the south by the foothills of the Canigou massif. In addition to the Têt, it is enriched by the waters of the Lentillà.
Prades (Pop: 6,000)
This ancient fortified city, founded in the 9th century, is today the main town in the western Pyrenees-Orientales. The town was in the news when its mayor, Jean Castex, was appointed Prime Minister in July 2020. The town of Confrèze is rich in monuments in the streets and alleys of its centre, such as decorated facades, sculpted fountains, oratories and old washhouses, witnesses of the bourgeois prosperity of the previous centuries. The picturesque 15th-century timber-framed Jacomet House is particularly noteworthy.
In 1950, Pablo Casals created the music festival in Prades -which now bears his name- in which he participated until 1966, and which allowed for musical encounters that have become legendary between the greatest instrumentalists of the time. In 1959, under the aegis of René Clair and Pablo Casals, Honorary President, the International Film Festival of Prades was created, which takes place every summer during the third week of July.
Saint Peter's Church in Prades
Construction: 12th century, then 17th and 18th centuries
Styles: Romanesque and Gothic
Characteristics: 43-m long, 13-m wide and 17-m high. On the south side stands the 12th century Romanesque bell tower, about 30-m high.
History: the oldest parts of the building date back to the 12th century, although the church dates back at least to the 11th century, when it belonged to the Abbey of Lagrasse. The increase in population made the building too small: work began in 1606 and was completed around 1749. The western façade was decorated with a series of arches from the cloister of the nearby abbey of Saint-Michel de Cuxa.
Special feature: the monumental altarpiece of Saint-Pierre was sculpted by Catalan Joseph Sunyer and was completed in 1699; it is considered to be one of the largest in France. It is listed as a historical monument, as are some twenty other items of furniture.
Classification: Historical monument since 1948
Villefranche-de-Conflent (Pop: 210)
Labelled one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France, Villefranche-de-Conflent is also a medieval town fortified by Vauban, three of whose sites are listed as Unesco World Heritage sites. This former merchant town has kept some very beautiful traces of its status as a defensive site.
Not to be missed: the ramparts and the Viguerie tower, built by the Count of Cerdanya in the 11th century, then reinforced by Vauban's fortifications in the 17th century, and Fort Libéria, listed as a Unesco World Heritage site, as well as the stalls and houses of notables and rich merchants, the Romanesque church of Saint-Jacques and its rich furnishings. Nearby, you can also visit the caves with concretions of the Petites and Grandes Canalettes or the Cova Bastera cave, also listed as World Heritage under the Vauban network.
History: It was built by Vauban after the division of Catalonia between France and Spain by the Treaty of the Pyrenees, from 1681. Vauban considered that the stronghold of Villefranche-de-Conflent was too easy to take and should therefore be reinforced by a fort on its heights. It is linked to the city of Villefranche by an underground staircase of 734 steps built between 1850 and 1853 on the decision of Napoleon III. It dominates the village from a height of about 150 metres.
Special feature: Fort Liberia was the setting for André Hunebelle's film Le Bossu in 1959, starring Bourvil and Jean Marais.
Classification: Historical monument since 2009 / Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (2008).
The Yellow Train
A symbol of the Catalan region, proudly bearing its blood and gold colours, the Yellow Train, also known as "the Canary", links Villefranche-de-Conflent to Latour-de-Carol. Initially built to open up the Catalan highlands, it now offers a unique experience to travellers who use it to discover the Conflent, the Cerdagne and the territory of the Catalan Pyrenees Regional Natural Park. From station to station, you can discover the Têt valley, the mountainous landscapes, the Cerdan highlands, as well as exceptional cultural sites and natural areas ideal for hiking. The train carries more than 400,000 people every year.
Village of Evol
Attached to the commune of Olette, Evol is a medieval hamlet with shale walls and roofing stones where it is pleasant to walk in the shelter of the 13th century feudal castle and the church of Saint-André. Evol is one of the four Most Beautiful Villages in France in the Pyrénées-Orientales department. The old village school has been transformed into an exhibition room dedicated in part to the writer Ludovic Massé, who was born in the village in 1900, and to a small museum of farming tools from the beginning of the century. Its bread ovens protruding from the walls still bear witness to the rural life of the beginning of the century. It is this ensemble that contributed to Evol's classification as one of the most beautiful villages in France in 2003.
Nyer (Pop: 150)
The village of Nyer, nestled around its Romanesque church dedicated to Saint James, has two castles. The castle of the Barons of Nyer was located 2 km from the village, along the deep river whose banks bordered the wall. The fortified enclosure, 10-m square, was flanked to the north-east by a square tower, the foundations of which housed a small underground church, Notre Dame de Laroque. This castle was the residence of the Barons of Nyer throughout the 16th century. It was the original castle, now ruined.
At the end of the 15th century a second castle was built, which can be seen overlooking the village. It is the work of Jean de Banyuls, and its style is inspired by the Renaissance.
Sauto (Pop: 90)
Built: 1905 to 1908 to plans by the engineer commander Albert Gisclard.
253 m long, 156 m span, 62 m high. Located between the Sauto stopover and the Planès station, on the Cerdagne line that links Villefranche-de-Conflent to Latour-de-Carol.
A special feature: it is the only railway suspension bridge still in use in France. Albert Gisclard died on 31 October 1909 in a railway accident during load tests, which cost the lives of five other people. The bridge was named after its designer. The stele in honour of Albert Gisclard is also listed.
Classification: listed as a historic monument in 1995.
Mont-Louis (Pop: 150)
Although Mont-Louis is the highest fortified village in France, it is also very original, as it is one of the nine towns created from scratch by Vauban (six of which are in France), and certainly the best preserved, both from an architectural point of view and in its original vocation as a military place.
The commune of Mont-Louis is a member of the network of major Vauban sites. The ramparts of Mont-Louis were classified as historical monuments in 1922. The fortifications of Mont-Louis are part of the sites classified as world heritage by UNESCO in 2008.
On its promontory, the Citadel is the defensive element of the stronghold of Mont-Louis. Since its creation in 1679, it has had a military vocation, with 2,500 soldiers. Since 1964, it has housed the National Commando Training Centre. From now on, access to the fortress is regulated: one can only enter it accompanied by guides, during exclusive visits organised by the Tourist Information Point.
Located in the lower part, under the citadel, the town, or civil part, was initially planned by Vauban to accommodate merchants, burghers, craftsmen, tradesmen and a barracks. The city's defences (ramparts, bastions and half-moons) were built at the same time as the citadel. Like its military neighbour, the town is surrounded by ramparts and flanked by three bastions: the bastion of the Perche, the bastion of Saint-Pierre (renamed bastion Gilles) and the bastion of the Têt.
This system of military fortification meant that the city of Mont-Louis was never besieged. The only real threat was a battle at the Col de la Perche, 3km from the town, in 1793 and the only Spanish attempt was repulsed before the assault could be made.
Puits des Forçats (Convicts Well)
At the "puits des Forçats" inside the citadel, the main interest lies in the discovery of a unique architectural element, the wheel of the great well. Made up of an enormous squirrel cage (once operated by a man), it supplied the citadel with water: only three original models are preserved in France, the second being in Besançon and the third in the abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel.
La Cabanasse (Pop: 680)
It was in this village of less than 700 souls that Camille Lacourt, five-time world champion in backstroke swimming between 2011 and 2017, learned to swim.
Font-Romeu-Odeillo-Via (Pop: 1,900)
The tourist and health vocation of the commune began in the early 1900s. The first tourist facilities, chalets, hotels and sanatoriums were built (the Balcon de Cerdagne was inaugurated in 1924), then the ski lifts appeared in 1937.
The Olympic site, created for the preparation of the French team for the Mexico Games in 1968, was inaugurated in 1967, near the centre of the village, and became the National High Altitude Training Centre. Many national and international teams continue to use the centre for their preparations for major events. Mo Farah, double Olympic champion in the 5,000m and 10,000m in 2012, and biathlete Martin Fourcade, who spent his entire school career there, are among the recent champions to have trained there. Font Romeu has also been used as a preparation camp for the Tour de France by several teams, most recently by Total Direct Énergie for the 2020 edition.
Font-Romeu has twice hosted the Tour de France for stage starts in 1968 (Roger Pingeon's victory in Albi) and 1976 (Willy Teirlinck's victory in Saint-Gaudens).
Porta (Pop: 115)
Castle of Carol
Construction: 12th and 13th centuries
Style: fortified castle
Characteristics: Built on a sheer rock. Only two quadrangular towers, known as the Carol towers, with loopholes and battlements on the top, and the remains of the enclosure with a semicircular gateway, remain.
History: The castle belonged to King James III of Majorca and had to submit to Peter IV of Aragon in 1344 after he went to war against the King of Majorca.
After the Treaty of Olite signed on 12 April 1462 between John II of Aragon and Louis XI, the latter had the counties of Roussillon and Cerdanya occupied. The French occupied the castle in 1463. After the treaty of Narbonne or Barcelona, in 1493, these two counties were returned to Ferdinand II of Aragon. The castle was demolished by the French after the Treaty of the Pyrenees, which attached Roussillon to the kingdom of France.
Classification: Historical monument since 1927
PRINCIPALITY OF ANDORRA
Population: 77,142 inhabitants
Surface area: 468 km2
Specialities: Trinxat de muntanya (potato and green cabbage omelette with bacon), river trout, escudella (soup with pork, pasta and vegetables), cold meats (donja, bringuera, bull, bisbe), beef, grilled meat
Sports clubs: MoraBanc Andorra (basketball), Fútbol Club Andorra (football), ACA (Associació Ciclista Andorra), Purito Rodriguez Sprint-Club school (cycling), Andorra Hoquei Club (hockey), VPC Andorra (rugby)
Competitions: Mountain Skiing World Cup (Arcalís, January 2016), Freeride World Tour (skiing and snowboarding), Women's Alpine Skiing World Cup, Speed Skiing World Cup, Trials World Cup, Andorra Ultra Trail, Andorra Outdoor Games, "La Purito" cycling tour, Andros Trophy
Festivals: Temporada de Música i Dansa (January-May), Andorra Sax Fest (March-April), Jambo Street Music (June), Scalada Vision by Cirque du Soleil (July)
Economy: tourism, commerce, banking and agriculture
Websites / FB / Twitter: www.visitandorra.com / www.facebook.com/andorraworld /
twitter.com/andorraworld_ad / instagram.com/andorraworld/ / https://www.youtube.com/andorraworld / https://www.pinterest.com/andorraworld/
Nestled between France and Spain, Andorra is a small country of 468 km2 with a rich natural heritage: 65 peaks of over 2,500 metres in altitude and more than 60 lakes in its territory make the Principality a true paradise for mountain lovers.
In winter as well as in summer, the tourist offer is inexhaustible: 303 kilometres of ski slopes, the Caldea-Inúu thermal centre, more than 1,200 commercial establishments, 440 restaurants and extensive hiking routes with two natural parks (Sorteny and Comapedrosa) and the Madriu Valley, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2004.
PAS DE LA CASA
Tourist resort in the parish of Encamp in Andorra
Specialities: Escudella (pot au feu), trinxat (cabbage, potatoes and bacon), mountain meats, Andorran-style river trout, cold meats, cheeses, wines and craft beers.
Personalities: Albert Llovera (rally driver), Vicky Jimenez (tennis), Mònica Dòria (kayaking).
Culture: Museu etnogràfic Casa Cristo, Museu Art Sacre, Museu Nacional de l'Automòbil, Museu de l'Electricitat d'Andorra.
Sport: cycling, skiing, Andros Trophy and G Series (ice driving), Pas de la Case motor racing circuit, ranked the highest in the world.
Economy: tourism, skiing in Grandvalira, shopping
Websites: www.comuencamp.ad; www.visitandorra.com
Port d'Envalira (2,408 m)
The Port d'Envalira, the highest pass in the Pyrenees (2,409 m), which the Tour de France will ride for the 10th time during the previous stage between Céret and Andorra la Vella. The greatest climbers in the history of the Tour (Federico Bahamontes in 1964 or Richard Virenque twice in 1997), reached it in the lead. The legend of Port d'Envalira began in 1964 when Jacques Anquetil, badly recovered from a mechoui/sangria the day before, was dropped by Poulidor and Bahamontes. Reassured by a bottle of champagne handed to him by his sporting director Raphaël Geminiani, Master Jacques came back on the descent to finally win the Tour. The pass has also been on the Vuelta programme twice. Pas de la Casa is located in the parish of Encamp, about 30 kilometres from the Alto els Cortals d'Encamp where, in 2019, Tadej Pogacar made his mark by winning the first stage of the Vuelta ahead of Nairo Quintana and Primoz Roglic.
Canillo (Pop: 4,830)
Like the rest of Andorra, notable for its Romanesque heritage and especially the church of Sant Joan de Caselles or the sanctuary of Our Lady of Meritxell. The parish is home to the Soldeu ski resort, which hosts women's alpine skiing World Cup races.
Encamp (Pop: 13,500)
In the heart of Andorra, Encamp is home to the National Automobile Museum, but its Santa Eulalia church and the church of San Roman de Les Bons are also worth a visit. It was in Cortals d'Encamp that Fabio Aru took the red jersey of the 2015 Vuelta before winning the final classification.
Beixalis Pass (1,795 m)
From Encamp, the climb is 6.6 km long with a positive difference in altitude of 556 m and an average gradient of 8.4%. The steepest gradients exceed 10%, with a maximum gradient of 16% at the village of Vila. In the 2016 Tour de France, Thibaut Pinot led the way. The Vuelta has also used this pass twice in 2015 (Omar Fraile) and 2018 (Bauke Mollema).
La Massana (Pop: 9,750)
La Massana has two ski resorts (Pal and Arinsal), the best bike park in the Pyrenees and spectacular natural landscapes such as the Comapedrosa Natural Park (the highest peak in Andorra). In winter, there is plenty of snow sports and activities; in summer, there is mountain biking, hiking and horse riding. Also worth seeing are the Romanesque churches, the Andorra Romànica interpretation centre, the Casa Rull ethnographic museum, the Farga Rossell and the comic book museum.
Casa Rull Museum
The Casa Rull Museum is housed in a 17th-century building that was one of the most important houses in the parish of La Massana. Its main structure dates back to the 17th century, but modifications were made at different times. In the 19th century, the house suffered a fire that destroyed the attic area, which has been renovated. A visit to the Casa Rull Museum allows us to discover life in Andorra at the end of the 19th century, observing the lifestyle of the Perich family.
Escaldes-Engordany (Pop: 14,000)
Already the start of a Vuelta stage four times between 2008 and 2018 (last winner Enric Mas in Collada de la Galina) also served as the launch pad for a stage of the 2016 Tour de France, which saw Michael Matthews win in Revel.
The Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley, a Unesco World Heritage Site, is the last region in Andorra without a road. A landscape of jagged mountains, glaciers, alpine pastures and wooded valleys, it reflects the changes in climate and living conditions as well as the permanence of pastoralism and a strong mountain culture, illustrated by a land management system dating back to the 13th century.
Escaldes-Engordany Art Centre (CAEE)
It houses the museum dedicated to the sculptor Josep Viladomat and a collection of models of Romanesque art in Andorra. Housed in an original building from the 1930s.
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