Salvador Dali (1904 – 1989) once claimed that Perpignan Railway Station was the “Centre of the Universe, because its waiting room is where he got all his best ideas.”

St Joan de les Abadesses is probably not a town one would choose for a holiday break. Quite unprepossessing, and other than the monastery at its centre, there isn’t much to detain the traveller here. But the monastery was what we’d come to see, so we parked up and walked over the gorgeous 15th century Pont Vall, the old bridge over the Ter into the town. It was a promising start — the sun was shining and the river was lined with allotments and willow trees.

Founded in 1177 by King Alfonso I of Aragon, Count of Barcelona, Puigcerdà, meaning “Cerdanyan hill” in Catalan, replaced Hix (now a village in the French part of Cerdagne) as the capital of Cerdanya in 1178.

Flying from Girona airport with a few hours to kill? Empúries, (coming from the Greek “Emporion” meaning market place or shopping centre) lies midway between the Costa Brava town of L’Escala and the tiny village…