by Madeleine McMullin
After a long break due mainly to rain every time we tried to organise one, we finally did the latest in my occasional series of walks with lunch last Sunday.
This is slightly more challenging than the last amble near to Maçanet de Cabrenys but shouldn’t prove too difficult for most people.
The walk starts from Palalda, the older, smaller and sunnier of the two villages that make up the commune of Amélie Les Bains Palalda. It is similar to Eus in that it is set on a hillside on the north side of the valley and bathed in sunshine all day, but much less commercialised. It does have a bar, a postal museum which also sells crafts, and one or two artists/craftspeople. All of which may or may not be open depending on the day and time of year. On summer Fridays, it has a small night market with a traditional bread oven baking delicious bread and pizzas, the seafood man selling fresh oysters, prawns and mussels and the bar puts on a paella or similar dish. All of the locals turn out as well as a lot of Amélie and the atmostphere is lovely. If you have time before or after your walk, it’s worth a wander around the village – its streets are decked in flowers grown by the people that live there.
Park in one of the car parks on the D618 and find the track marked with a yellow and red waymarker that leads up to the left of the road as you come from Amélie between the bus stop and the church on the opposite side. After a short while you will see a yellow signpost pointing up a path to Montbolo. Take it.
The path climbs fairly steeply through the woods but after about 15 – 20 minutes you will come out onto a meadow. Here a yellow sign points to the left to Montbolo again. Follow it and skirt the bottom of the meadow then continue back into the woods.
After about 20 minutes you will come to a junction. Turn left towards the Al Sola convalescent home. You will be taken up the right side of the building and then turn right up some steps. Ahead of you, you will see an electricity substation across a drive to a farmhouse. Climb up beside it, and stop to admire the goldfish in the water tank beside it. Then continue up and across the road and back into the woods again.
After about 5 minutes you will come to where a path heads down to the left. As the signpost says, this leads down to Amélie. Don’t take it but carry on straight ahead. You will come to the road again and get your first glimpse of Montbolo up and to the left. Continue up the path opposite and after 10 – 15 minutes you will come out in Montbolo itself.
This beautiful little village has stunning views across the plain to the sea and round to the mountains on the Spanish border. It is always extremely well-manicured with lawned slopes rising up beside the church and a garden with a display of local rocks behind it.
The Point d’Art is a bistro de pays which is run by a local lady and her English husband who is the chef. It is advisable to book especially off season as they are small and likely to be booked up.
The set menu is €19.50 for 3 courses and 2 of our party of 7 opted for that. I went for the à la carte and chose smoked salmon and asparagus tartlet which I shared with my other half, who gave me half of his wild mushrooms with puff pastry in return. Both were delicious.
For the main course, I had the lamb flavoured with 9 spices which was perfectly cooked: pink and tender. It came with courgettes and there was a choice of mash or chips. I went for mash, but found the portions a bit stingy which was my only grouch about the meal. My partner had boles de picolat and chips which he loved.
I passed on pudding, but the strawberries in Maury with cream and ice cream that he had were very good and the others enjoyed their bras de Venus (swiss roll) in Banyuls.
We washed it all down with copious amounts of wine and a few coffees, and the final bill was about €30 per head which was very acceptable.
THEY DON’T TAKE CARDS!
Make sure to visit the cash machine before leaving Amélie as it’s a long walk down and back up again if you don’t have enough money!
The Way Back Down
Is the same as the way up. Unless you want to get a bit more exercise and do a circular walk, in which case there are two options:
- Go back down the way you came up, and take the fork that leads down to the right towards Amélie. It will take about an hour including a walk on the road for a small section and brings you out on the north side of the river. From there you can follow the river for 20 -30 minutes to the bottom of Palalda and walk up through the village to find your car.
- The longer option is to head up the slope beside the church to the road at the top and turn left towards Can Kirc. After a while you will see a path marked with yellow leading down to the left past an antenna. This will bring you down beside the swimming pool in Amélie from where you follow the river to the bottom of Palalda and walk up to your car as in 1. above.