….a quick glance at the latest local news with Caroline Manson

Apartment fire in Les Angles

house fire

Around 50 firefighters were mobilised last Tuesday when a fire broke out in a building housing rental apartments and shops, in the ski resort of Les Angles.  The fire was under control by 6pm but firefighters remained overnight to permanently extinguish the flames, which had spread to the roof insulation.  Two residents and all employees of the shops on the ground floor were evacuated, and just one person was slightly injured – suffering burns to the hands.

Banyuls pass reopens – but not officially

col de banyuls

The Banyuls pass (on the frontier of the coastal road between France and Spain) is one of several border crossings that have been closed for many months, on government orders.  The idea was to limit the crossing of illegal immigrants and that the manpower can be concentrated on the major border crossings – ie the A9 motorway.  However the decision to keep this closed has not pleased locals, who have to make an enormous detour to travel to work or visit their friends and family in neighbouring villages.  During a summit meeting last week the Interior Minister announced that a reopening was being planned for this summer, but the Catalan Collective did not believe this and have now taken matters into their own hands.  Armed with a large digger, the large stones that had been placed to form the barrier were pushed aside and in an announcement on social media they say ‘People of Northern Catalonia, the way is now open – and if you feel like it you can leave your message on one of the stones that until now prevented you from crossing the Banyuls pass’.

Sangliers on the streets of Amélie-les-Bains

Last Wednesday a herd of six or seven wild boars were seen in the centre of Amélie les Bains. They are often seen on the banks of the river Tech but are becoming bolder, driven by the cold and hunger.  They have even been seen foraging in the rubbish bins.  The numbers of wild boar is said to be ‘in excess’ in the region – in part due to the fact that a few years ago there was an importation of females from Romania – which give birth twice a year rather than just twice a year for the indigenous species.

Man missing in the mountains

samuel rouge

A big search is underway for a 42 year old man who has not been seen since he left the Col del Torn refuge in the Capcir massif last Thursday.  Samuel Rouge, a resident of Olette, is said to be suffering from depression and other heath problems. Dog teams and the Dragon 66 helicopter have been searching the area but the snowy weather conditions have made the search extremely difficult.

Graffiti artist arrested

spray paint

Over the past few months a graffiti artist has been ‘tagging’ traffic signs, rubbish bins, city walls and private fences in 4 villages in the Albères.  In total the damage amounted to 14,500€.  Thanks to his distinctive ‘signature’, and the testimony of several witnesses, the Saint-Génis-des-Fontaines brigade were able to track him down and he was arrested at his home.  During a search of his property police found paint caps and cans, as well as notebooks with his famous signature.  The man will face court shortly.

Cork tree in Reynes set to feature in Guinness Book of Records

oak tree

A magnificent ‘chene liège’ standing on one of the hills of the Vallespir has been officially measured this week, and with a height of 21 meters and circumference of 5.41 meters it appears to totally surpass a Portuguese cork oak which previously held the record.  The story starts in the early 1990s when a young man discovered an old hiking book dating from 1891 which mentioned the ‘exceptional oak of Mas Santol’ – 130 years ago.  He decided to take a look for himself and as he was already on the lookout for new plots to plant orchards he bought the land on which the famous cork oak was located. 

Later he read a news article about the largest cork tree in the world, situated in Portugal.  Serge Anaudiés and his wife travelled direct to Portugal to measure the tree and discovered it was much smaller than his.  He then decided to investigate further and his treasure hunt then took him around Spain and Sardinia in search of the largest cork oaks in Europe – but none were as big as his.  This month the tree has been officially measured by experts and the application has been sent to officials for the Guinness Book of Records in America.  A response is expected in the coming months.

And finally…

A wine producer in Cassagnes is marketing a new (to the region) concept in packaging – wine in a can.  One of their employees had spent two years in New Zealand where canned wine is highly developed and on his return, submitted the idea to his colleagues.  Many people say the idea is ‘sacreligeous’ but the makers are convinced that this is the ideal solution to that very pressing problem – how to carry wine with you when you are going hiking in the mountains.  They do stress, however, that it is still better to drink the wine from a glass…

can drink

Caroline Manson is an independent Property Consultant – for advice on buying, selling, renting or renovating, don’t hesitate to contact her at

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