Out for the day ….on the one euro bus.
This is a drive out without the driving and everyone can have a glass of wine or two with lunch. Plus it’s a form of transport that is both eco-friendly and economical…
All over the Pyrénées Orientales the buses of the Conseil Général will take you on a journey of up to two hours for one euro. They are speedy, efficient and, not surprisingly, increasingly popular.
We took a journey up the Têt Valley, from Perpignan to Mont Louis.
Added bonus, the train ticket is now also one euro. (The Yellow Train, however, offers no discount, apart from the winter months.)
The Têt valley adventure begins at the Gare Routière (bus station), Perpignan. The buses on line 260 begin at 6.40. We chose the 10.30.
It speeds along, picking up and setting down across the Roussillon plain: Le Soler, St Féliu, Millas, Nefiach. Pretty villages and small towns.
On to Ille sur Têt, Bouleternère, Rodes, Vinça. Through the peach, nectarine and cherry orchards, past Marquixanes and Eus, the valley narrowing now, mountains, snow topped from November to April, closing in.
The market town of Prades announces itself by a roundabout with a floral cello, a tribute to Pablos Casals who made it his home after escaping the Spanish Civil War. The stop at Prades’ Gare Routière there is about half way to Mont Louis.
Villefranche de Conflent, a perfect mini Carcassonne of a fortified medieval town, is where the Yellow Train begins. It also where you would get off to visit Vernet les Bains.
The road and Yellow Train tracks twist and turn their way up the higher valley of the Têt together now. Sometimes running parallel, sometimes on opposite banks of the river.
Small towns cling to the steep hillsides. From the bus the views are breathtaking, especially if you are lucky enough to see the Yellow Train, reduced to dinky toy proportions, crossing the dramatic and beautiful Pont Sejourné as the bus sweeps underneath.
Soon after Fontpedrouse, the Pont Gisclard can be seen on the left hand side. Gracefully spanning the gorge, eighty meters high and two hundred and forty one meters long, the metal suspension bridge is definitely the superstar of the line.
At 12.40 (ish) the bus arrives at Mont Louis. It is possible to continue on to Latour de Carol on the same bus or to change onto one for Les Angles and the Capcir. If you stay in Mont Louis (highest fortified town in France and home to the French Commandos) there is plenty of time for lunch and a visit to the Four Solaire before heading down to the SNCF station.
The Yellow Train arrives at 15.52 or 16.45, tooting as it rolls over the hill from Font Romeu. The descent is slower and considerably noisier than the bus. It rattles along, through tunnels, over the great bridges, powered by electricity created along its route and arrives in Villefranche de Conflent with time to spare before the 17.27 or 18.27 one euro train back to Perpignan in good time for dinner.
Bus and train timetables, available at most Tourist Offices, are a bit of a must as they will allow you to change your programme as the day unfolds.
And what a wonderfully easy way to explore the P O or to nip into Perpignan for lunch… The run along the coast is a good one too, so is the trip up the Agly valley, or the Vallespir. The days out could be many, the transport cost minimal.
A weekly ticket costs a mere 8 euro, a monthly 30 and an annual one 180 euro.