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.
Added bonus, certain train tickets are now also one euro (find out more here).
During July and August 2020, the Yellow Train is also offering reduced fares, set at 5€ one way, 10€ return… regardless of departure and destination stations.
The Têt valley adventure begins at the Gare Routière (bus station) in Perpignan, with buses running from 6.30am (see timetables below).
Confusingly, the former 261 line has been re-christened the 561, although, 261 still appears on certain flyers and timetables.
Even more confusingly, the bus that leaves Perpignan is actually the number 560, which terminates in Mont Louis, where the 561 then continues on to the higher stations of Les Angles, Matemale, Formiguères and Puyvalador… all well worth a visit, winter or summer!
But let’s content ourselves with Mont Louis for now.
The 560 then speeds along, picking up and setting down across the pretty villages and small towns of the Roussillon plain: Le Soler, St Féliu, Millas, Nefiach.
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 is about half way to Mont Louis.
Villefranche de Conflent, a perfect mini Carcassonne of a fortified medieval town, overlooked by the impressive Fort Liberia, is where the Yellow Train begins. It’s 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.
If you take the civilised 10.55am bus from Perpignan, you arrive around 12.40pm in Mont Louis (highest fortified town in France and home to the French Commandos), meaning there is plenty of time for lunch (we like Le Dagobert but there are plenty to choose from) and a visit to the Four Solaire before heading down to the SNCF station.
The Yellow Train leaves Mont Louis at 16.09 in the summer (30th May – 27th September), 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, arriving at its terminus in Villefranche around 17.22.
Significant works on the regular train line after Villefranche mean that operators are running replacement buses from Villefranche to Ille sur Tet, where you can then pick up the TER train. Catch the bus at 17.43, arrive in Ille at 18.25, which leaves you a leisurely 10 minute connection for the train, leaving at 18.35, and finally arriving in Perpignan at 18.58, in good time for dinner.
There’s so much to see and do, this article barely scratches the surface! Contact local Tourist Offices for other ideas and up to date travel info.
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.
INFO TO HELP YOU ON YOUR WAY
1 way ticket = Aller simple
Many train tickets in France require validation before travel. Seek out the bright yellow machines à composter, insert the bar code of your ticket and wait for the whirring stam. Does not apply to E-tickets bought and displayed on phones or tablets.
© Christophe Jacquet (Wikipedia)