Out for the day in Palau del Vidre
Palau de Vidre, Palace of Glass, was for many years under the authority of the influential Knights Templar, during which time the village was fortified. This connection with the ‘templiers’ brought the ‘Palauencs’ special privileges such as tax reduction and a central oven in which each villager could bake his own bread, on condition that he give one loaf in twenty to the knights.
A very small section of the ancient fortifications remains today, a reminder of a colourful past.
In the 15th century, glass makers from around France settled in the area, attracted by plentiful resources of sand from the River Tech, wood to sustain the high temperatures required for glass blowing, and the proximity of Elne Market. The industry flourished, only dying out with the start of the French Revolution.
Today there are several glass-making workshops in the small village, but make sure you visit the impressive showroom of the PALAIS DES VERRIERS with master glass blower, Jorge Mateus at the helm. The kids can have a go at glassblowing and even go home with a sphere with their name on it. Cool or what?
The 11th century église Sainte-Marie, whose interior was financed by the wealthy glass makers of yore, holds a fascinating, perfectly preserved set of ancient artwork and ‘retables’.
These framed altarpieces, dating from the 16th century, painted in oils on wood, are decorated with paintings, and statues which tell a story according to the wishes of the person who commissioned it.
Look out for the ‘vièrge ouvrante’, one of the only 48 statues in the world of a pregnant Virgin Mary, which opens to reveal the Holy Father inside, much criticised, and pronounced heretic by the church.
Take a look too at the ancient looking church doors, built and fitted only ten years ago.
Around the lake – with Leigh and Merry Foster
This lovely stroll around a delightful small lake tucked away in Palau-del-Vidre is suitable for just about everyone. The paths are quite flat and suitable for push/wheel chairs and it is reasonably well sheltered when the Tram is blowing, with great views up to Canigou and the Albères.
To reach the lake, turn off the main road through Palau, heading towards Elne and follow signs for Plan d’Eau.
There is a nice path all around the lake, about 1-1/2 km, and onto the small island in the middle where there are picnic tables under shady trees. There is also a ‘parcours de sante’ (fitness trail) to encourage you to hop, skip and jump around the lake and work off some excess energy if you have any, and benches where you can sit and rest your legs if you haven’t.
There is some fantastic bird life to watch, including waders and egrets if you’re lucky. The lake is also popular in season for trout fishing, with the right permits (Fishing passes are available locally call: 04 68 39 14 36)
|Plan d’Eau de Sant Marti, Palau-del-Vidre
Map IGN 1:25000 Banyuls/Col de Perthus/Cote
Vermeille (GPS) 2549 OT