While it was clear last night and we were treated to a nice fireworks show over the lake, we woke up cold this morning. For the first time in about 3 trips we turned on the heater when we got up and warmed François up before we got out from under the blankets.
We were both looking forward to Perpignan, so we packed up François pretty early and headed into town. We found a narrow parking spot next to the High School downtown, but I was proud of my ability to squeeze in there and leave enough room for everyone to get around us.
We thought we would start the day at the main market in town which had been renovated recently. Ton thought it would be a proper market with fruit, vegetables, meat, and cheese so we stuck a couple of extra bags in our day pack. When we got there we were greeted by a Starbucks at the entrance and a collection of upscale restaurants including a Thai one. We took a quick pass thru and Ton was very disappointed.
We decided to head towards the main attraction in town which is the Palace of the Kings of Majorca. But, our path was not very direct as Ton really liked the streets and architecture of Perpignan. Every 100 meters or so I would turn around and realize I had lost her as she saw another cool building or street scene she wanted to photograph.
She really liked the town hall and Palace of the Delegation so we spent about 20 minutes looking at them from many different angles. The town hall is from the 1300’s and the Palace of the Delegation is from the 1400’s.
The Town Hall is one of the oldest municipal buildings that has been located in the same site in France. Today it serves as the Wedding Hall as well as a museum. We tentatively stuck our head in and were warmly greeted by a nice lady. After being armed with an English guide we were turned loose.
The wedding hall was very impressive for a municipal building and featured very old furniture and some impressive art. It would be a very nice place to get married.
We were still making our way to the Castle when we came across another municipal building. Again we stuck our heads in to see what it was and were waived in by the guard on duty. I’m not completely sure what this building was, but it had a very impressive stairway and lobby.
After all of our diversions we finally arrived at the Palace of the King of Majorca. In the 1200’s Perpignan was the capital of the Kingdom of Majorca. The palace was completed in the early 1300’s. The Kingdom of Majorca was incorporated into the Kingdom of Aragon in 1349, so its period as the seat of power was short lived.
The Palace is a fortified palace so you enter through a very impressive gate and lengthy tunnel. You come out on top of the first set of walls which contains the gardens for the Palace. The palace itself is also fortified with a gate and a tower.
The palace is really well preserved. The rooms are presented without any replica furniture or any antiquities, but just as they are.
We enjoyed wandering from room to room and taking in the scale of the palace. The literature says it is a gothic style building, but to us we felt a Moorish influence also in some of the windows and arches. This area was never conquered by the Moors, so it may not be true.
While most of the rooms in the palace are unadorned, a few have exhibitions. One had a modern artists work on display, and another had an exhibition on the Garnet jewelry industry that flourished here for nearly 500 years.
The highlight for us was a display in the old kitchen of the palace called the Jardins Enlumines. It was a light display showing life in the area during the height of the Majorcan kingdom.
It was a giant display covering all four walls of the kitchen which is approximately 50X30 feet. Every bit of the wall is covered with different moving figures. It is elaborate, very inventive, and full of small details that are often quite humorous as you follow them from season to season.
We were both entranced by the images. The images start in the spring and cover all four seasons. The images are enhanced with sounds that match what is being shown. I have never seen anything quite like it and I highly recommend you see it if you come to Perpignan.
Ton had one more place she wanted to visit, the Pams mansion. This is a mansion of one of the richest families in Perpignan from the late 1800’s. They made their money making cigarette paper. The mansion is nothing special from the street, but when you enter the door into the courtyard you come into a place of immense wealth.
Every space in the courtyard, main stairway, and entranceway are filled with art. All of the walls are covered with frescoes. I’m not sure about the quality of the art, some of it feels a bit Nouveau Rich to me, but the volume is impressive.
Perpignan wowed us. We had read that it is an underrated city in France, so we had positive expectations, but it exceeded those for me. My only regret is that we were there on a Sunday so all of the shops were closed and the streets were mostly empty. Even so I think Perpignan is one of my favorite cities I have visited in France.