Micro-Adventure: Ille-sur-Têt

A new phrase that has gained popularity with the husband: Micro-adventure. It’s the perfect word for our little day trips to see the cities and sights here in the Pyrenees-Orientales region of France.

Monday’s micro-adventure was to Ille-sur-Têt (pronounced Eee-ya Sir Tet), specifically to Les Orgues d’Ille-sur-Têt and hoping to squeeze in a visit to the Hospice d’Illa and St. Etienne’s as well.

As we have been traveling to nearby cities via the 1 Euro bus system, we try to make our first stop the Office de Tourisme or rather coffee then the tourist office. Picking up a town map and browsing through the collection of brochures for other places of interest. Alan usually handles getting a copy of the map, I do the browsing. After returning home we look through all the new offerings and select a Top 5 list. Les Orgues d’Ille-sur-Têt was #1 on our Top 5. It is a natural geological sight, very reminiscent of Bryce Canyon, just much smaller.

So Monday morning arrives way too early, our day was meant to start early but a dying battery in the smoke alarm decided to go off at 4 am. Then Sami decided that she was done sleeping and we all needed to be up and someone should take her for a walk. I let Alan take her while I stayed home with a cup of coffee,. Shameful I know, but I drink coffee everyday and he doesn’t. So the alarm for 5:30 got shut off and we started the day a bit earlier than planned. Why is it that batteries in smoke alarms only run out in the middle of the night? Have you ever had one signal a replacement during the day? Neither of us has, it seems that only in the wee hours of the morning do smoke alarms need new batteries . . . hmmm, like their little, plastic lives have no meaning unless something has been tested . . . like your heart rate recovery time.

Well, we weren’t late for the bus. After arriving in Perpignan we talked to the gentleman at the bus kiosk, asking him for the route maps for the lines that went to Ille-sur-Têt. He handed us brochures for all the buses that service that area. We walked over to our favorite coffee shop across from the train station and while waiting for our coffee and chocolate croissant, we found that the 200 bus would be the first to head towards our destination. It gave us about 40 minutes to enjoy our breakfast. Perfect! If you transfer within two hours of your first ticket purchase you do not have to pay a second time.

Ille-sur-Têt was reachable via the 200 bus but is also serviced by the 220, 240 and 260 lines. We had the brochure for Les Orgues in hand and showed it to the driver. 25 minutes later, when we reached the correct stop, he gave us the thumbs-up and we were on our way. Ever so helpful, he even explained how to get to Les Orgues, but our French isn’t quite good enough to understand all the directions. We found the Office de Tourisme instead and asked for directions. The lady there was very helpful and in a matter of minutes we were on the right track.

On our return from Les Orgues, we found a little side street that led to St. Etienne’s, the Mairie (town hall) and a few interesting corner gardens, one named for Jean of Arc and another for St. James. When we found our way back to the main street we stopped at the Bar Le Nationale Brasserie for lunch. We ordered beer. When we finished those we ordered burgers. A “carafe d’eau” (bottle of tap water), which is normally refrigerated and refreshingly cool without having to pay bottled water prices, still wasn’t quite enough to quench our thirst. It was 36 degrees Celsius, approx. 98 degrees Farenheit. A very warm day.

After lunch, we wandered about town until we found the Hospice d’Illa. Wandering through and seeing some of the very nice pieces in their permanent collection as well as some very nice Baroque works of art. They also had a display in the lower chapel galleries of some of the interesting stained glass windows from around the area.

When we finished all our “must see” items, we wandered through town a bit more and spotted some beautiful old buildings, interesting alleys and walkways. We both really enjoy wandering through a former walled city that has been around for centuries. Though the town updates and changes, you often find little pockets here and there of original cobblestone, or gallery overhangs, or covered entrances that still bear the original wood beams or remnants of the original paint, sometimes an old sign or an entire side of a building that has old advertising.

It’s the little things that make our micro-adventures so enjoyable. We both love architecture, sacred or otherwise. We both have a sense of wonder at the way people in Europe live with their history. If you just take the time to wander without a destination in mind, you find the most amazing, little surprises!

After we wandered back to the main street and checked the schedule on the bus stop, we had about 40 minutes to kill before the next bus. We headed over to a different cafe and had another cold drink. While we were sitting there, we saw four different tractors go by. Life in a small town! Ille-sur-Têt is a small town of around 5,000 people but they sure do have a lot of lovely history.

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