Micro-Adventure: Cerbere

For our goal of getting out and about more for 2018, we instituted Travel Tuesday (or Thursday if the weather is awful!). Yesterday for Travel Tuesday we hopped on a train to Cerbere. The last French city before you reach Spain, this lovely little community has quite a lot to offer for the day-trip traveler.

We opted for the train as there is frightfully little bus service to this tiny port town. So at 9 am we got on a train, rode for 31.5 km, and hopped off 15 minutes later. Round trip for two, under €20.

The very first thing we did was to go up to the oldest part of the station and take a ton of photos of the station’s gazebo-like outdoor structure. We see a lot of this type of design on older train stations, but this one has a secret — or more  truthfully a “little-known” fact — it was designed and built by Gustave Eiffel. Yep, THAT Eiffel, as in the giant world-renown tower in Paris! Cool, huh! We thought so, hence the tons of photos. The station’s border guards smiled and laughed at our enthusiasm, they obviously know the history and were likely more amazed that WE knew the history.

In addition to being built by such a famous architect and artist, the station also has a link to our home town of Argeles-sur-Mer in that nearly all of the refugees of the Retirada (the Spanish Civil War) passed through the tunnels under the Pyrenees, to the train station in Cerbere and then over the hills the 31.5 kilometers to the beaches of Argeles-sur-Mer. Between 1936 and 1939 Argeles received over a 1/2 million people fleeing from the infamous, Francisco Franco.

After our photo shoot at the station we hiked over to the beautiful Hotel Belvedere. This beautiful hotel built in 1928 is still undergoing restoration work, but the completed facade facing the sea is absolutely lovely. More photos, of course!

From there we hiked down on the elevated roadway that includes a nice, wide pedestrian lane which offers great views of the Mediterranean as well as the surrounding hills and town below.

We spotted the new breakwater near the empty harbor and headed down to walk out to the point. From that vantage point we had great views of the small pebble beach and sea-side homes and businesses.

Walking back toward the main street through town, we noticed a couple of backpackers and their dogs. We enjoyed watching their puppy try to play with the larger, older dog who wasn’t really interested. After smiling our good mornings, we went looking for the tourist office . . . which was closed. Not unusual for this time of year but we do love visiting and finding out new things nearby to go and see so it always feels like a missed opportunity when the tourist office is not open.

The small square at the end of the main thoroughfare was a bit lively with a couple of vendors selling their fruits, vegetables and meats. There was a boulangerie in one corner and a small corner grocery store to our right as we entered the square. However none of the restaurants on the square were open so no coffee . . . bummer.

After leaving the mini-market area, we headed out of town to go visit the lighthouse. Cap Cerbere is the most southern French lighthouse on the Mediterranean. It also looks a lot like the Space Shuttle. Seriously. From the lighthouse you can look across the large bay into Spain, which we did.

After playing around the lighthouse for a while, we took photos of the wine tasting building (only open during the summer) that offers free tastings for tourists during the “season.” We did laugh over the idea of something similar in the US, a road-side, free wine tasting booth with plenty of parking . . . probably never likely to see one there anytime soon!

Heading back into town we had lunch at La Cacerne, the “Happy Pizza” place, a small terraced cafe with views of the harbor. Ordering a small pizza  to share we were quite surprised when it arrived sliced American-style. So surprised, in fact, that I asked Alan if his French was that bad that the server didn’t bring us forks and knives which is standard for pizza consumption in Europe. Later a group of locals also received their pizzas pre-sliced so we figure it must be a “new” thing for the region!

After a delicious lunch, we headed back toward the square to check out the tunnels connecting the lower town to the hilltop above. One of the main tunnels leads to an interesting cistern like break between two tunnels, but includes an abandoned small home and overgrown yard, and a unique staircase up the curved walls to the train station above. Heading back toward the seafront, we decided to explore a smaller tunnel (pedestrian only size) off to our left. It lead us over the the opposite side of the railyard above us and allowed us to get much different views of the town below and the Mediterranean beyond.

Done exploring and wanting to get home while it was still beautiful out, we headed back to the train station. While waiting for our train we ran into the backpacking couple and their dogs. They were heading in the opposite direction toward Spain taking the 2 minute train trip into Port Bou. Vanessa and her boyfriend, whose name we didn’t quite get, have been traveling for a few years now. She was lively and fun to chat with, offering to play her ukelele for us if we run into each other in Argeles, as they visit up this way on occasion. We told her we would welcome another opportunity to visit and would love to hear her play.

Such a lovely day, warm and sunny with hardly any wind at all. Amazing for mid-January. Much appreciated by us both.

Today we woke up to winds at 87 mph blowing around the furniture on the balcony. It reminded us of a simple trut

h . . . Gustave Eiffel definitely understood the weather around here. The beautiful structure that we admired at the train station yesterday is brilliant in its design as it allows the wind to blow . . . through it!