Sunday, October 23, 2011

Figueres - Perpignan

City Centre of Figueres
One of the great things about driving holidays is the ability to stop wherever you like, whenever you like. So on the road trip from Barcelona across the French border, we stopped in Figueres, the birth place of Salvador Dali.  Of course, there would be a lot of Dali paraphernalia in this small town.  Not that we noticed, and being the shallow tourists we are, we actually took just a 30 minute stroll around town and spent the other 60 minutes eating.

Salt cod and young garlic omelette
The yummiest thing we had at this pretty pit stop was a salt cod and young garlic omelette at the Sentits Restaurant Gastronomic.  A non-descript cafe-bar type place but with quite an innovative menu to wow, created around the 5 senses, rather than a simple starter, main and dessert type layout.  And while pretty home-style in taste and presentation, the quality was surprisingly good.  Quite a gem.

Happily fed, we continued our drive towards Perpignan.  Enroute, we passed La Jonquera, and a sight we kept seeing were the many prostitutes peddling their services along highways and service roads.  Unfamiliar with the lay of the land, we did not stop to snap a pic or 2, but the element of novelty was mixed with a wariness of the sinister operation behind it, and a tinge of sadness for the dangerous way these women have to endure in order to make a living.  We later discover through the worldwide web that La Jonquera is home to Europe's largest brothel and because authorities are lax to enforce uncertain prostitution laws, this town does a roaring business attracting the French from across the border.

Perpignan city centre
Beyond La Jonquera, we arrive at Perpignan about an hour from the border.  Perpignan is a medieval French town founded in the 10th century, the centre of battles between the French and Spanish throughout history and finally being ceded to the French in the 17th century.  It is the last major town in the Languedoc Rousillon region before crossing the border to Spain.  Having arrived on a Sunday, it was very much ghost town since all the shops were closed.

But it was still a pleasant enough walk around town, exploring a couple of the historical sights near the city centre, and pretty brick laid houses with quaint stores at ground level.

Food wise, despite the proximity to Spain, was more French in style but with Catalan produce like jamon in abundance.  On Sunday night, there wasn't a whole lot of choice with food since most restaurants were shut too.  But at the suggestion of the hotel concierge, we ate at Cafe Vienne, right in the centre of town.  We were a little apprehensive since it was right smack in tourist belt but quality was more than competent.

Cafe Vienne's Mussels Mariniere

Cafe Vienne's Duck Confit with Potatoes
We stuck to staples like mussels mariniere and duck confit, so we weren't disappointed.  A rustic provincial type of meal which hit the spot after a long driving day.

Le Petit Moka's Chicken Gizzard Salad

Le Petit Moka's Crepe Miele
Lunch in the summer (albeit at the tail end) is very much a baguette or salad deal.  We chose a place which seem to do a moderate to busy business offering a large variety of salads.  Since they were out of chicken livers, we went with chicken gizzards.  Surprisingly very tasty with caramelised pearl onions, crispy bacon and a honey vinaigrette.  To finish, the other French staple of a thin crepe drizzled liberally with honey.

And we were off again.  Next stop: Carcassone.

Sentits Restaurant Gastronomic
Calle de la Rambla, 11-12
FigueresCataluña 17600

Cafe Vienne
3 Place Arago
PerpignanFrance 66000

Le Petit Moka
37 Quai Vauban

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