St-Paul-de-Fenouillet is located 45 km west of Perpignan and the shores of the Mediterranean Sea in the valley of the Agly river at an altitude of 262 metres. Its countryside is dominated by rocky peaks with garrigue made up from shrubs and many herbs that extrude their perfumes in the heat of summer. Below, on rolling hills and the flat river plain, millions of old vines cover the vineyards.
Here, you are in Cathar country, with remains of their castle towering high on the Corbières peaks. When entering the village – pardon, officially, it’s a town of 1,888 inhabitants – you’ll notice its bilingual signs.
In Fenolheda, they all depict the name in French and Occitan; in Rosselò/Roussillon all in Catalan. Often stated wrongly, St-Paul is not a Catalan place, but an Occitan settlement, with Estagel being the border town between the two historic provinces. The sense of these historic and cultural ties is still very strong in the region, and on clear days, you’ll see the Pyrénées peak of the holy Catalan mountain Canigou watching over the valley.
The climate is moderate and quite dry, with rains occurring mostly in spring and late autumn. In summer, temperatures reach 30° – 35° Celsius (86 – 95° Fahrenheit). Winters are mild, with -4° Celsius (24.8° Fahrenheit) at the lowest. The two dominant winds are Tramontane (or Cers), a cold, dry wind from the North, and Le Marin, a southerly breeze often bringing along some rain.
Within the close vicinity, you will find dozens of wineries to visit, offering tastings at their cellar door and other visitor experience. In the summer months, the train rouge wine train runs the length of the valley, allowing you to sample their wines without having to worry about your driving license. French police is pretty strict about the 0.5 g/l alcohol limit, and fines are severe. A vast network of short or long walks makes the valley a great spot for hiking, mountain biking or leisurely walks, with spectacular views, and heritage preserved in nature. Winding roads will take you to gorgeous place like the Ermitage in the Galamus canyon or to the Gorges de la Fou with their famous Roman bridge. And when you’re resting there, savour some some the delicious biscuits made by traditional bakeries in the village: the Croquant aux amandes de Saint-Paul !
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Chapître-Collégiale: The tower of the chapter house has always been the landmark of St-Paul-de-Fenouillet, and is one the Fenouillèdes most remarkable buildings. Today hidden behind more modern building, you will need to visit Le Chapître to truly appreciate it – the entrance is a tiny door right next to the tourist information. Its roots date back to 906, when the convent of Joucou belonged to the Benedictine monks. Following many noble endowments, the 16th century saw the installation of an organ, the addition of plaster decorations, the construction of the dome and other major works being carried out. After the revolution changed into flats, stable and hay loft, the municipality realised its history value as late as 1983 century, bought the property, and opened it up to the public along with a museum also well worth a visit.
26, boulevard de l’Agly
Écomusée: The Chapître today houses the town’s local museum – don’t mis out on its unique collection featuring also pictures of the grand spa complex that once existed at St. Paul’s.
Église Saint-Pierre et Saint Paul: In 1313, construction of the St- Peter’s Parish Church started, which was linked to the Chapître in 1410. In 1452, a fire destroyed most of the church. Reconstruction on the preserved ground walls started in 1661, then replacing the initial gothic style by baroque architecture. Last renovations took place in 1973. The most typical feature of the fortified stone church is it open bell tower, with two bells hanging in an iron cage. The first one, 90 cm high and wide, was cast in 1548, the smaller one – 60 cm high and 63 cm wide – in 1779.
Place Chanoine Grassaud
Ermitage Saint-Antoine-de-Galamus: A very popular destination for motor bikers, cyclists, canyoning and hiking are the Gorges de Galamus that connect Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet in Pyrénees-Orientales with Cubières-sur-Cinobles in the Département Aude. From its southern entrance, you’ll be able to enjoy wonderful views of the holy Catalan mountain, Pic du Canigou (2.784 m). Well hidden in the canyon’s cliff, the first settlers of the region resided in natural limestone caves. In the middle ages, hermits living their faith in the footsteps of St Anthony the Great, Patriarch of Cenobites, started to live in the caves that are surrounded by a shrubby vegetation of Durmast oak, juniper and flowering cyclamen. In the 15th century, the Friars Minor of St Francis of Assisi set up the cave-chapel of the hermitage.
For many years, the relics of relics of the Holy Cross, Saint Victoire and father Palau y Quer, beatified in 1988, have been kept. On Easter Monday and Whit Monday, the hermitage is a popular point for pilgrims and day trippers. Be careful when cycling or driving along the narrow and winding country road D7 that leads to the parking lot gazebo. From there, either take the foot path that leads the way through Mediterranean „garrigue“or walk down the steps to reach the site. The Hermitage is open from Easter to mid-November from 12:00 to 18:30; T. 04 68 59 24 45.
Roman Bridge: South of St-Paul-de-Fenouillet, the Clue de la Fou cuts through the mountain chain of Lesquerde. There, a Roman bridge has been spanning a small river since antiquity, and a wonderful legend is linked to its waters and its potholes created by erosion. According to legend, fairies came to wash there clothes in these cavities. From 1906 to 1914, a spa operated in the area. Even though its gone today, you may still been enjoying the virtues of the mineral water packed with sulphide and calcium. All year round, be it winter or summer, it flows out of its source at 24° C (75.2° Fahrenheit).
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Entertainment, Fun & Leisure
Bibliothèque Municipale: rue Arago, T. 04 68 51 34 71, public library, open Monday, Wednesday morning, Thursday
Cinema: Foyer Rural, Avenue Georges Pezières, T. 04 68 08 22 16; local cinema showcasing Hollywood blockbusters and successful French films, screenings at 17:00 and 20:30, programme: www.allocine.fr
Playground: Avenue Georges Pézières, and next to the train station
Pool: Piscine Municipale, Rue du Docteur Louis Brun, T. 04 68 59 00 43, heated public outdoor swimming pool, June – September 14:00 – 19:00
Sports grounds: Stade Municipal, Rue du Docteur Louis Brun, T. 04 68 59 00 26, perfect for soccer and rugby
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ATM/Bank: Banque populaire, 102, avenue Jean Moulin, T. 08 20 36 10 06; Crédit Agricole, 13, avenue Georges Pezières, T. 08 92 25 08. Both: Monday – Friday 8.10 – 12.00, 13.30 – 17.00
Baker: Boulangerie de la Mairie, 19, rue Arago, T. 04 68 59 02 40; L’Epi St-Paulais, rue Arago, T. 04 68 59 15 63; Artisan Boulanger Patissier, 29, rue du Théâtre. T. 04 68 59 02 27
Farm shop: Bertrand & Olivier Pelissier, 68, avenue Jean Moulin, T. 04 68 59 06 67, mobile 06 15 54 10 15. Poultry, lamb and rabbit right from the breederButcher: Boucherie Jean Bernalte, rue Arago, T. 04 68 59 01 73
Markets: open-air market in front of the Foyer Rural, Wednesday and Saturday, 6:00 – 13:00
Supermarket: Carrefour Market, Lot La Plaine, T. 04 68 59 26 00, D 177 direction Foix, right hand side, also has fuel pumps. September to June Monday to Thursday 9:00 – 12:30, 15:00 – 19:00, Friday and Saturday 9:00 – 19:00, July/August Monday to Saturday 9:00 – 19:00
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Winemakers (tasting and selling at the cave)
There are more than 20 winemakers at home in our small town, and many more around. Please click here.
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A very pleasant walk through the allotment gardens starts very close to our home. It leads you through a patchwork of gardens watered by the Agly river, and offers ever-changing views of the Pyrenees mountains. 12 marked walks are listed in the guide „Drôles de Randonnées en Fenouillèdes“. Red and yellow is the signage of the 107 km long Tour du Fenouillèdes trail, red and white of the long-distance trail GR 36 that connect the English Channel with the Mediterranean Sea. Walking maps are available at the Office de Tourisme and the newsagent. Best are the IGN maps.
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Tourist Information • Office de Tourisme
6, bd de l’Agly, F – 66220 Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet, T. 04 68 59 07 57 , firstname.lastname@example.org, www.st-paul66.com; July/Aug Monday to Saturday 10:00 – 12:00 / 14:00 – 18:00 , October – March Tuesday to Saturday 10:00 – 12:00 / 14:00 – 18:00
These official websites also provide information on my village and its surrounds
Communauté de Communes Agly-Fenouillèdes: www.cc-aglyfenouilledes.fr. Free App for Android and iPhone: Agly Fun Tour
Association du Pays de la Vallée d’Agly: www.valleedelagly.fr