Review of our holiday staying at Gîte King in Los Masos near Prades in Pyrénées-Orientales, in south-west France in September 2013.
Update: Gîte King is no longer owned by Charlie and Claire King - they sold it in 2016. The new owners continue to offer it as a holiday destination - they're on Facebook. Please bear this in mind when reading our holiday report.
We stayed for a week at Gîte King, a well-equipped, spacious and comfortable barn conversion owned by Charlie and Claire King, the English owners who live next door in a restored farmhouse, in the small village of La Sacristie in the community of Los Masos. Claire is an author, and Linda had won the week in the gîte in a competition to promote Claire's debut novel, The Night Rainbow. The gîte has three bedrooms, one en-suite, and with another family bathroom. The Kings also offer a smaller apartment under the gîte. The village is situated on the lower slopes of Mount Canigou (2784m), and the gîte's terrace has a dramatic view of the mountain.
The lounge/dining/kitchen area is modern and well-equipped, with a large fridge-freezer, a dishwasher, a washing machine, a gas hob and an electric oven. There's a huge dining table, sofas, armchairs, a TV (French Freeview channels only), a DVD player and a small hi-fi system. Wi-Fi is promised to be available in the gîte next year. On the terrace is a bbq, a table and chairs and a couple of sunbeds. All rooms have air-con and heating.
We enjoyed our stay here. Claire was very friendly and helpful, offering tips on local restaurants, supermarkets, and help with booking local tourist trips.
Claire provided us with an excellent book of short walks in the region called Les Sentiers d'Emilie dans le Roussillon (this book may no longer be in print). We did the following walks from this book during the week:
Walk #14: From Casteil to the Abbaye Saint Martin du Canigou
This was a very steep slog up to the abbey. There's a viewpoint a few minutes' walk above the abbey with a spectacular view down on to it.
Walk #16: Above the village of Jujols
We abandoned this walk after only 30 mins as we met a couple of french walkers who warned us that it would rain heavily shortly, so we went to see the nearby well-preserved medieval walled town of Villefranche-de-Conflent instead, a big tourist destination, where it did eventually rain.
Walk #17: From Codalet to Abbaye St-Michel de Cuxa
Difficult to find the start of this walk in the Avenue de l'Abbat Olba in Codalet, a suburb of Prades (the book needs updating – the restaurant that is claimed to be the start of the walk no longer exists). Steep steps to start, then a pleasant walk along an aqueduct, and down to the abbey – return the same way.
Walk #18: Above the picturesque village of Eus
We only completed ten minutes of this walk as the path looked hazardous and uninteresting.
Walk #19: From the the bridge over the lake at Vinça to Le Prieuré de Marcevol
An enjoyable walk up a good track through woods to the old priory at Marcevol. Claire told us that the local ex-pats have a Burns-night bash here – apparently the priory can be hired for “religious or cultural” events!
Walk #21: Corbère
A pleasant walk to the impressive château and chapel, then through the old abandoned village to another chapel and back to the new town. Again the book needs updating – the walk allegedly starts at the Mairie, but it's moved from a tiny picturesque square in the centre of the village to a new building a few hundred yards away. Park at the new Mairie, and walk up the streets to the square where the Mairie used to be.
Walk #22: Le Dolmen de Belesta
A pleasant walk to the prehistoric dolmen, then on to the ruins of the Chapelle Saint-Barthelemy. Great views in all directions.
In addition, we drove down to Collioure, a picturesque port town on the coast near the border with Spain, with an old quarter of narrow alleyways and cobbled streets.
After our week of walking we decided to flop on a Mediterranean beach for a week, so we grabbed some accommodation near Le Sérignan, a few miles south of Béziers. However, the weather turned cool and windy, so we spent hardly any time on the beach, preferring instead to see the sights. We visited the ancient city of Béziers, the quaint old village of Pézenas nearby, the port town of Sête, the magnificent Pont du Gard near Nîmes, the Étang de Vaccarès in the Camargue, and we also walked a few miles along the picturesque Canal du Midi near Béziers.
The highlight of this second week was undoubtedly the Pont du Gard, a Unesco World Heritage Site, (see also its Wikipedia article), part of a massive aqueduct built by the Romans around 50AD to carry water from a spring in the hills to Nîmes. The Pont carries the aqueduct high over the river Gardon. The entire aqueduct drops only 17 metres in its 50km length, and the Pont itself only drops by 25mm (less than an inch!) over its nearly 300m – a stunning feat of Roman engineering, delivering tens of thousands of tons of fresh water daily to Nîmes, until it fell into disrepair in the sixth century.
Half-a-dozen pictures totalling approx two to three MB per page.
We can thoroughly recommend the King's gîte near Prades. It's well-equipped and comfortable, and the helpful English owners live next door. The landscape around the village is mountainous and scenic, and great for hill-walking.
The beach at Sérignan Plage is excellent - wide, long and sandy, though there were no beach bars/restaurants where we were. We were unlucky with the weather, but it was the tail-end of the holiday season.