Il était une fois en France ..
One of my favourite trips ever was last autumn, before I started this blog. Maybe I even thought about starting a blog back then as I was inspired by this journey. Our first time in France and I’m so happy we visited the Pyréneés-Orientales, the Eastern Pyrenees. There was all the charm of France, the countryside, little towns, Mediterranean beaches and hills. This article also features our stay at the amazing Studio Vert. I’ll try sum up the experience in this one post.
It began with finding Studio Vert. I was following their page for a while and simply felt like it was time to go there. I also really wanted to visit France. With more of a nature getaway in mind, this place in the French Pyrenees seemed perfect.
Helsinki – Barcelona
We took a flight to Barcelona in Spain, from where a bus would take us to Perpignan in France. Spent a good half a day in Barcelona, eating and looking at some famous sights.
We hopped off the airport bus at Universitat. This area has a range of vegan restaurants. We went to the first one we saw, right near the bus stop. Veggie Garden was amazing – a colourful Indian themed restaurant, a menu with so many delicious options it was difficult to settle on something. We ordered a thali, burger and snacks plus coffee. The prices were a relief compared to those in Finland. We sat there eating for quite some time and then moved on to see the Basílica de la Sagrada Família.
Time to leave Barcelona – I was starting to love it there already, but the French Pyrenees awaited. We’d be back here on the return journey as well (and eat at Veggie Garden again).
After a relaxing 2 1/2 hour bus trip (with FlixBus) through the Catalan region we arrived in Perpignan in Southwest France and waited in the station for Andrea from Studio Vert to pick us. They arrange a free transfer for guests from Perpignan. It was dark by then and the drive to the accommodation was peaceful with a few winding uphill roads.
Finally here! In France and at our hideaway. Greeted by our super hosts – Andrea and Aline. They showed us to our room ‘The Piano Room’.. I was hoping it would be that one. It’s classy af. There are 4 rooms in total, each with their own vibe. Andrea and Aline were nice enough to share some dinner with us. Some tasty ravioli + drinks and we settled in. The view over the valley from balcony was lovely, twinkling with lights. On clear days you can even view the sea.
Our ‘Autumn Break’ stay included bed & breakfast, a yoga class or 30min massage session. There was a common dining room and kitchen for us. We stayed 5 nights and the first couple of days it poured rain like never before. There were thunderstorms that kept me up one night. It was nice that we weren’t in the valley as some places were flooding.. seen on the news!
An interesting experience surely and it wasn’t bad at all, staying in our cosy hotel. There was a little library, we played board games, watched movies, cooked and enjoyed the food and also had a wine and cheese tasting night. My favourite night!
Studio Vert was the first accommodation we stayed at that was vegan. This was an added comfort and gave peace of mind. Since we used a common kitchen, it was great there was no foul stuff (meat, eggs, dairy ..) around. We shared meals and dined together with no unpleasant feeling. The materials in room, bathroom products were animal cruelty-free. Everything smelled nice. The breakfast and treats they served us were all delicious. Oh, and the cappuccinos made by barista Andrea were thoroughly enjoyed.
Once the skies cleared, we ventured out, and there were plenty of things to do around the region. After birdwatching and breakfast we went down to the town. If you don’t have a car, Andrea or Aline can drop you, or just borrow their mountain bikes! On the way down you can find some nice paths to follow, and you might also meet some local residents like Spirit, the lone white horse 😻 who ate a whole package of our rice cakes.
The nearby town and beach of Argelès cannot be missed. It’s probably quite happening during summer but in late autumn it felt like we had the whole beach to ourself. It was sunny and around 21 degrees, hot compared to Finland. Spent a while there sunbathing and listening to the waves.
Thai restaurant ‘Galanga’, walking distance from the beach, served several vegan options including vegan sushis. We had a good lunch there and looked around town and the beach market, after which we walked to our next destination.
Vineyards of Chateau Valmy
About an hour’s walk away from Argelès beach, you will find these vineyards and prominent chateau. We walked all the way but you can also take a cab. Once you reach you can go to the reception and pick a map of the vineyards and start your own free tour! The staff was helpful and happy to tell us about the wines and grapes. There’s birds, fancy gardens and a good view of the sea. Recommended!
Exploring nearby towns
We borrowed the mountain bikes from Studio Vert and went exploring! Downhill ride and you’ll come across the nearby communes of Villelongue-dels-Monts and Laroque-des-Albères. Take a mini pilgrimage to the Priory of Santa Maria del Vilar, a medieval church – worth the hike up!
Another sight you won’t miss if you stayed at Studio Vert is the Castle of Laroque. Bike or hike up. Again, some nice views from there!
We had some time in the lovely medieval city of Perpignan, the ‘capital’ of this Northern Catalonia region, before we took the bus back to Barcelona. Andrea and Aline dropped us off and recommended restaurant Frida’s. This Frida Kahlo inspired vegan restaurant in Perpignan was a gem. The dishes were flavourful and the chef presented them himself.
Grabbed a coffee from Coffee Mood cafe in Perpignan before boarding the bus. There were possibilities to do much more, like hike along the coastal towns, visit Collioure, take a day trip to Les Orgues d’ille-sur-Tet and the mountain train.. but we had to leave all that for the next time. Check out an example itinerary for yourself on Studio Vert’s blog.
One thing is for sure – we’ll be going back! This region was simply beautiful, peaceful and charming. We recommend the Pyrénees Orientales, to anyone who would like a taste of France, Mediterranean beaches, the Pyrenees itself.
And for a brilliant and relaxing and stay we highly recommend Studio Vert! Vegan haven 10/10!