The 11th and penultimate day was a fairly tough 17-km hike along the coast from Portbou to Banyuls in France, with another 750 metres of ascents. The paths were stony and some of the climbs pretty steep but the scenery was spectacular once again.
Breakfast at the hotel already had a hint of France – bread, jam, butter and a croissant, albeit with some ham – that was a far cry from the huge and varied breakfasts earlier along the trail. Luckily, I still had a few cereal bars to keep me going for the rest of the day.
I set off at 9 once again. It was another beautiful morning and the Portbou habour was particularly pretty in that light. The trail rose steeply out of the town, up to the Collado des Belitres at 165 metres.
The views from the pass, the border between France and Spain, were spectacular and there was a touching memorial to the 500,000 people who crossed into France here between February and June 1939 to flee Franco’s Spain, along with a plaque in tribute to the International Brigades of the Spanish Civil War.
From the pass and the border, the trail rose slowly along the side of the Puig de Cervera, providing more spectacular views, with a layer of mist hovering over the sea back in Spain.
It then descended to the Cap de Cevera with its solar-powered lighthouse from which there was another fine view back towards the Puig, the spot where the Pyrenean chain meets the Mediterranean. It’s a pity there wasn’t any information on how this lighthouse worked as it seemed the ideal ecological installation in a spot such as this.
From the lighthouse, the trail headed down into Cevera/Cerbère, the first French town, not that I sensed any difference with Spain as the landscape was still the same and Cerbère looked very much like Portbou, with another huge border railway station that has lost its importance these days. I stopped for a coffee in a bar near the harbour before setting off again, passing the fabulous and recently renovated Hotel Belvedère, a beautiful Art Deco building above the beach, built in the shape of a ship. Unfortunately, the photos I took of it didn’t do it justice so none of them feature here!
Between Cerbère and Banyuls, the path stuck to the coast, heading up and down, crossing capes and beaches. The terrain was stony but it was such a pleasant day for hiking that I didn’t really care. I took a lengthy break at the Perafita beach where, once again, I dozed off in the sun.
From there, the trail rose up fairly steeply to the Cap de Rederis from which there was a great view back along the coast.
There was one more headland to round before Banyuls, across fairly arid terrain, with the Banyuls wine terraces just inland from the sea.
I reached Banyuls itself at around 5:30 pm and immediately found my hotel, Les Pêcheurs, as it was right on the seafront. Just opposite, there was a friendly, open-air bar so I went there for a beer before checking in. The local brew, Cap d’Ona, is made with Baynuls wine and has a very rich flavour. A little heavy after the day’s hike, but delicious all the same.
After a good hot shower, I went just next door for dinner to the friendly L’O à la bouche where I had a terrific burger (my favourite comfort food). I also had a quarter litre of the house wine which was a mistake as it was pretty awful and I didn’t sleep too well for once. You can order house wine in Spain and Italy and it’s always good, but I’d forgotten I was back in France!