Martin on Cnicht

Martin on Cnicht

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Tuesday 27 May 2014 - Paulilles and Cap Béar

Another most pleasurable day. After a slow start (we are on holiday) we gave up on the trains - principally because they were on strike - and drove to Paulilles. 

Paulilles has a rich history. Its rural life ended in 1870 when it was chosen as the location for a dynamite factory, set up by locals with assistance from Alfred Nobel, who had by accident discovered how to make dynamite a few years earlier. 

The factory's chequered history ended in 1984, and recently the large site has been renovated and made safe for visitors. 

Nowadays 'A Workers' Story' exhibition, compiled with the help of former workers and local associations, pays homage to the inhabitants of the 'Côte Vermeille' who brought the Nobel dynamite factory to life. There's also an outdoor museum in the original factory, with rushing French schoolchildren and scale models of the site and the landscape, the places around the world visited by the dynamite (Mont Blanc tunnel, Panama Canal, Oil exploration sites, etc) and the restored site. The old water tower has been converted into a watchtower, giving a panoramic view of the site and its coastline. 

After lunch on the beach we enjoyed a walk along the 'Sentier Littoral' to the lighthouse at Cap Béar. Although it's only a short walk, the coastline path is a swooping switchback affair - a rather more aggressive version of the South West Coast Path. It takes no prisoners, hence the Roberts family's decision to head back to a café a kilometre before reaching the lighthouse. A tough kilometre, as Sue and I discovered. The cliffs are not high, but the relentless steep undulations in hot weather take their toll. Today's picture is taken from the coast path, looking towards Banyuls-sur-Mer and the Spanish border.

On reaching the lighthouse we admired the coastal views and looked up to Fort Béar, built around 1880 and used as a defence post until 1914. Unlike many of these 19th century forts, this one is still in use - as a commando training centre. 

In the distance, we noticed loads of fresh snow on the Massif du Canigou. Apparently it is usually pretty much clear of snow by this time of year, so the Pyrenees may have experienced another year of exceptional snowfall. 

Closer to hand, multi coloured cactus flowers on the steep slopes drew our eyes towards several scuba divers, snorkeling with long rods. The brave capture of a giant starfish was witnessed. Lovely views across the bay completed the picture. 

Finally, after some welcome refreshments, it was time to head for some local produce from the artisan shops of Argelès and prepare supper, with the pleasure of David and Jan's company for the evening.

2 comments:

John J said...

Ooh-er, accidents and dynamite? It doesn't sound like a healthy combination!
JJ

Phreerunner said...

The factory is portrayed as a happy place with a good employer, despite the occasional unfortunate explosion. Also, the effect of glycol on the human body wasn't recognised by the employer until 1981...