My own town

Unusual. The mayor, Jean-Paul Alduy, reveals an unexpected version of Perpignan through anecdotes on his town. Follow the guide.
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BY HERVÉ DENYONS
Conversely to the Roman Nimes or the Baroque Montpellier, Perpignan doesn’t reveal itself at first sight. «It’s a town that already seems to defend itself behind its city walls…that don’t exist anymore, notices Jean-Paul Alduy. And, even if its city centre is small, you easily lose your bearings». It’s better visiting it by foot. At least, for instance until «rue Paratilla», one of the most famous streets. The smell of spices, gambas, fruits, vegetables, butcher’s products, this narrow street has the air of a souk. «A concentrated Mediterranean style with its characters as the old hawker who sells violets and figs in season. She has never obtained her trading licence but it’s an institution and me even, I sometimes buy something from her stand. bell tower. A traditional architectural form here, but few people know it’s the unique cathedral in France that has got this type of bell tower». The monument prides itself on another special feature. It’s situated near a cloister-cemetery, equally unique for this part of Pyrenees, the famous Campo Santo and its wonderful gothic porticos. It’s one of the many expressions of the strong religious impregnation of the town from the origins. «Perpignan welcomed all the Christian orders, thanks to its border position, without forgetting the other religions».

Souk. Rue Paratilla and its traditional trades.

Unique. The bell tower of the Saint-Jean-Baptiste cathedral made of wrought iron.
Bell tower spirit«When I think of Perpignan, first my thoughts are directed to the Saint-Jean-Baptiste cathedral’s wrought iron The centre of the world
Declared as the centre of the world by Dali, Perpignan acquired an unexpected notoriety. But, the painter appreciated only the hall of the station that he represented in some of his paintings.

Culte. Work presented on the occasion of the Salvador Dali exhibition, taking up the famous sentence of the master.
Perfect triangle. Jaubert-de-Passa square.
«In this square you can find a real Catalan restaurant, Le Figuer, with an open kitchen and the availability to taste the authentic regional products. And the atmosphere is much more colourful than in the typical restaurant of Lyon».

Every time he arrived in Perpignan he had lunch at the buffet with two eggs among the travellers. «He was an incredible ambassador for Perpignan, even abroad thanks to the many photos of him taken in the town. Every photo was the result of a meticulous preparation, because he was his own director. But, as the centre of the world isn’t easy to place in a map when I’m abroad, I prefer to say that Barcelona is right near». Only a regret, Perpignan has no paintings of the artist who did a lot toward making it famous.

Little green squares

The town has got wonderful little squares. Popular as Poilus Square, or calm as the Révolution Française one with its wonderful fountain overcame by a salamander where the water gushes out.

camposanto

A cloister disappears It’s difficult to imagine what the convent of Carmes was in 1270 when it was built under the will of the king of Majorca, Jacques the Ist. Abandoned during the Revolution and then for a long time mishandled by the time and men, it was useful as a weapons warehouse. A great part of it was destroyed in World War II by the explosion of German ammunitions. Its cloister, volatilized, remains intact. Actually, it has been completely removed and rebuilt in the Villemartin castle, in Aude. «It has always been here and even if one day it is for sale, the town will buy it. It certainly must be maintained here and not int the United States like many other gems of the department».

«There are beautiful plants that I knew are sick but I don’t want see them to disappear. If necessary we will mummify them». Another charming little square is the Jaubert-de-Passa one, which is triangle-shaped. Great Architect

Another beautiful place is the Tiers-Ordre chapel. It hosted the group of Jews who were forced to convert to the Christian religion but stayed attached to their own. In one of is frescos, God thrones, holding in his hand a globe


but one detail could be ignored by an uninformed visitor. «We nearly don’t notice it, but at his feet there is an angel who holds an angle and a compass, two useful tools of Freemasons ». Is it a wink of companions in charge of realizing the fresco or a later addition? The Great Architect doesn’t seem be offended.Converted places

Perpignan is an architectural mosaic with its converted buildings: the convent became exhibition place, the «loge de mer» became a bar, and religious and military buildings became showrooms. That’s the case of the Arsenal, which now houses the “Casa musicale”.


Reconversion.
The old Arsenal left its place to a showroom.

chapelle-du-tiers-ordre-service-photo-ville-de-perpignan«I met for a long time with Aznar in the corridor. Andalou started teasing me that since I was walking disaster I should ask for Perpignan to become Spanish. To answer him I went toward history hoping for the border abolition. That made him smile and contributed to create a more relaxed atmosphere. I offered him a painting of bulls demonstrating that the Catalan donkey isn’t spiteful».Musical line

On the musical side, one who knows Perpignan immediately thinks of the singer Cali. But when you reach the town hall, you can hear the couplets of another artist. His disk features the song «Perpignan» written by Balbino Medellin, a Gipsy singer whose origins are from Roussillon. «After the disorders in 2008, I asked him if he’d agree to use this song which is a perfect summary of the town. He immediately accepted. This song symbolizes what Perpignan must be: the town for everyone».

«When I went there in 1993, I had the keys given to me. I discovered an incredible but abandoned place with a magnificent nave and an olive tree that grew the air in the gargoyles. We have renovated everything to make it the place of cultural exchanges that it is today. Unfortunately the olive tree didn’t resist and we had to replant it».

A rough summit

In 2001, Perpignan hosted a rough French-Spanish summit. On the Iberian side José Maria Aznar, at the time Prime Minister is the only master on board, but France is represented by Jacques Chirac and Lionel Jospin, forced cohabitation. And yet, beforet he final conference the two leaders opposed themselves about the order of their speech and isolated themselves in an office.

The oval turn round France Champion with 15 players this year, Perpignan is the one case with a team of 13, it’s the only French one to involved in the English Super League. At the beginning, fact almost unknown, the two rugbys practised in Aimé-Giral. First the XIII, before that the XV advanced on the court…in the other sense. Perpignan has broken its record for Dan Carter, its New Zealander player, whose monthly salary grew to 100000 Euros. A winning bet because the bouclier de Brennus came back to the Castillet. «Here, we call him the «planxot» and he runs from village to village and from hand to hand. I hope

we won’t mislay him. The best way, is to become new champions next year».