Vernet Les Baines- A little piece of Southern France heaven

Published: May 24th 2016
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As I set off for Vernet Les Baines for my vacation from the city of Perpignan, I could not help becoming skeptical over the five valuable summer days that I had allotted to such a small commune in Southern France. Perhaps a more happening spot must have been better than these foothills of the great mountain Canigou. But these five days convince me that Rudyard Kipling indeed had a fine taste. The great writer stayed at Les Baines for some time at wrote a story, ‘Why Snow falls at Vernet?’ Although I did not share this wonder with him during the sunny month of June, you can be certain that I could write a longer rant over ‘Why do storms hit Conigou?’ because that was the only delinquency that Vernet had hit me with during my memorable vacation at this little piece of heaven.

Vernet les Baines is famous for its hot springs that have given rise to a range of spa and other medical facilities owing to the healing power of these springs. This was in fact the initial purpose of Kipling’s visit to Vernet. The hot springs helped to cure his arthritis-stricken wife. Vernet les Baines inherits the authentic Catalan heritage that can be seen in its historical buildings like the medieval castle. This is located uptown Vernet, and is now unfortunately a private property that is closed for visit. Saint Saturnin is another intriguing historical site that is built on the foundations of the commune’s first ever chapel, ‘Notre Dame del Puig’ from as early as the 12th century.

The highlighting feature, however that advocated for Vernet les Baines to become my holiday’s spot of the year, is the visit to the massif and ascent to Mount Canigou. The massif of Conigou and stopover at wardened mountains is yet another experience imprinted in the mind forever. Upon my arrival, I was seriously glad to have booked a sleeping place well in advance at the Chalet de Cortalets. I took up a walking trail with a group of French tourists through the forest. They were a great company who were visiting the massif the third time. I therefore, had little to worry about, thanks to them and the tourist office who had already handed me information regarding the trails and precautions. The wardened mountain huts have 112 sleeping places, and it offers lunches, evening meals and even prepares a packed lunch if request the administration beforehand. The whole day spent camping at massif was French hospitability at its highest. The massif led to Tour de Goa, which is a medieval watchtower that has been reconstructed for tourists and the abbey of Saint Martin du Canigou.

Saint Martin du Canigou Abbey is located on a rock-strewn outlier up on the village of Castiel. The roman-style religious center is a hospitable site that is open for everyone who wants to visit, or even spend a few days, if they feel need to connect to the spiritual self in solitude. They rocky route to the Abbey can be covered by a walk of 45 minute uphill. Lifts are also available for those who lack the stamina in a 4 x 4 taxi. I, of course chose the former, more so, to sate my thirst for hiking.

Unfortunately, the administration cancelled the ascent of the mountain of Canigou because of prediction of storm. This is very common during the summers in Vernet. So I had to return and re-plan the itinerary to seeing around the town instead, and question rather sadly, ‘Why do storms hit Conigou?’

Allocating my days to seeing around the small sunny beauty of Vernet des Bains proved to be an equally great deal. The homely towns people are an extremely hospitable lot, who although did not speak English, did their best to gesture warmth and make me feel welcomed. I was lucky enough to be there on the June of 23rd and witness the centuries old Catalan tradition of the fire of Saint John.

The little lush green commune and the mountain that shelter that it offer a remarkable landscape for sightseers. It is equally tempting for adventurers who target to reach the Canigou summit. Vernet les Bains is undoubtedly among the best tourist spots of the time in all respects.


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