The castle which was built in 1670 by Vauban , Louis the sixteenth star architect ,sits on the mountain that towers above the village.
General de Catellane wanted to establish a spa for the wounded military. He gave the place its name in 1840 – the name of Queen Amélie, wife of King Louis Philippe.
In 1855 the military hospital was completed, when Amélie and her husband had already been chased off by the 1848 revolution.
Both of the thermal baths which are fed by 11 hot sulphur springs can be used either as short term stays or longer ones prescribed by doctors.
Right at the start of the village is a bus stop from where you can take the 1€ bus to Céret and then to the Mediterranean or to Perpignan.
Medieval Palalda which is right opposite, belongs to Amélie but has quite a different character. The quiet, sun- drenched alleys, the colourful houses that are overgrown with bougainvilleas create a mediterranean atmosphere.
The next little town is Ceret, 7 km away, which can also be reached by bike.
There is little left from the Roman conquerors, but they had built the first bridge across river Tech , which was destroyed in 522 by high floods.
The counties of Vallespir and Roussillon were governed by the Spanish Kings from the 13th until the 17th century.
The oldest of the bridges, Pont du Diable, ( Devil’s Bridge) was built in 1321 under the King of Mallorca. Today it is reserved for pedestrians.
The city walls which dated back to the same time now has only to gates left : Porte de Espagne, the gate that looks to Spain and Porte de France which points to France.
The medieval town centre with its crooked alleys is well preserved and charming.
Everywhere in Céret you find plaques with pictures of painters who discovered Céret at the beginning of the 20th century. Pierre Brune, Chaim Soutine, Maurice Lautreuil, Pablo Picasso and others lived and worked here and influenced the town’s history.
Pierre Brune initiated the big Museum of Modern Art in the centre.
In Céret you still hear the old speak Catalan and on New Year’s eve the Sardana is danced in front of the city hall.
Upriver to the southwest of Amélie-Les-Bains you reach Arles-sur-Tech with its Abbey from the 8th and 9th century and the gothic cloister from the 13th century.
Following the Tech to the Spanish border your reach Prats-de-Mollo at 745 m. It is a placs where time seems to have stood still. You walk steep cobblestoned alleys up and down. The first church was built in 982. The imperative Vauban Fort from the 17th century was not only built against the Spanish but also to control the own unruly people. In February 1939 about 100000 Spanish refugees arrived here escaping Franco’s war.
Perpignan (35 km) had been the capital of county Roussillon from the 10th century onwards and became the capital of the Majorcan Kingdom between 1276 – 1344. The Palace of the Majorcan kings can still be visited. The Cathedral Saint Jean Baptiste is also from this period.
Perpignan is a university town with 125000 inhabitants and a lively old town with a lot of historic buildings.
Elne (30 km) used to be much more important than Perpignan. Situated on a hill in the plain of Perpignan i was a good place for an oppidum in the Bronze Age, first for the Iberian then for the Celts. In the beginning it was called Illiberis. 218 BC Hannibal camped outside its gates with 80 000 men, 20 000 horses and 37 elephants.
The Romans called it Castrum Helenae after Constantine’s wife.As early as 350AC a Christian church is mentioned. In the Middle Ages zhe towm was ruled by an abbot. Today its medieval past can be seen in the old town on the hill with its three gates as well as the Roman church and the Roman-Gothic cloister.. Elne is despite its 8000 inhabitants rather a village, especially on market days.
The coast of Côte Vermeille south of Argelès-sur-Mer is very special because of its rocky bays, the clear and pure water, the lush green vineyards which reach down to the sea and which are interspersed by pine trees and stone huts as well as fishing villages that are still very original.
The painters The Fauves (the Wild Ones) discovered this coast because of its colours at the beginning if the 20th century, especially Collioure.
Collioure (36 km) is characterized by border quarrels of the Spanish and the French kings. The town was guarded by five forts on the surrounding hills. Chateau-Fort is right in the middle if the town which dates back from the time of the Visigoths. It is still used as a military base.
Collioure still has its narrow, colourful fisher houses and close alleys although today you find many shops there. The tradition of anchovy fishing has completely gone.. That used to be their main income. But you still see some small fishing boats in the harbour and you get a salad with pickled anchovy which here is especially delicious.
In Port-Vendres the big fishing boats and cargo boats from Africa drop anchor. The activities of the harbour leave their mark on the little town whose many fish restaurants stretch along the harbour line.
Paulilles: A branch of the Nobel-Dynamite factory settled between Port Vendres and Banyuls in 1870. The war of 1870/71 against Prussia and then World War I let their activities increase a lot. After 1918 they lacked manpower and therefore they employed Vietnamese soldiers, who also lived there. The jobs were often very dangerous and that resulted in many deaths. The local workers carried on with fishing or growing wine. In 1984 the factory was closed down. The Conservatoire littoral bought it and since then it is a spacious park open to the public. Some very quiet beaches belong to it.
Banyuls-sur-Mer (45 km) is also characterized by the border between Spain and France. During the reign of the Majorcan kings the Knights of the Temple arrived, drained the swamps and developed a water system for the vineyards which is still in use today. The canals which look like the feet of a cock stop the flushing of the steep hills during heavy rainfalls.
When county Rousillon was annexed by France in the 17th century Banyuls became a hotspot for smuggling. Tobacco, salt, rice or sugar were smuggled either across the sea or the Pyrenees.
These paths across the Pyrenees were then used when intellectuals and artists who had fled Nazi Germany had to escape once more, now to Spain. They were guided by Lisa and Hans Fittko.
Sculptor Aristide Maillol ( 1861 – 1944) is present with his sculptures everywhere in Banyuls. His house, a little outside the town, can be visited as it is now a museum.
Banyuls is pretty far away from the tourist industry, a small town on the sea with a harbour and beaches where old people gather and speak Catalan.
Via Le Boulou (17 km) you reach the motorway and the Spanish border. It is 49 km to Figueras (Dali museum) , 87 km to Girona, and 83 km to Cadaquès.