When I was looking for a place to go rock climbing, by pure serendipity I ended in Tautavel, a small village in the French region of Languedoc-Rousillon just 18 kilometers from Perpignan. A friend from Montreal told me that one of his buddies was looking for a climbing partner to join him in Tautavel; since I was in Barcelona, not far away, I decided to go. I arrived in the middle of a summer afternoon to this sleepy town that’s in a valley surrounded by vineyards and cliffs.
Tautavel has less than 1000 inhabitants and the earliest mentions of the village date from the year 1011 AD. Catalan is spoken in town, but I couldn’t understand much of it; it’s very different from the Catalan from Barcelona, that’s for sure. One of the most famous characters from this area is the Tautavel Man, whose 450,000 years old fossil remains were found in the Arago Cave. Today, there’s a museum in town dedicated to explaining the origins of man with some really modern displays.
There is plenty of choice for rock climbing around the area. One of my favourite places was the Gorges des Gouleyrous, just next to the Arago Cave. The gorge is split by the emerald waters of the river Verdouble; so you can take a break from climbing and go for a swim on the hot summer days.
When I was in Tautavel, there were talks about closing the entire climbing area due to an accident; I’m not sure how it turn out, but it’s probably best to check what are the current conditions before heading there. During our time there, we climbed several times with Thierry Rocque (how right is that name for a rock climbing guide!); he was professional, friendly and he pushed us to achieve more every time.
After a hard day of rock climbing, it was great to go out for a nice meal. The best restaurant we tried was Le Petit Gris, a place serving Catalan cuisine, located just before entering the town if you’re coming from Perpignan. They have a nice open terrace from where you can watch the sunset and some of the cliffs. The owners are very friendly and come to chat with you, in fact they asked me if I wanted to finish off the crême catalane, which I’d never done before! If you end up going, I highly recommend the Magret de canard (duck breast) with the wine sauce; it was simply exquisite.
Overall, I had a pretty awesome time in Tautavel and I’d definitely visit again if I’m in the area. This experience proved once again that sometimes it’s good to let life take you places; you never know where you might end up and how much fun you could have!