For the next seven months I will be working as an English language assistant in Perpignan, France. Perpignan is the beautiful capital of the Pyrénées-Orientales department in the South of France and is located very close to the Spanish border.
I love the fact that it appears as though there are two cultures combined into one in this small, yet diverse, city. Firstly, there is the French culture itself with the numerous, delicious bakeries and the two-hour lunch breaks that last from 12pm to 2pm. On the other hand there is also a Catalan vibe that is very much alive in this city thanks to the use of the old Occitan dialect and the apartments with orange-tiled roofs. I think the city is perfect for a linguist like myself, who is studying French and Spanish, as I get to experience the best of both worlds during my Erasmus year. I can travel between France and Spain in less than two hours, giving me the opportunity to explore Spain at the weekends after spending my week days in France – it is the perfect balance!
In fact Salvador Dali, a very famous Catalan artist, proclaimed that the train station in Perpignan was ‘The centre of the earth’. Having now been there myself I can agree with Dali as it is extremely easy to experience the best of both cultures once you board the train. You can easily go from Perpignan to Barcelona, or vice versa, for a day trip or for a long weekend depending on your preference. It helps that in France you can buy a ‘carte jeune’ which allows you to save nearly 40% on all train fares! There is also a one euro bus and train that you can take to visit the neighbouring towns and villages, such as Villefranche-de-Conflent, to see more of the idyllic scenery of this region.
So far I have only been here for two and a half weeks, and at the start I found it quite difficult to settle in. I missed all my family and friends but day by day I am growing fonder of this hidden gem that is Perpignan. I am looking forward to travelling more around France and Spain and of course immersing myself in both cultures. I hope with time that I will be able to enhance my listening skills as well as my spoken French, but only time will tell!