Argeles-sur-Mer: Relax in the south of France

In 1957, the small commune of Le Racou in Argeles-sur-Mer made a bid for freedom. The one-street hamlet in the south of France elected a mayor and declared itself Catalan.

Although never legally binding, the heritage is still strong – Le Racou means ‘corner’ in Catalan and the streets have kept their Catalonian names.

It has retained a laid-back charm that is rare so close to a major bucket-and-spade resort – Argelès-sur-Mer is just a few minutes’ walk away.

The main street – possibly the only proper street in Racou – runs parallel to the wide beach and stops at a dead-end before a track that wind through the trees and up into the hills of Albères.

It is jam-packed with small bars and restaurants, each with their own character, but it never feels too loud or overbearing.

Argeles-sur-Mer, France
The marina at Argeles-sur-Mer

Our two favourites are, handily, right next to each other. Le Cactus Bleu is great for a daytime snack – the burgers are superb – and the highly rated Menje Ecaille does a great mojito after dark.

Our base for the week is right on Racou’s main street. Le Bois de Valerie own Argeles-sur-Mer is a shaded park with around 180 holiday homes, its own pool – the kids will love its many levels and slides – supermarket, bar and night-time entertainment. Each holiday home has its own terrace or decking complete with BBQ, perfect for al fresco eating.

The beaches of Le Racou and Argelès-sur-Mer are linked by the newish port, with a group of hotels and restaurants looking out onto the marina.

Its hustle and bustle is a million miles from the laid-back feel of Racou but is definitely the place to go for seafood.

Argeles-sur-Mer review
The beach at Argeles-sur-Mer

We found six oysters and a glass of white wine for just 10 euros – surely the perfect food to enjoy in the sun while watching the boats coming and going.

Keep walking round and you come to the main beach, a stunning strip of coast for as far as the eye can see. The promenade makes for an excellent there-and-back 10km ride from Le Bois de Valmarie to the most northerly point of Argelès-sur-Mer. Bikes and helmets can be hired from the onsite shop.

Although the fine gravelly beach does get busy in the summer months, there is always plenty of space to lay down a towel. The sea in the roped off swimming areas is clear and teeming with fish, with a sandy bottom making it comfortable for little feet to paddle in.

The children loved the thrill of saying we were just popping to Spain for lunch and with the border less than 30 miles down the coast it is easily doable.

It takes at least an hour or so via the winding road that hugs the often dramatic shoreline. But we allowed more for stop-offs to watch the fishermen wielding their rods on jetties in the small towns along the way.

The Spanish border town of Portbou is not necessarily the most picturesque of locations but a table groaning with fried fish, spicy patatas bravas and juicy albondigas was definitely the perfect destination.

And the food was a fitting nod to our base in the ‘independent Catalan commune’ of Le Racou back in France.

Fact box

The holiday at Le Bois de Valmarie in Argelès-sur-Mer was provided by Eurocamp (www.eurocamp.co.uk / 0844 406 0402). Prices for a three-bedroom mobile home start from £50.15 per night.

(Prices correct as of August 2015)

This review first appeared on the Manchester Evening News website

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