In the southeast of France, in the region of Roussillon, lies Saint Cyprien Plage. It is a town by the Mediterranean Sea, with approximately 30,000 inhabitants in summer, but less than half1 that during winter. The town is situated quite close to the Pyrenees. In the past 15 years the town has grown a lot, new houses have been built mainly for French people to use for vacationing. Saint Cyprien Plage has the second largest small-boat port in the Mediterranean, and a beach stretching six kilometres.
The town responsible for creating the colony Saint Cyprien Plage is Saint Cyprien Village, an old town situated two kilometres further inland. The first record of the village is by the Romans, 118 BC. It is quite picturesque, with old houses and small streets. Saint Cyprien Plage is not that old; it was founded in the 1950s and lacks the same old town feel, but it is picturesque nonetheless. It was founded as a project to lure tourists in, although the main expansion didn't happen until the beginning of the 1990s. Before there was St Cyprien Plage there was just a marshland with a lot of mosquitoes. And Malaria. The only way to get to the sea was with rafts. But they ditched it and drained away water to make it inhabitable. In recent years a few mosquitoes have begun to return.
The south of the town, where the port is situated, is more tourist-infested than the rest of the town. This part has expensive shops that sell not-so-needed things. The houses are large complexes and it has a small amusement park in the port. It looks as if it once was the kind of park that travelled around, but for some reason got stuck in Saint Cyprien Plage.
The middle of the town is the oldest part, the original 1950s district. It consists of old hotels and apartments that are a bit faded in a charming sort of way. Here you can find nice restaurants as well.
The Northwest has expanded over the last two decades, and now mostly consists of terraced house areas. These areas usually have names, such as Les Cyclades and Les Citronelles. They also often have a swimming pool that the inhabitants can use. The houses are owned mostly by French people who spend their holidays there. Some are owned by foreigners. When the owners aren't using them, others can rent the houses, usually through an agency or from the owners themselves. This is a nice way of experiencing Saint Cyprien Plage.
Things To Do
The six kilometre beach is the main attraction of the town. It stretches from the town Canet Plage three kilometers to the north to the port in Saint Cyprien Plage. The three kilometers of it that lie in the town has several lifeguard stations. It is a nice beach that hold several restaurants and a windsurfing renting facility. On the beach you can do stuff you usually can do on beaches, like swim in the sea, play volleyball, build sand castles, observe the good-looking and not-so-good-looking specimens of the opposite sex.
The town holds very small clubbing possibilities. It is more focused on families than partying youths. There are many restaurants of varying quality and price. The restaurants in the south tend to be more expensive.
On Tuesdays and Fridays from early morning to midday there is a market in the centre of the town. There you can find a lot of different stuff, ranging from food to clothes. For example one stand usually has last year's running shoes at a low price.
The town has a large water park, Aqualand. It is fun for both young and old, perhaps a bit more fun for the young. The park usually expands every two or three years with some new exciting slide. There is a free bus that transports people from the Town centre to Aqualand and back.
Outside the town there is a go-cart track. The most easy way to get there is by car or bike. It is a medium-sized track that has time measurement. When you've been on the beach for a couple of days this is a fun break from the tiring relaxing.
You can rent a windsurfing board on the beach, but if you do not master that sport it is wise to take a course. There is a place on the north side of town, close to the golf course, that arrange practice on a lake. It is much easier to start there than to try in the sea and get blown away.
There is a golf course in Saint Cyprien Plage. It is situated in the Northwest, north of the terrace house areas. The golf club sometimes has theme buffets with a dance afterwards on Thursdays. The music can be heard from far-off.
There is also an extreme minigolf course. You can find that at the north end of the town, at the road to Canet Plage. It has two layouts that are set in a 'jungle' environment. A fun break a stone's throw from the beach.
If you want to scuba dive the town has little to offer. But if you transport yourself 10 kilometres to the south, to Argeles, you can scuba dive. There are diving schools that arrange courses and trips. If you want to dive you need a piece of paper from a doctor that says that you are fit for it. So it is wise to contact the diving school you want to use and ask them which doctor they recommend. If you just want to try out diving you don't need to see a physician.
Every day at 15:00-15:30 the fishing boats come in from the sea. They put what they have caught in stands and let the haggling begin. You can get Tuna and sometimes even Blue Merlin. There is a lot of strange-looking fish sold, it might be a good idea to ask how to cook it.
How To Get Around
It takes about an hour to walk from the north end of Saint Cyprien Plage to the south, if you walk fast. You can rent a car, but French traffic is dangerous. Renting a bike is recommended, there are at least two shops where you can do that. But be careful.
The bus that you can take to Aqualand goes through almost the entire town, and it is free. It may be hard to find the bus stops, but if you ask around it should not be impossible.
The region is the French part of Catalunia. Therefore the road signs have both French and Catalunian names. Sometimes you hear people speak Catalunian. The food is nice, a lot of fish and sausages. There is a very typical biscuit, Rousquilles, sweet and tasty with white topping and a hole in the middle.
There are several places worth a visit in that area of France. Perpignan is a nice city with a rich history. It was once the capital of Mallorca. There is an old city wall that is quite fascinating. At the city wall there are often shows where they dance the traditional folk dance, Sardane. Sometimes you can participate if you want.
Carcassonne is the name of a town with a castle that was originally built by the Romans. It was renovated when it was popular with Disney type castles, so it does not look as it did originally, but if you like old castles it is worth a visit.
In Tautavel, a Museum of Prehistoric Man is situated. The reason for that is that a 450,000 year old man was found in a cave close to the village in 1971. The museum has interesting tours in many languages. You can even (or could a couple of years prior 2005) swim in a river close to the cave of the findings.
If you have a car it is definitely worth it to take a trip up in the Pyrenees for a day. There are a lot of places to visit, like the wine makers of Banyouls.
How To Get There
The easiest way is by air. There are several airports in reasonably close distance. The closest one is situated in Perpignan. It is also possible to fly to Barcelona, Carcassonne or Montpelier.
Saint Cyprien Plage is a nice town built on the purpose of tourism, but it is not in your face like some places frequented by visitors on holiday. It focuses on families relaxing, and has developed a charm despite the reason for its construction. Relaxing can be hectic, but in Saint Cyprien you at least get a chance to take it easy.