The town of Argeles-sur-mer has always been seen as a worthwhile prize in regular scraps between the Spanish and the French. This was because it had the miserable bad luck to be very close to the border. That’s why you’ll see many crumbling castles clinging to the nearby mountainsides, just patiently waiting for another war to start.
Even as late as 1939, Argeles suffered the fallout of a major military hoo-hah when a concentration camp was established near the beach to accommodate refugees from the Spanish Civil War.
These days, camps of a different sort blight the landscape. These are holiday camps, and there are fifty-eight of them. That’s right, fifty-eight…and you can safely assume each camp is going to have more than a handful of happy campers.
Such is the volume of tourism in this area that you and your family will not find any deserted beaches, despite them being strongly hinted at by the Eurocamp website. Indeed you’ve got more chance of finding a vacant piece of sand at the North Pole.
On the plus side you are going to be well-served for food, if you like pizza and burgers. Once upon a time I used to go to France for the food. These days I can probably do just as well by pitching my tent at an English council-estate shopping parade. Unfortunately, Argeles is not unique in the culinary degradation of France.
I blame the omnipresent fast food franchises that have now spread their poison (not poisson), far and wide in what was once an eater’s Eden. These global businesses appear to have zealously embarked on an evangelical mission to get all our gloriously varied nations of the world eating exactly the same food. Presumably, when all the different peoples of the world do finally succumb to eating nothing but their homogenous box-based foodstuffs, we can all do away completely with the inconveniences of local produce and regional cuisine.
Thirty years ago the French wouldn’t have given them houseroom, now they flock to them and the fast food outlets are as packed as an Argeles beach in August.
I’m not saying Argeles is all bad, but it just doesn’t have the class of a Brittany or Normandy. Nor does it do itself any favours with its own marketing. The motto on the crest of the town translates as ‘gather thistles, expect prickles’ or ‘who rubs there, pricks himself there’. Such a slogan hardly paints a picture of fun and relaxation, unless coming home with a nasty rash is seen as a positive outcome to whatever you get up to on holiday.
The motto refers to the cacti-like vegetation that infests the sand dunes. So don’t bother heading to those for a bit of less crowded sunbathing. Like we did.
At the end of the day, which can’t come quick enough, it is a ‘Med resort’ albeit located in the more attractive sounding ‘South of France’. If you are used to such resorts then most of what Argeles is all about will come as no surprise i.e. fights over sun-loungers, sun-burn, traffic jams, crap food, crowded beaches, turds in the swimming pool and replica footy shirts worn by men who would have to shed ninety-percent of their bodyweight to play in the Salford Gas-Fitters Sunday League, never mind being invited to turn out at Stamford Bridge.
The only positive aspect to Argeles is its proximity to the city of Perpignan. They have a rugby league side and, as luck would have it, they just happened to be playing my team, London Broncos, whilst we were there.
This happy coincidence was not well-received when I revealed it on day three of our disappointing family holiday that we had taken two days to drive to.
Hence why I was left on my own down there from day four onwards.
For more fun and games, and puppets, in France click here