We’re on a train to the centre of the universe. It sounds like something from Doctor Who, or maybe Hitchhiker’s Guide, but in fact it’s a ride of less than seven hours from Paris. In 1963, Salvador Dalí was travelling through Perpignan when he had a vision – a véritable éjaculation mentale – of the city’s station as the cosmic centre of the universe, with the building’s proportions reflecting its structure perfectly. Whether paranoia or substance abuse lay behind this vision we’ll never know, but he encapsulated it in a surreal 1965 painting (La Gare de Perpignan, now in Cologne’s Museum Ludwig). Dalí also declared that sooner or later everyone changes trains at Perpignan: the city is on the route from Barcelona and Girona in Spain to all points French. But those who just use Perpignan as a way-station are missing out on a small (120,000 inhabitants), ancient, walkable city with a Catalan feel and a delightful climate – the Pyrenees to the west offer shelter from wind and rain. It’s also a place where wine and rugby are the twin obsessions, with tourism a distant third. It may be the centre of the universe but Perpignan station isn’t in… Read full this story
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