Saturday, June 19, 2010

by the sea

We sit at the café bar on the square and watch the people arrive. No one drives to market. You walk. With your bag or basket. And you stop to talk to anyone you know.


Or, you ignore the marke (for now) and you have your conversation at the café bar. It’s 10:30. As I slurp my lovely café crème, others are enjoying a morning aperitif.


It’s a beautiful market Friday in Sorede.

I have learned that a Tuesday market is small, as if you’re still recovering from an orgy of week-end eating, but a Friday market is small times two. I hadn’t been thinking of doing another market-based supper, but there are too many wonderful foods out there, including the new, Friday arrivals – the sausage man (I buy the one with cumin) and the charming cheese lady (the runny goat cheese is like no other).



It is impossible to pass by the haricots verts (a string bean so perfect, ballads should be sung in its honor): a fistful please! And the young potatoes, and the delicate rippling leaves of a very young spinach, and the endive. And a half dozen tomatoes. A French salad in the making. Oh, and we may as well get those delicious carrots, and some fresh figs. What?? The grand total is less than 3 Euros?? And you throw in free sprigs of parsley for anyone who asks? Produce here is very very inexpensive.

The clouds are clinging to the mountains today, but that is of no concern to us. I have in mind a beach day. Not the beaches just ten minutes east of here. I want a lovely Mediterranean beach with pristine waters that are shallow and clear. I want golden sands and no beachfront development or distraction. For that, we have to travel. Some fifty or sixty kilometers north, there is the beautiful beach of La Franqui. Please don’t share this tip with too many friends. The place is too gorgeous, too precious. May it stay this way for next decade or longer.


It is actually two beaches – one, the smaller of the two, is accessible from the little village. Do you see the river separating the two?


It's an inlet, streaming into an etang – a rather large lagoon. The second, longer beach is accessible by a bridge some ways out of town. (Or you can hold up your skirts and cross the river on foot.) We find the road over the bridge and park where it dead ends. From here, it's just a short stroll to the second beach.

There is a sailing school here as well and school children are finishing a lesson as we arrive. I comment to Ed that kids learn early here the importance of good recreation.


We walk a short distance along the wide strip of sand by the water. The air is warm, the skies are blue and puffy white and there is quite a breeze! This comes as no surprise. The winds cavort from beyond the hills, across the great Roussillon plain. There are a number of turbines on the hills catching the energy of that blast of good air and there are a number of windsurfers that come to La Franqui to race across the sea on boards with sails and kites.

Watching them is an afternoon’s worth of fun.


But first, we choose a spot far up the beach, away from the village, away from pretty much anything and anyone.

Ed is in the water within seconds. And it is such a fine place to play! Shallow for a great long while. Look – there he is, a tiny dot, standing waist deep. You can see the pale colors of the sand through the azure waters of the sea.


Water that encourages joyful silliness.


I follow shortly after and spend a heavenly long time practicing the art of crawling.


From the water, the view is equally dazzling. Whichever way you look.


On the sand again, we dry off. Gusts of wind spray us occasionally with fine sand, easily brushed off. Ed has explained to me numerous times how wind does not mean there'll be waves and indeed, there are no waves here at all. My traveling buddy builds a sand fort just at the water’s edge and it is a long long time before a little slap of water brings it to ruins.


Still, the gliders and surfers back near the village are having the most glorious time working the breeze to their advantage.

We walk in their direction to watch some more.


Crossing the lagoon inlet, we are now on the town beach and the town beach has, of course, a café bar where any number of people are refreshing themselves with a spot of something.


I choose ice cream. Dark chocolate paired with the local apricot never tasted so good.

It’s seven before we’re back in Sorede again. I know this for a fact because Ed wanted to catch the boulangerie before it closed at 7 – he thought a flan would be a fine ending to our market supper. It was not to be. The bread store was closed, even as our local grocer still was keeping the doors open for those last minute purchases – eggs for me (hard boiled, but not too hard – a splendid addition to the beans and potatoes and tomatoes. With mustard and vinegar made from Banyuls grapes and olive oil of course.)

Outside the shop, artichoke flowers were on display. I have seen (and loved) artichoke fields up north, but I had never seen the flower bloom (we harvest and eat the early bud).


We eat on the patio again. It begins to rain lightly halfway through supper, but neither of us wants to go in and so we continue, though I ask Ed to to hide the baguette. Damp French bread is not as good as a crispy loaf.