Ed tells me that what I have in common with (at least some of) the villagers of Sorede is the inability to think and act in terms of dollars (or Euros in their case). I don't seize entrepreneurial opportunities and indeed, I often kick them in the face. Soredians, too, given the chance to make an extra few coins -- they'll weigh that against the alternative. If chasing the good money means stepping out of their comfort zone – they wont do it.
That’s so like you, Ed says, shaking his head in disbelief. (He still cannot understand why the villagers do not market themselves in a way that would actually bring the visitors that they seem to want here; our landlord, who is from Britain, tells us that Soredians are extremely tied to traditional ways of doing business. Credit cards? Internet? Not a chance. Talk to potential customers by phone and pay for everything with cash or check.)
But let me go back to the making Euros point. Say someone comes into your store and clearly does not want to buy much – just a small quantity of a perfectly ripened product (in this case – nectarines), if you're hell bent on making money, you don’t hand over a few pieces of fruit and insist that these foreigners should not pay for them.
Or this: two customers come into your café bar pizzeria restaurant. They want food, they order food, they order drinks, they order more drinks, and so on and so forth. You do not present them with a bill that somehow “forgets” (with a smile and a wink) to include all the drinks purchased that night. Especially since everyone knows restaurants don’t make money on the food they sell, but rather on the drinks people buy.
Sigh... Sorede people are too preoccupied with doing what feels right for them...
Friday was our last full day in Sorede and it was full of those tender moments that come spilling forth as you come to realize it’s your last this and your last that.
Breakfast – well no, that wasn’t the last one. But it was as always, a special time: of purchasing the pain au chocolat and wondering if we are too late to get our favorite baguette (we like the Baguepi – a chewier version and it often sells out by late morning). We didn’t. Okay, that and the pain please.
It is market day and there is nothing to buy really because of the Saturday departure. But we cannot resist. Tomatoes. You always need tomatoes for your baguette and cheese lunch. (Even as some people have a habit of nibbling on baguette even before lunch.)
And more cheese, of course. And maybe a mustard to take home and and... no nothing else. Not the artichokes. Sigh...
But from our neighbor, yes to some apricots, okay? The daughter is selling as the grower and his wife are sorting the fruit into crates.
So it’s early afternoon. The sun is again quite warm. We wait until 2:30 to start a hike. Wise move. It’s brutal on the trail. I thought we’d do a very local walk up the hill immediately rising at the southern edge of Sorede. There is a small church near the double summit (looking like camel humps from where we are). Surely every kid in town has done this two-hour climb.
And no, we do not lose the trail, we don’t get lost on the descent either. Up we go, chasing the few shady spots, thinking again that we did not bring enough water. While the butterflies laughed and laughed at our ridiculousness.
The views are sentimentally sweet: it’s all about Sorede below and the great Roussillon plane that stretches to the sea – the sea that we have come to love so much that we cannot resist it, not any day, not even late in any day. And the mountains to the east -- we crossed those into Spain once! Remember the confusion and the sangria and...
The church is recently rebuilt and it is simple and pretty and no, we are not going to suffer from excessive thirst because they sell their very own bottles of wine at the Notre Dame du Chateau. And, in the alternative (and we choose to go with the alternative), you can refill your multiple (half empty) bottles of water from their tap.
It’s nearly five and we should go down now. We should. But we notice that the trail doesn’t end with the church – it continues to climb up to the two rocky peaks. I protest. I’m not much of a rock climber and I don’t like precipitous drops. But Ed’s curious and as always, I cannot stand the idea that he might find a better view, a sweeter climb, a lovelier butterfly.
I tell him I will not go a step beyond what I can enjoy and so we set forth.
It’s not terrible – really it isn’t. There are pretty flowers to distract me and if I don’t look straight down, I can try to imagine that I am merely following a rocky path in a very uphill direction.
We reach the ridge and then the summit – or almost the summit and the views on all sides are indeed spectacular. Canigou Peak has been hiding behind hazy skies lately...
But from this summit, the views south, east and north are sublime.
The trail ends here, at the ruins of an ancient fortification. You can be ridiculous and scale the last rock with the help of a wobbly ladder (I kid you not). I refuse. I remind Ed that he has his less favorable walking shoes on and he does what he always does when I caution him about something: ignores me and tallies forth.
Of course, I would be less glib now had he crashed in some awful fashion. He was fine even as he gallantly admitted that the view twelve feet higher was pretty much the same as at my level.
The climb down is fast and furious. We still want to go to the beach.
Even as we pause to pick up some nectarines at our neighbors (and he doesn’t want us to pay for them, silly man). Great and wonderful nectarines. Pick your degree of ripeness (I like them still holding their shape, Ed likes them softer).
And by 7:30 we’re at the Argeles Nord beach – the one we went to earlier in our stay, when it felt too cold to swim.
And it was too cold now as well. The wind for once was blowing in from the sea and here, along the shore, it just felt nippy.
A couple huddled on the shore, a brave foursome of young men plunged in for a round of water play, but despite the brutally hot hike earlier in the afternoon, I was cold.
We hadn't eaten our lunch yet and so we took it out now, along with some leftovers that needed to be finished before our departure.
And still, Ed could not decide whether he should swim.
In the end, I told him we could still pop out to the beach tomorrow, before heading south to Spain. Good plan, he said. We drove home in the last minutes of a Soredian summer sun, burning the peaks we had climbed earlier.
My traveling companion had promised a meal at one of the two “better” restaurants in our village. We’d tried one on our second night in town, but then settled in for eating market foods and simple dishes at Chez Patou, or pizza at the café bar.
On this evening, we walk into the quite good Ma Maison. Our old waiter is there and he greets as pleasantly as ever, but we look at the quiet terrace and the tight tables and the somberness of the mood there and we tell him -- thank you, but maybe another time.
We cross the square to the café bar pizzeria restaurant from where we can watch children play and listen to the locals talk about daily things of no great import...
...and it is a wonderful meal of a Catalan salad (always with the anchovies) and pizzas and meats and lets not forget the free sangria and rose wine and fizzy water.
Ah well, we do leave a tip even as one normally doesn’t here to any sizable extent, and I also leave (by accident) my little black pouch with coins and it has several such coins, and so you could say that generosity (theirs) carries its own rewards.
The walk back is (for me at least) sentimentally sweet and sad, all at the same time.