Sunday, June 19, 2011


Consider this: if you unwind too much, will your ability to put any structure to life diminish, or perhaps disappear altogether?

One down and one to go. I’m referring to weeks in Sorede. I know that we are halfway into our stay here because our hosts brought fresh towels today. We continue to be a handful for them, I think. Last night Gunter rushed down in his red shorts (they're his at home standbys) and knocked on our door the minute he saw us returning home from dinner. A lesson in prudence followed. We’re sloppy in locking up. He checked our car doors while we were gone – unlocked! Villages are changing, he tells us. Just up the road, the son of a neighbor, he may be up to no good. We should take greater care. Okay, we’ll try.

In the meantime, our rise up and get going hour continues to crawl upward. I wish I could say that it is only Ed who sleeps at odd hours. Or late hours. At 10 am I say – Ed, if we are to go to the Ceret market, we should get going already! (It’s a big happening in these parts: Ceret is about a half hour away and on Saturdays it has the market of markets in Languedoc. Curving for blocks underneath giant plane trees.)

So are we going? Shouldn’t we? Yes, let’s! What about breakfast? And we need more nectarines. Or apricots. Or whatever it is that our neighbors down the road are selling today. And let’s get the pains au chocolat and eat them in Ceret. Or maybe we should skip Ceret? No, we should go. We’ll go. After picking up the nectarines. And what about the pain au chocolat? And where does the coffee fit in? We go around like this for a while.

And it continues. So we’re driving? Yes, of course. Unless you want to walk for the nectarines and bakery and then drive? That doesn’t seem sensible. Or should we drive halfway down the hill? No, you drive to the nectarine place and I’ll go for the breads.... No, that’s silly. And where do I park for the nectarine place? In their courtyard. I can’t. You can. You do it.

I think we’ve reached the state of being completely unwound.

Eventually (with peaches and breads in the back), we do head for Ceret. The place where artists dallied some 100 year ago (for instance Picasso, year 1911). Now the place of the great market.

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We buy many many good foods. Fruits. White asparagus for tonight’s dinner. Honey for home (why? Do we not have good honey at the Madison markets?). Cheeses. Butter. Olives, Olive paste. Anchovies. A truckload of things, it seems.

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And I should mention this: at the markets, I’ve been collecting discarded wooden crates. Back at the farmhouse, in the mudroom, I store essentials in old crates used once for the sale of fruits and vegetables. It surely would be fun to include some crates from here. Ones that say cherries from Rousillon. Or onions from the Languedoc. You ask – how will I transport these back to Madison? Well, that’s a valid question. I’m working on a possible solution.

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After the market, we drive back to Sorede. Lovely little Sorede -- between vines and pines it sits, right at the foot of these hills.



And here finally we sit down at the lower square café in Sorede. At 2 pm I drink my breakfast coffee along with a pain au chcolat.

At home, Ed naps. By evening I nudge him hard – we have to earn our dinner, I tell him. Since it’s already six and the clouds make it seem even later, I suggest a drive up the gorge just a couple of kilometers to the east of us. There is an old Roman church there that we’d not seen. And there are sure to be trails into the mountains behind it.

I have to say this about Sorede: it is not only the loveliest of villages (in my opinion), but it also has the prettiest roads leading to it. The photos just above are along the road to the north. And when we leave its perimiter to the east, we are again between vineyards and meadows. Always with mountains framing our world.



The drive through the gorge is along a narrow road – a bit eerie, in my opinion. A heavily wooded crevice in the mountain range.

The Roman church is old and you can’t look inside. You have to wonder why it was built in this remote spot nearly a thousand years ago.


There are always plenty of trails and footpaths up the hills and we find one for a brief walk through the forest. Neither of us is really prepared for a long mountain hike and nor is it an especially great evening for it. The skies are brooding, the forest seems almost dark. Or it could be that the stripped cork oaks look especially somber with their bottoms stripped of bark.


You know its time to turn back when you hold on to a branch for support and you hear it crack just as you gingerly attempt to avoid a slide down a slippery bit of rock.

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One last look at the craggy summit just up ahead.


Okay. Back we go. An hour later we are in the car, making our way down the gorge toward Sorede. As you come out of the mountain crevice, you can catch a peek at the coast – just a thin strip of it.


But what is especially pretty is the sky to the west, toward Canigou and the higher elevations.


We stop the car to look, to admire, to photograph. To remember.

At home I prepare a supper of market foods. A potato/tomato/egg/endive salad with Catalan anchovies and of course, the white asparagus with parsley butter. And bread and cheese. That’s a given. However we go about our days here, we can count on this much: there's always a good supply of bread and cheese in our kitchen.