Tuesday, June 21, 2011

child's play

The morning café routine. It’s a late one. Quite late. By the time we are there at the café-bar, bakery treats spread on the table, it’s nearly always getting on 11.

On this day it is exactly that. The pastries are from the smaller bakery (our favorite closes on this day) – crème filled croissant, because there are no more chocolate pains left.


Gorgeous blue sky! We make our way to the main square.


The café-bar has a scattering of patrons. We find a table at the edge. It’s the only way to keep a safe distance from the smokers. The waiter, the gaunt one with the tattoos and a twitch of a smile, brings us our café crème and Perrier.


You can spend you time just watching him work the tables. He’ll put a full tray of drinks on his flat palm, then reach, say, for the Perrier bottle on the tray with the left hand where he keeps a bottle opener, and with a swift move he’ll place the bottle against the back of his right shoulder and flick open the top. That’s genius.

There are taller tables by the entrance doors. The hard core regulars straddle stools there. Maybe because it’s a shorter run to the bar for refills. The rest of the tables spill out abundantly onto the square. Here, the villagers drink all day long. Espresso, noisette, beer, wine, Perrier, Orangina. Looking around, even now at 11, I can see that wine is the favored choice.

A woman my age, no, maybe older, I can’t tell, sits alone and does some crocheting. She banters with the rest as if they were family. A glass of red is at her side, but she hardly makes a dent. When the banter dies down, she hums, loudly, beautifully. I should record it and play it for myself back home. Echoes of a cabaret singer, from another time, another place.


The proprietors are putting up a new sign. To us, it’s kind of obtrusive. The square is the focal point, don’t block it! Nevertheless, we read the sign and it calls attention to today’s special of moulles frites. We should come back tonight for that – Ed says. Score one for the proprietors. They know what they’re doing with their sign.

It’s really hard to say – shall we get going already? But eventually I do. The café crème is long gone and I’m not ready to start in on the rosé.

We walk home in the quiet of the noon hour. Getting lunch on the table is serious business here. Kids are walking home from school for the two hour break. A shopkeeper closes her doors and heads home herself.

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Our own lunch has become less dignified. Here’s the bread, here are the cheeses (we have quite the variety by now), here are the tomatoes. Fix what you want. Often with books in hand, we eat outdoors.

And now comes the afternoon part of the day and even though we exerted ourselves with an hour’s drive yesterday, I suggest that we do it again on this day, only along the coast, up to La Franqui beach. Ed asks why. We can swim at the local Le Racou. I point out that it is an absolutely gorgeous day. Blue skies, a thin breeze that is sure to be significantly cooling at La Franqui. And this quite likely will be our last big outing. In the remaining days, we’ll hover around our home base not wanting to explore anymore, not relishing a drive of any sort.

So we go to my favorite beach ever. Fifty five minutes away, but so worth the drive.


And it is the perfect beach afternoon. The breeze here is indeed heftier – it always is. The sun is out, but it hardly feels hot. It’s easy to sit facing the water for a long long time without feeling burdened by anything. We read, we do nothing at all, we listen to the small waves play their water games on the shore.


There is the occasional dog to look at. Black dog, white dog...



Keeping the bikini top off is common. Some do, some don't. At this time of the year, there's so much space that you hardly see what the next person is doing. You look up, surprised, if you hear the sound of voices. Someone passing by. In all my beach going, I never hear anyone playing music (and I never see anyone plugged in to an iPod either). The sound is of wind and waves.

Closer to the village, you’ll see a dozen umbrellas lining the shore. Empty, crowded, all kinds.



But out where we are, a five, ten minute walk up the shore, it’s nearly empty.


We swim. Well, not really swim. Not much anyway. The shallow waters are wonderful to play in and I notice that one week has done a lot to make the coastal waters just that much warmer. We lumber around, a goofy kind of play, childish really. But isn’t everything that we set out to do here child’s play? Ed says acting like a child at his age is a lot harder than acting like an adult. When I wince at his antics sometimes, he’ll look proud and happy.

Out on the sand again. More time to read. Finally time to read. Not snatches of time, caught in between, but long stretches of time.


It’s 6:30. Time to head back.


We always return by way of the local roads, and for the first time, we make no wrong turns. So when Ed asks – why would you want to return here again? We’ve been to Sorede, we’ve seen it already. I want to answer – it is exactly because we don’t have to worry about the wrong turns here anymore. Last year we searched for the best place to swim. This year, the search is done. What remains is the best beach.

Past Roussillon vineyards, Roussillon apricots...


The final roundabout, down the hill – oh, it’s a quarter to eight, a bit early for supper. We drive home, leave the car and walk back down to the main square. An easy order. We know what we want. Moulles frites, salads, sangria. Oh, and do you have ketchup? That snatch of a grin. Yes, of course. Ed says – ah, French ketchup. It’s good.


The walk back. Uphill, but so good. Ten o'clock. The evening light is with us on the next to longest day of the year.