Sunday, June 17, 2012


Good days pass quickly. I’m really stunned that a week in Sorede has gone by, that I’m now counting how many more eggs we’ll need, how many tomatoes, how many dinners I’m likely to cook. In the first week here, if we go to one beach, it’ll be the first time. In the second week, if we go to any beach, it will likely be the last time for that one.

Our mountain hikes have been fewer, our times at the beach have been more numerous. Two wimpy hikes in the course of the first week, daily trips to the sea. And every day the weather grows more perfect for swimming and less perfect for mountain climbing. Sunshine warms you when you’re done chasing waves. Sunshine heats you to a sizzle when you’re climbing straight up for a handful of hours.

Today again I offer an excuse not to hike: it’s Saturday! Ceret market day!

If you’re new to this, or get your towns and villages mixed up, Ceret is an artsy little place about a half hour from where we are: if you crawl along the base of the Pyrenees due west, you’ll get to it. I say artsy because others have deemed it so. Many early twentieth century greats have passed through it. Now, many twenty-first century tourists pass through it, especially from England, Germany and the Scandinavian countries.

Ceret is very pretty. Think tall trees that tower over stately three story buildings.

But this isn’t why I want to go there. It’s the market. If you have to do one big market in the region of Languedoc, Ceret’s Saturday affair is your baby.

But first thing's first. We do not neglect our walk down to the bakery, where the very nice salesperson has put aside two Napoleons for us. And a good thing! They bake them only once a week and by 10 am they are all sold out! (Could it be that they should bake more?)

At the café on the upper square, the pace is slow. It’s Saturday! People are starting their bon weekend. (I always marvel how everyone wishes each other a good weekend at the start of one. As if they really intend to do fun things and have a grand set of days.)

We come to the café in time for the free mini croissants with the coffee (and for Ed the hot chocolate. Why? Because he's figured out it's cheaper than the soda water he'd been having).


I keep saying – we should hurry and then I, we don’t hurry. We're on extra slow mode. Enjoyably so. (Though Ed’s habit of petting every cat that’ll let him come near on the walk to and from the village square is perhaps too protracted. I tell him he’ll get bubonic plague from the cats, but he just laughs.)

Okay, Ceret. Market photos. I’m going to go easy on those. I post a lot of market photos and so I know they tend to run into one  another. One fruit vendor here is not much different than fruit vendors elsewhere, at other markets. I'll post things that we bought:



Honey. After the hike in the Corbieres, I was hoping to find the second (after wine) treasure of the hills there – rosemary honey. I did. Plenty of it at this market.

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Basics. We pick up some basics, because I did not like them at our own local market: carrots (we love to munch on good carrots), strawberries (we finished them on the spot).

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And Ed got hungry for an extraordinarily simple and wonderfully delicious tart. With raspberry jam. Making me think that when I return home, I really should go back to baking more often.


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And finally girolles. That would be chantrelles in English, no? These guys with scrambled eggs are such a superb supper that we certainly should have them before we leave. (Childhood memories: I used to pick them after every rainfall in the forest by my grandparents village home in Poland.)

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I also purchase a few table napkins (pretty, easy to carry, cheap) and pick up something that is abundant and free at the markets here – a wooden packing crate. I have a little collection of them in the mudroom back at the farmhouse and if I can fit in the suitcase, one of these would be a welcome addition.

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At one stall, we buy a bottle of something that I love – wine grape juice. You can find exquisite blends of wine grapes (it’s the juice of the grape before fermentation, so it’s nonalcoholic) in France and Ed says I should go into business selling it in the States and this is a key difference between us – he has the largest dose of entrepreneurial spirit I’ve ever encountered in anyone and I have none of it. Business ideas excite him and they scare me. He sketches out three different business plans by the time we are done with the market and at the end of it all, I just want to drink the juice and not think anymore about failure. Blame it on my Communist Poland upbringing (an easy target, don’t you think?).

A few photos of the pretty houses of Ceret...

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...and of the extremely abundant café life here. Please agree with me that people watching at these places is over the top wonderful. Look at the woman in the pics. She waves her baguette in animated conversation. Then she keeps up the conversation as she lovingly caresses the back of the guy she's with. Eventually, her hand goes under his shirt, below the belt line. Such talent!


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As we leave Ceret, I pause for one last view of the skyline...


...and, at the periphery, I get out to take a photo from the bridge. Ed says – you’ve done this already in previous years. I say – but the skies are clear and the view onto the Canigou mountain is unusually good!

Here’s me (Ed takes this from inside the car, hence the slight fuzziness):


Here’s the view of the mountain. (Note announcements of the bull run: Ceret has a love affair with bulls and on Bastille Day - July 14 - men chase bulls down the streets, attempting, so far as I can figure out, to hold on to their tails... Hey, I can't love everything about the region!):


And now we’re home for lunch on the terrace, where the featured items are gong to have to be the Napoleon (or mille feuilles, as they’re called here) and the wine grape juice.

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Late in the afternoon, it is beach time at little and sweet Le Racou. The weekends here can get busy, but not packed. If you arrive after five, you'll be able to watch people trickling home...


And in any case, very few people swim. Which puzzles me, because the water, though still a tad choppy, is absolutely refreshing and superb.


Talk. Watching people talk. Always there is the chatter.


A beach outing is never boring.

Our evening meal tonight is special. In the course of our two weeks in France, we don’t really eat at the sprinkling of fine places in Sorede, or nearby villages. But we make an exception at least once and the place of choice for us is, hands down, La Salamandre.

It’s a tiny restaurant just off the square. He cooks (and does the dishes afterwards!), she serves. And the food is exquisite! I start with pate with figs and Banyuls (the intense local fortified sweet wine, made from grapes of these southern Pyrenees) and then both of us have the mixed fish dish.



The room is crowded with French people (expats prefer the larger menu of the grill place across the street) and it is wonderful just to listen to the snippets of conversations around us (Ed had the kitchen view – a good lesson for anyone who hasn’t worked a restaurant kitchen at how hard that job actually is). Our hosts are still spinning dreams of selling this lovely little place and moving to Canada or the States. My husband wants to try opening a place in Texas! Imagine, he doesn’t even speak English! I assure her his talents will take him far. Entrepreneurs and Texas seems a fine combination, no?

The walk back home is as 'delicious' as the meal. The range of temperatures between day (a pleasant 75) and night (a warm 68) is small. I dangle a sweater on my arm thinking how nice it is that I never have to use it.

As usual, the black and white cat waits, halfway up, and Ed spends a long while rubbing him behind the ears.