Monday, June 10, 2013

the hills, the sun, the clouds...

Is it more important that we are at the foot of the Pyrenees, or that we are just six kilometers from the sea? If you tracked the last three days, it surely would appear that the mountains win. We haven't even come close to dipping a toe into the calm waters of the Mediterranean.

But I think that it would be an incorrect inference. I count the hours until we can throw down a towel and plunge into the sea! But that day has to be perfect. The air has to be warm to compensate for the early season. There must be sunshine, because the color of the sea is at its best then.

The mountains demand less. In fact, the first climb we always do is not really up a mountain -- more like a foothill to the mountains: it's right behind where we live. We walk to it from the door of our flat, round the bend then head up the trail (or, if we're feeling lazy, up the dirt road, which is longer but gentler). Total time to reach the sanctuary at its crest -- 1.5 hours. A baby climb. You don't need a promise of perfection up in the heavens.

Not that there wasn't perfection in the heavens today. There were scattered clouds, yes, but they added texture to the scenery. For example, on our walk down to breakfast, the neighbor's vineyard always looks best if it is flanked by a partly cloudy sky.

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So, begin the day with the walk down. To the old bakery. Old loyalties die hard. This time, we're in time for their pains au chocolat. Which are great, especially when eaten outdoors at the main square, accompanied by a cafe creme.



Two themes come through this morning: first of all, Ed  with his cats -- predictable, but still, it needs to be acknowledged, because it really is a part of every walk into town...

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last year's cat without a tail is back!

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And the second theme? Older women running into friends on the way to buy groceries. Again, no morning walk can take place without encountering something like this:


And this:

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Okay, our hike. There was a theme to that as well -- one that I would very much like to scratch out, but I cannot, because it's there and it's true: the theme of Ed saying -- yes, but we've been here before.

Ed resists the comfortable. The repetition. The boring, you might say. And I do too. Except for Sorede. I do not mind repetition in Sorede and I do not find it boring. And mostly, Ed is on board. But when he wants to pinch and poke at me -- which he'll do when I tell him how happy I am, he'll say (more than once)  -- yes, but we've seen this.

And perhaps Ocean readers would share his take on travel. For example, when I post a few photos from our walk -- ho hum. Chances are you've seen versions of them before.

And yet...

Back home, I have my favorite places from which to shoot standard photo fare. And each time that place will look different (in my eyes at least)! Like Monet's garden in Giverny, it can never be the same, because nature, light, flora, weather -- they are never the same. And so each glimpse is unique and uniquely beautiful.

So side with me on this one. I mean, do you even remember that I may have posted a version of this beautiful view of a misted mountain range (as seen from our hike up the mountain)?


And are you sure you remember how grand the Roussillon plain is? That vast expanse of land that stretches from the Pyrenees toward the Corbieres? Of course you don't! Here it is, as viewed from the foothills and mountains that rise up behind Sorede:

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It's (in my view) a vast and beautiful landscape, reaching all the way to the sea.


On our hike up, the flowers, too, are different this year.

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A wetter, cooler spring shuffled the usual and produced something new.

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At the crest, we rest for a few minutes...

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...then head back. And the views are different yet again. Each time even more impressive, more awe inspiring.

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So this was our first bigger walk. Lunch is late. It has to be. Our hike, short as it was, dug right into the midday meal.

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And the next big event for the day will be the dinner  -- at the cafe bar again. Moulles and frites.


And I suppose if I had to throw out yet one more theme for the day -- I would call it the physicality of men, but, I haven't photos to support it and so let me just say that if you were passing through, you'd spot this in a heartbeat. The greetings between men -- the kisses, the clasp on the shoulder, the slap on the back. It's so common here that I'm sure no one even notices. Except I notice. Sitting here at the cafe, I notice. Affection is not a four letter word -- how cool is that!


Evening on the square. We finish our mussels, salads, we take out books to read. I glance up toward the buildings that line the square. They're shuttered now. For the night. The breeze picks up, the flags -- French, Catalan, European Union -- flap and wave, back and forth.

It is a good moment.