Friday, June 14, 2013


The more you come back and the longer your stays, the more, over time, you begin to differentiate. Between the good, the better, the worse. Not all breads are fantastic, not all market vendors are superb. The couple selling fruits and veggies at the Tuesday market rocks. The produce at Friday's market (Sorede gets two market days each week), pretty to the eye, barely squeaks by in terms of flavors and varieties (in my view).

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The cheeses on Fridays, however, are sublime and it helps that the most cheerful vendor of all markets anywhere is there to cut them for you.

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The paella vendor (who actually has no paella today but wants to convince you that his Catalan fish is even better) is a bit full of himself and, as last year, he makes fun of my camera which causes me to walk away.


The cheese vendor and fish lady are friends.

The fresh goat cheese seller is impatient.

Men with dogs are as common at the market as women with dogs.

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As to the outsiders -- some Brits speak French, some do not, even though you can tell they live here.

Some Soredians are comfortable with visitors, others view tourism as a dangerous threat to village life. I would say that Sorede hasn't quite figured out how to market itself (the tourist information office is staffed by women who haven't a clue as to what the good hikes are and in any case, the tourist office is closed on week-ends which speaks mountains -- of a different sort). But I don't think Sorede necessarily wants to market itself. It has one modest hotel - which looks like it maybe fills in July and August, but most certainly not in the remaining ten months of the year. I never see anyone going in or out. (This, in a lovely village just a handful of kilometers from the most perfect beaches on the Mediterranean.) Of course, in so many ways, I love Sorede's self-absorption -- it gives me a chance to observe village life from the point of view of people who live here. And to create my own lists of favorites. So that, for example, at today's market, we buy almost nothing at all. Just cheese and, out of necessity -- a few tomatoes.

(The Ciboulette -- our local grocery shop -- gets our business for the green beans, the mushrooms, the potatoes.)

And here's an unwavering positive: the cafe people, both at the lower and upper square cafes, are uniformly genial. Over the top pleasant.

And the woman who has her art studio in the alley between the two squares is decidedly lovely. Of course, she has to be.
I have a brother in Portland, she tells me. If I sell enough paintings this year, I will go and visit him.
Are you from Sorede? 
No, from Collioure. Well now, that says it all. There is not a town in southeast France that has more tourists passing through it than Collioure.  But there's too much action in Collioure. It was great growing up there, but I prefer now the quiet of Sorede. I'm with her on that.

I help her move closer to her goal of visiting her brother in Portland.

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As for cats -- Ed likes all cats, but not all cats are satisfied with just having Ed pet them.

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And the sun just shines and shines on us all.

Lunch. Ed! Wake up!

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Okay. Eat.

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Ah, the hike. A true hike is never without challenges (a nice word for problems). In the past, our issues here have been keeping to the trail. We either can't find the top of the mountain, or we can't find the way down. This time we're thinking a GPS app on the iPhone will help. But no -- we cannot get it working correctly. Still, getting lost is (shockingly!) not the problem. There are two far more harrowing issues for us -- water (too little) and time (too late).

Who shows up at the traihead for their biggest hike of the season at 4:10 pm? We do. With only one liter of water.

It's a brutal climb. We'd done it twice before and I have to think it's like childbirth -- you forget the ordeal the minute the cutie-pie pops out. Here, I'd forgotten how straight up it goes. I mean  -- up.

And it's not even an especially beautiful trail. Occasionally, there are the views...

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the great Roussillon plain stretches before us near the beginning of the hike

But mostly, it's a forested path. With flies and still, hot air plastering the shirt to your back. But we continue.

Half way there, Ed tells me -- we don't have enough water.

And still, I want to go on -- if not to the tower of the highest regional peak, then at least to the cliffs that precede it.

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We make it there. 6:30 and we're finally at a summit, which, to me, is good. Wonderful in fact, even though I'm thinking that evening hours are not great times to be on the summit of a mountain with only a rocky path to get you home again. Thank goodness for long June days!

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So, quick view and we're out of here. Walking as fast as our tired legs can carry us...

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We come down. We use sticks to help us navigate the tricky parts. It's good, it's good -- I make my way down ahead of Ed, because on the descent I am fast and he is laboriously careful and I'm moving through the forest when I see it -- a wild boar.

She notices me and instantly leaps into a gallop, her long snout lifted, her hoofs flying.

I am glad she is not flying at me (I say 'she' because she hasn't a tusk). And then I am just so mad at myself that I stood there, mouth open and never once thought to lift my camera and snap a photo.

Ed tells me -- remember the scene. Just remember it. One of my most memorable encounters with wildlife was when a wolf came to my tent. I was at one end, he peered in at the other.

In the course of our many hikes, Ed and I have come across many a wild beast. Bears. Elks. Countless deer. Mountain goats. But never anything in the Pyrenees.

I'll remember it,  I will.

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the mountain in the evening: scaling the rocky nose was the final segment of our climb

Dinner? Well now, we didn't make it down the mountain until just before 9, so we eat at home.

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A salad. Eggs with mega mushrooms. Beans. And smoked salmon from one of the local grocers.

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Wild boar, eh? Who would have thought...