Saturday, October 07, 2017

leaving Sorede

It's just after seven in the morning when we leave Sorede. It's dark still and a nearly full moon is shining over the Canigou peak.


The air has been so clear that the contours of this mountain have been visible nearly every day -- a rarity, I think.

Canigue, Alberes, Corbierres -- mountain groups that are like a huge embrace around these Catalan villages. And of course, to the east -- the sea. Even if you never set foot in the Mediterranean while here (and of our small group, only some of us swam in its waters -- me most of all), the sea nevertheless defines this place as much as the venerable mountains. The sea speaks to the vastness of the world beyond Sorede. The mountains set the limits.

But on our last day in Sorede, I touch neither. I move on foot between the Alberes villages and take in the riches of these old hamlets.

But first, of course, there is breakfast.

We buy our breads and pains and croissants at the old village bakery and today both women are behind the counter. I think I am not wrong in believing them to be mother and daughter (and the younger woman has children as I recall, and I wonder if these kids, too, will be baking or selling bread when they get older).

I wouldn't have thought the younger woman would recognize me -- the two women always paid attention to Ed when we would walk in, because he would amuse them so much by asking in his most charming voice (Ed can be charming, really he can!) for the largest of the pain au chocolat. But she spots my camera and her eyes move to my face and big grin crosses her face. Yes, I am the one that always tried to catch the moment of purchase -- because it was so lovely and the breads were crusty and delicious and I could not help myself -- out came the camera.

On this day, they're are happy to pose for me.


Friday is market day -- not too relevant if you're leaving the next day, but still wonderful to walk through (at 9:30, we're early: the social aspect of marketing click in after 10).


But we take our breads to the preferred cafe up the hill. We're in search of sunny spots! October mornings can be cool.


And then we all scatter: the married couple takes in the hike that Diane and I did our first day here, Diane retreats to the back yard for a more restful, contemplative morning, and I set out to hike the villages to our west: Saint Genis des Fontaines and Laroque-des-Alberes.

It's an ambitious goal, given that I have two time constraints: a noon closing hour for a sight that I want to visit and a one o'clock lunch date with Diane.

At first, I am happy as a clam: I found the short cut on a little used rural road. I can do this! (And well may I have trepidations -- the wind is fierce! It's not the mistral here, but rather it is the Tramontane that howls over the Rousillon plane.

Still, I love my walk and I especially adore the views over my shoulder: olives, vines and the Alberes tumbling down to the sea...


But I make a wrong turn! Not my fault! The roads are not marked -- how was I to know! Yes, you are correct -- I can again feel the disorientation followed by relief that comes from walking without a GPS. But it's a costly wrong turn. For one thing, it puts me on a well trafficked road without a sidewalk. It's pretty -- when the cars aren't zooming straight at you.


And of course, I get to the village of Saint Genis des Fontaines on the late side -- indeed, just five minutes before the church and cloisters (dating to the 10 - 12th centuries) close.

Madame at the entrance lets me enter at a discount, but she warns me -- you have to hurry up! We have children at school waiting for us.

I smile at that: well I know the rush to be on time, so that your child or grandchild doesn't suffer the disappointment of not seeing your face when she comes out. I'll be quick -- I reassure her.


The village itself is pretty too, but so is every village here. I walk quickly through it: I have my own lunch meeting before me.


And now I am on the right set of roads and the walk back puts me back in my own village.

Oh, but I do love my Sorede!


My lunch with Diane is special for many reasons, but the most obvious one is that it is the only meal on this trip which puts us in a really superb French restaurant.

Our wonderful and ever helpful Sorede hosts directed me to it -- it's called L'Ancienne Ecole and it is just  a few kilometers to the north, in the village of Palau del Vidre.

Both Diane and I order a "dorade" (sea bream) and it is nothing short of exquisite!


The whole meal is superb! And one has to wonder -- how are these great restaurants supported in the off season? By the locals of course. The enduring restaurants have to be ready to love both the regulars and the visitors.

Satisfied after this fine meal, I resume my hike -- picking up my trail to the neighboring village of Laroque. This time Barbara keeps me company, while the others nap.

We climb to the tower and take in the views.


They are predictably stunning, but I have posted too many Roussillon plane, Corbieres Massif, and distant sea photos, so I'll just leave you with the tower and the Catalan flag.

I turn then toward the gardens that run to the west of the village. I do not know who gardens here, but I imagine they are community plots. I am not surprised that they provide another opportunity to run into your gardening neighbors for that extended conversation that no French man or woman can do without.


We're back in Laroque now and I'm thinking this truly is my last walk, my moment to look up and see the mountains hovering at the end of village lanes...


But it isn't my last walk at all. At home, I realize that we are low on cookies! Back I go to the bakery, this time with Diane and we pick up my sacks of cookies (the ones that Ed loved so much and the ones that still are the only cookie sold at that best Sorede bakery), and we sit down at the grand Sorede square and have a final noisette coffee together.


And so my last village view will be of Sorede after all -- as seen from the square. It is the best view and today it is framed by the gaura flower to the left and the linden tree to the right and it is all so extremely perfect!


At home, I set up the camera for a foursome photo.


Cookies and rose, final stories and last laughs over a video and now it is night and then it is morning, early morning and Diane and I have said our good byes and now I turn the car toward Montpellier, while the sun fires up a storm of color.


We do pause for a coffee and croissant (or pain des raisins-- take your pick) at the best bakery outside Sorede.


...and now I am truly speeding (who knew that a coffee pause would have us lingering for so long!) so that I can return the car and head to the train station. Diane will stay in Montpellier, but I am heading to Paris on the TGV (the high speed train).

(It is a challenge to take photos out a train window, when we're moving at a hellfire speed, but I can never resist trying. Just three shots, to illustrate the loveliness of the train ride north.)




And a scant few hours later, I am in Paris. I have 24 hours in the city and they begin now. (It is tomorrow's story: I will post the Parisian epilogue on my return trip home.)