Monday, June 11, 2012

whether the weather is...

In France, they’ve been talking about the weather a lot this year. Warm beginnings, cool, wet spring, not quite yet summer.

Here, in Sorède , you can usually count on some bit of luck. There’s a wind, there are the mountains, somehow all that works to keep things more friendly, so that when the rest of France suffers continuous rains, this far southern corner usually gets away with, at worst, several showers interspersed with several cloud partings.

In this time of unsettled weather, the trick is to time your activities so that they coincide with the spells of cloud partings.

Whatever bag-load of tricks we had, we willed them out into the open and the weather gods took pity. We were supposed to wake to storms and rain. We woke to mostly sunny skies.

The walk down to the square for a morning coffee and roll is, for me, a big bonus of being a little to the edge of town. It’s a pretty walk, past quiet, older and newer homes, many of them flanked by blooming shrubs.


We pass a small vineyard too, and at this time of the year, the vines are just ever so lovely. They almost look like dancers, in some pose or other, none the same, free spirits, bending, twisting, each in her own way.

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And after a while, we’re at the village bridge (the main one... the smaller pedestrian one that we often used for shortcuts got washed away in the big rainstorm last November!)...


...and from here it’s just a short stroll up to the bakery.

Oh dear. We’re late. That’ll teach us. The baguettes are there still, so that’s good. But the pains au chocolat are long gone and Ed’s Napoleon, the one with his name written on it (if badly wanting one allows you to think of it in that way) – long sold to another Napoleon fancier.



So we settle on something else: a chocolate nut tart and an almond tart. Equipped with these, we make our way up to the café on the main square. (A very lovely habit is to take your bakery treats to the café. No one minds that you eat them there.) A café crème for me, a sparkling water for Ed and there you have it. Breakfast. Of a very late kind.


I’m going to say that this is always a high point of the day for us. This is how quiet and unfussy our idea of a good time is. Ed will pull out his crumpled New Yorker, I’ll look around. So much to pay attention to!

DSC07724 attach my own imagined stories to faces and personalities.


And all the while there is this heavenly sweet scent coming in with each breezy gust of wind. An older gentleman at the next table leans over and whispers to me. It’s the trees. They’re blooming. Incredible aromas!


He goes back to reading his paper, but after a while, he gets curious. Where are you from? The north? I'm  always amused at the guesses on this one. Ed's tall so they think -- Scandinavia. I surely must have an accent to my French, but it's not an American accent. So they think maybe Dutch, maybe Danish, maybe German. Not one of my real identities (American, Polish) is ever among the options. And so when I say -- from the United States, there is always tremendous surprise.  

Of course, I know these are just polite questions -- a cracking of the door so that he can talk, tell a story and having found out we're Americans,  he's happy now to tell us about his two trips to North America. Which continent, he reassures us, he likes quite a bit. As if that’s not a given. No, no, he likes it just fine!

It’s nearly noon and we should think about heading up home for lunch. So now it’s a walk down to the bridge again and then up those hills, not a steep climb, just a gentle walk, maybe fifteen minutes, not more..


...and we’re home.

Lunch is always on the terrace outside. It’s still sunny and warm even though the weather site tells us any second now there’ll be rain. I put out the cheeses, the bread. The local anchovies in oil – I just purchased those at the charcouterie (a store selling prepared products -- sort of a deli, only pork figures heavily in the selections) on the square. And, too, the tomatoes, the sausage, the fruits.


A delicious meal. In these early days of our stay here, it’s all so photogenic, so photographable. As if you can’t believe you’re here at last, doing what you love doing – eating cheese and bread to the song of birds outside, looking out on the blooming oleanders.


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Well now, two big events behind us (the breakfast, the lunch). That calls for a nap for Ed. But by late afternoon I’m nudging him. It’s still not raining. Indeed, we’re still in a pocket of blue sky, though there are clouds there, on the horizon, just waiting, waiting...

We’ve got to make good use of this bit of luck! The beach!

We head for Le Racou – our go-to favorite. I have a more distant beauty as a real favorite, but for the quick swim, Le Racou is fantastic! And close.

We drive to a vast parking space in the tiny village by the sea. The lot is not empty, as it is Sunday, but nor is it full. In any case, we're not worried. Somehow this not large beach soaks up people and hides them enough so that they never appear on top of one another.


 There are old colorful cottages that line the sand bank...


And then there’s the swimming part: the beach is on a slope and so the drop off is quick. A couple of feet from the shore, you are up to your chin in water.


But it’s not hot outside. Almost no one is in the water. A few clouds come and go, waiting for the right moment to take control of the sky. We sit down, Ed loses himself in his now really tattered magazine.


I look out on the water. Beautifully clear, blue against the equally blue (in parts) sky. Is it really the case that I can’t be lured into the sea until the warm sunshine boosts the heat index here? No, cool it may be, but I cannot resist it. To Ed’s surprise, I plunge in.


...and more predictably, so does he.


I love the swimming here – just close to the water's edge, back and forth, or, if I get tired of it, I can tread water and look out onto the pretty shoreline.


There are open showers on most beaches here and so we rinse off before climbing back into the clunker car. On the way home we pause to watch this most common Sunday scene -- men playing Pétanque. I read somewhere that nearly all southerners here play the game. Seventeen million French know how to throw the metal balls so they hit the small wooden "jack" ball.


I want to stay and watch, but I see that I'm distracting them. They begin playing toward my camera, engaging me in banter about whether I bring luck to some and quite the opposite to another who has just missed an easy throw. I beg off with a wave and get back to Ed who has dozed off in the big red machine.

Ten minutes later, as if to say – there, we held back and gave you your good day here, the clouds take control and the rain comes down. We are, by then, home.

I hadn’t counted on cooking dinner this early in our stay, but the rain continues into the evening and neither of us feels like walking down the hill to the village. You want to drive? Ed asks. Nah, the less time I spend in the clunker, the happier I’ll be.

I make a salad Nicoise, or my version of it, though without the olives (I was waiting for the market!), but with an abundance of potatoes, thin green beans, tomatoes and eggs. And of course the anchovies from Coilloure.


The rain stops now and I suggest we take a brief stroll down the road. Somewhere toward the western hills the sun is letting out bands of orange and purple sky. The air is pungent, as if a shower had passed through and sprinkled fresh aromatics on all surfaces. We don’t walk far, just enough to feel ready for a night rest.

A perfect day, I say to Ed. It’s a common phrase for me, I know. But an honest one too.