Thursday, June 14, 2012

nothing short of...

In my mind, the morning that cannot be improved upon would go something like this:

Waking up, I see through the little bedroom windows that the skies are as they were predicted to be: blue. (The ads for this region have been recently updated: these days I read that there are 320 days of sunshine. I think they’ve probably changed the definition of “days of sunshine,” but no matter. If you’re here, you will see days of sunshine.)

I mumble to Ed that we should get up and hunt down those precious pains au chocolat. He mumbles even less coherently “in a minute” or words to that effect and we both go back to sleep.

A half hour later I am awake, more insistent, and within an hour we’re up.

In my best of good mornings, we walk down and it’s not hot, just pleasantly warm. I consider taking a light sweater.

We’ll pass people and they will greet us and we will greet them. We’ll pass cats. And people playfully flirting with aloof cats.

DSC07977 - Version 2

And inevitably, Ed will find a cat who will allow himself to be rubbed and scratched, being too young to know that people are not necessarily always well intentioned.

DSC07982 - Version 2

There will be pains, plenty of them.


We will spend some amount of time arguing which baguette (out of at least four options) is the preferred one.
Ask them which one is most chewy.
That’s an American word. There is no ‘chewy’ in the French language. (I have no idea if this is true, but it’s a good argument to put on the table.)
Really? There’s no word for chewy? (Oh, oh. He doesn’t believe me.)
I don’t even know what you’re looking for. I like denser. Do you mean denser?
I mean chewy. The French would understand. Uff! He’s hitting below the belt.

Eventually I let him pick one that he thinks might be ‘chewiest.’ We need to keep a tally which was what and eaten when. The simple act of buying a baguette is getting to be quite complicated.

On the upper square, the café bar will be nearly empty. At 10:30, the morning drinkers are gone and the noon drinkers and lunchers haven’t yet arrived. So we have the seat of our choice – at the edge, with just a dab of sun for me. We order café crème and on this day, a hot chocolate for Ed.

We read good stuff. I take a photo or two, because there is always something there, begging to be noticed.


DSC07992 - Version 2

And then I watch people slowly come in, filling the tables one by one.

And I am just so pleased to see a familiar pair from last year. They may be British. They look British. They came nearly every day at around 11. She orders a quarter carafe of white wine, he orders a beer, she does a crossword puzzle and then they both read. We don’t chat, but we recognize each other’s presence. She smiles as she looks up and notices we are here again.


It'll take us a long while to decide to leave.
We should get going. Maybe have lunch at home and then do a gentle hike?
I’m stuffed. I notice half the baguette has been chomped off. I’m not surprised.
So let’s hike, then eat lunch.
Maybe. A few more minutes here?
Oh, definitely.
We linger.
Eventually we pay the bill say our good byes, always the goodbyes – the wait staff never fails to wish you the best of good days as you leave. We walk up the hill to our ‘home,’ passing (and admiring, a little bit wistfully) small cars along the way.


And it’s noon and the morning is behind us.

That’s perfection. I’d change nothing at all. It’s all rhythmical, like a little spring song you might hum to yourself and actually – let me add an element – we should have in there a moment where we pass some local person, perhaps an older woman, who would be humming melodically to herself, pleased as can be that this indeed is such a fine morning.

Noon. Lunch time? Again, no. Once more there is a chance of a late afternoon rain shower. Two conclusions: postpone any big outing for another day. That hike up the highest peak? Forget it. Don’t want to be stuck on a mountain top in rain. Our best beach? Save it for a consistently warm spell. We have those ahead of us. Go easy on this day. But go easy quickly, before those mountain clouds roll in.

A hike. We'll do a hike. We’ve neglected the mountains too long. Something uncomplicated to glide us into the mode of walking uphill.

We are just a hill or two away from Spain. The bigger one is quite the little mountain. Scaling it is an all day affair. But the smaller one is just a lovely three hour hike, roundtrip. Every school kid in Sorède knows it. On the Catalan celebration of Sant Joan (St John’s), a parade of torch bearing young people comes down at night and you can watch their trail of fire from the village center. I’ll miss the great event this year – it happens on the day we leave Sorède. But we most certainly will be climbing this gentle mountain, probably more than once. Today is a good day for it.

Just about any hike up into the Pyrenees of this region gives you the same view – over the great Roussillon plain and the distant Corbiere hills that frame it to the north, toward the mountains that rise to the west, toward Spain if you’re high enough to the south, and always always toward the sea.

And so I can offer you no new, spectacular views. You’ve seen them before. I’ve seen them before.

But then, why are they always, for me at least, so breath catching?


The clouds are there, waiting to expand their reach, and yet it is a pleasant day with a light breeze carrying the scent of this Mediterranean forest. The rains of the past month have caused things to grow in ways I’ve not seen before. I’m used to dry. I see this year we have lush.


It's not unusual for us to see mountain bikers and sure enough, two of them are coming down this afternoon. It's not the most difficult route and they're chatting amicably as they barrel down the dirt road.

DSC08018 - Version 2

All along, there are bursts of bloom, dazzling in their simplicity.



The ferns, shrubs, so many different shrubs! All those plants I can’t begin to identify! A lovely maze of greens brushing us lightly on the path that leads up and up, past the simple sanctuary de Notre Dame, up, now requiring some hand support, up rocky slopes, until we reach a crest between two slabs of rock. This is our goal for today. This is where we can rest for a few minutes – Ed, toward the edge, me, as usual, feeling height sensitive, a little back from the cliff’s drop, jumping stones, then eventually settling down to admire what's before us.


It all looks so familiar by now. Villages below that have names and faces, costal twists, etangs (the small bodies of water running parallel to the sea) – a vast expanse of land and water.


And so now we're back and it’s a late lunch again. And yes, very familiar. And still very delicious. Every last bit of cheese...

DSC08089 - Version 2

Followed by a very long nap.

Once again I’m making supper at home. Rare for me to cook this frequently here, but I have the white asparagus and I have the Roussillon potatoes and if you throw in some eggs, you pretty much have yourself a great meal. With endive to keep to the theme of white and tomato to add a splash of color.