Tuesday, October 03, 2017

such a day!

If all the best of a stay in Sorede could be rolled into one day, in my opinion it would look a lot like today. To love this place is to love the colors, the sea, the backdrop of mountains. The villages, the people, the Catalan foods and wines. It was a day built on dreams and that's a risky proposition, but the day delivered.

It is Tuesday and the rains are a thing of the past. Yes, there are clouds over the mountains, but they look like morning clouds. We shall have lovely weather for sure!

My friends and I go down the hill to the lesser square for a breakfast of breads, fruits and coffee. (Is it really a lesser square? Well, it doesn't have the linden tree, the vast openness, the carefully arranged cafe tables. But it does host the twice a week market and the rather informal cafe bar has a handful of tables that offer a perfect view of market activity.)

As for breads -- I'm back at the boulanger (baker) that was and is the best in town. True, it cannot compete with the one just outside Sorede, but still, it's homey and solid and the woman who runs it has been handing over loafs of bread since I started coming here now many years ago.


So, breakfast at last:


(Diane takes a photo of Ocean author!)


But let's not forget the market photos: it is such a typical village market! Grocery crates, a cheese stall, olives, some seafoods, baskets, clothes, and a lot of people coming together to exchange a few thoughts about life. For example -- one vendor wants to know where I am from. I tell him. He whistles in surprise, then says -- you people are in a crisis! I walk away wondering which (so many to choose from!) crisis he is referring to.

(Fruits and veggies...)


(... and chestnuts)


(... and pumpkins. Cut to order.)


(... and olives, and Catalan flags, and local dogs, waiting to either bark at, or sniff with affection the other village dogs)


(The market, in the cloak of Fall...)


I should note that some shoppers come to the market in the sportif mode, baguettes packed into the front basket of the bike...


...But most dress up for it: hair neatly pinned, clothes pressed, lipstick expertly applied.


My friends and I had discussed different ways of attacking this day: the married couple likes ancient cities and I, of course, am dying, really dying to go back to my beloved Franqui beach. Can we split the day and visit the beautiful old city of Carcassonne and then end with some time on Franqui? We can and initially I am content with that, but at breakfast I begin to fret.

I rewrite the day for us: Carcassonne is nearly two hours away. Believe me, you wont want to spend just a couple of hours there and I wont want to rush you. Why don't we take separate cars?

And in the end we do just that: the married couple heads out to Carcassonne and Diane and I head out to Franqui beach.

How sweet of her to tag along with me, even as she herself is a Floridian, one who lives only 200 feet from sandy shores of the Gulf! Oh, but she knows all too well how much I love this most sacred place! She has read about Franqui here on Ocean, heard me talk about it, and has seen all the deep love I feel for it in my eyes.

It is a bit of a drive: some 45 minutes away by highway. But the roads are almost always empty and the sun is coming out to join us on this adventure and the Corbières Massif is to our right and to our left -- well, the sea.

(This corner is well known for the oyster beds and, too, for the Corbières vineyards...)


We are here and my eyes fill with tears.


Franqui: low key, vast, and if you know where to look -- with long tongues of shallow sands reaching out into the sea. It is October. Everything is calm. But of course, it's calm year round. Men undress, women skip the top part of the swimsuit. Not to show off. Just because it's more comfortable that way.



Ah, but the wind is kicking in today! The kite surfers are out!


And what's this?? The beach has rearranged itself: the etang (inlet) stream has been filled in at this end and so there is only the vast expanse of sand, stretching far into the horizon.


One of the nicest features of this place is that on one corner, you have a small hamlet of cottages, with a few beachside cafes...


... and then the hamlet ends and the vast etang and green shrub of the regional park take over. It's you, the water, the wide stretch of beach and beyond that -- the Corbières Massif. Right there, behind Diane.


We had walked until we came to one of those lovely sandy tongues and there we plopped down and pretty quickly, I am in the water. Shallow, as warm as I've ever known it to be, delicious!


If you cannot be happy here, on a day like this one, well then life has really given you too big of a punch in the gut!

I want to call Ed, I do. This was our discovery, our treasure until he stopped seeing it as a treasure. But, it's early there and my phone fails me anyway and so instead, I take a walk. I watch the sand surfers -- the wind makes them fly and behind them, the wind powers the turbines...


... and it makes my towel fly! (This is a selfie; just because Diane is an excellent photographer, doesn't mean that selfies are not in order. Remember -- the beach is a place of joy, of play... )


And then she and I pick up our towels and head back to the hamlet, where a caffes with noisette coffees await us.

It's the late afternoon. Time to turn around and start the trip back. (Though not before we say hello to the horses and ponies that are quite common to this corner of the  Languedoc...)


But on the way home, as I spin around one of those circles that tell you Argeles and Sorede are that way, and Ceret is this way, I'm thinking -- maybe we should pop over to Ceret? It's less than 10 kilometers from where I'm spinning round and round at the round-about.

(Pause in this mad circle to take this photo of the mountains to our west)


Ceret: a village that was (perhaps is) home to artists, painters and poets. Picasso. Matisse. Modigliani. Maillol (oh! have you forgotten his sculptures already??).

We're on it!

I remember well the first time I came to Ceret. I was with Ed then, but he was not (yet) traveling with me. It was late in the day. Everything was closing. I thought it was both beautiful and melancholy. The tall plane trees and the shuttered buildings cast long shadows early in the evening. I kept thinking that it's already dark and I still have to drive home (I was staying in Pierrerue then -- a good two hour drive north).

I came back to Ceret with Ed, always for the Saturday market, which is grand and expansive and crowded and colorful and a little bit over the top. Still, we came.

But today's visit was the best of the best. On an October Tuesday evening, you could not spot tourists if you tried. The sun is poking through the tall planes, not yet low, no longer high.


The light is fantastic!


The Museum of Modern Art is open. We go inside. Duffy, Picasso, Matisse, so many others less known, but expressing their love for this place through their art...


Diane and I take it all in. The town fountain! Who designed it? I don't know. Let me ask a shop clerk.

She doesn't know either. She asks another local. They all stand around chastising themselves for not remembering who built it.


Diane and I haven't eaten anything since the pain au chocolat (mine!) in the morning. It's nearly 6. We pause for lunch!


The bruschettas are nothing short of amazing! Fortified, we continue just a little more. For this view of Ceret.


Home to Sorede now, pausing only for this roadside view at the edge of the village.


Such beauty here, at the foot of the hills that touch the sea. Such incredible beauty!