Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Market day in Ceret

This was a big weekend in the village, the Festa of St. Baldiri. Friday night the villagers got together in the ballroom for the annual village pot luck. We had to deliver our food by eight, wait for a card to be made up with our name and a description of the dish and then place it on one of the tables. We made a very colourful quinoa salad with lots of sun dried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, garlic, basil, parsley, apricots and slivers of almonds. Between eight and nine you could look at the food. We had a quick look round before heading off for a pre dinner walk. Back in the ballroom we paid our 3€ admission fee for dinner. There were lots of quiches and traditional potato and egg dishes that resemble quiches. Since this Is a fishing port, there were lots of muscles, octopus and dishes with squid and peas. Sausages and very tender thin slices of filet were also on offer. And the desserts. Oh my. There were meringues in various forms, lovely apple, plum and apricot tarts, chocolate cakes, an amazing cake surrounded by pieces of kit kat. We left satiated.

On Saturday we headed north to visit the market and  friends in nearby Ceret, France. This is cherry season and this town is well known for its cherries. In fact next weekend is the big cherry festival, where there will be all kinds of activities including a cherry pit spitting contest. We stopped for a coffee before visiting the market and were somewhat amazed to be almost totally surrounded by Brits.

The Ceret market is quite lovely with lots of cherries, apricots, artichokes and new garlic taking prominent at the stalls. We bought some lovely sheep's cheese and Seamus bought some local wild boar and rustico chorizos. There were some different kinds of things on sale for instance one stall sold everything cork. Some of the clothes at the French market are always different. I succumbed and bought a pair of inexpensive Joseph Seibel knock off sandals, at least they looked very like them. They were so comfortable. Unfortunately, when we were back in the car I noticed a distinct smell of plastic — my sandals! They are still comfortable but they don't breathe at all. These will have to be cold weather sandals.

After the market we met up with our friend and followed her on a beautiful, narrow,  winding road going over some ancient bridges and looking out over really lush, green countryside. Finally, we left our car at a church near her house and did the last minute in her car going down a narrow, winding track to the house. What a beautiful spot! Our friends bought the house as an old ruin ten years ago. The 250-year-old house had been unoccupied for forty years before they bought it, with holes in the roof and no windows. It reminded us of those home shows, where people buy ruins and do them up.

The covering on the outside of the house was taken back to the original stone, windows were replaced and some new windows put in. Every window we looked out had a magnificent view over the garden, trees or surrounding valley. The inside walls had a different effect with much of the original stone showing through. There were nooks and crannies everywhere. The kitchen was new and overlooked the terrace and garden. Our friends had put in the English style garden, which was probably at its best at this time of year with blooms in every conceivable colour. We sat outside and had some tea. Here we were surrounded by marigolds popping up through the gravel. The whole thing was lovely and certainly reminiscent of several books I've read, where people move to France and "do up" ancient properties. It was very peaceful and very beautiful.

On Sunday, back in the village, all was not tranquil. More St. Baldiri weekend activities were taking place. As we sat at the Nautica having our coffee we could hear the music, which resembled an elementary school class experimenting with their recorders for the first time, as the parade of the gigantes went from one side of town to the other. The gigantes are huge papier mâché heads and torsos, a mixture of males and females. They figure in several parades every year.

However, we were much more interested in the wine tasting event hosted by the village bodega. Wineries from all over the region set up marquees. We duly rented our glasses for 3€ and purchased 4 tickets each for 5€. This is a really enjoyable social event, since everyone from the village joins in and the longer you stay the merrier it becomes. We spent most of the afternoon chatting with our neighbours and tasting some lovely wines, red, white and rose. It gives us a good idea of what to buy next time rather than just buying wines we don't know. There are so many wines here that it is often hard to choose.

Back home we listened to the traditional sardana band playing music for the devotees of the dance. It is an acquired taste. The dance is very popular with older locals, who join a circle, hold their neighbour's hand at shoulder level and count steps, 39 before changing direction, then 51 steps before changing again.

As I write this on a Tuesday, we have just discovered that one of our supermarkets and many other businesses are closed today as it is St. Baldiri day in the village, a holiday. Bus loads of older people have come in to town. As we had our coffee we once again heard a sardana band and sure enough when we drove by the square they were at it again. People from all over had come to dance the sardana.

For us it was back home to do a final tidy up before visitors arrive for a short stay before continuing to Barcelona and their flight home. We will be off in a few days ourselves, this time to Greece. 

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