Sunday, March 29, 2015

Ceret market and lunch with friends

At last the sun was shining. It didn't really matter that the tramuntana was blowing, as we were on our way to the Ceret market in France and then going to friends for lunch. The drive was lovely with all the yellow mimosas in the Alberes Mountains in bloom contrasting with the heavily snow-capped Mougins. Best of all it was hot.

Luckily we found parking almost right away. As we were crossing the road we fell into conversation with one of the locals. When he found out we came from a Spanish fishing port he told us a story of how he had been friendly with a Londoner, who might have been a fishing captain in Spain. Since the Londoner didn't speak French or Spanish they communicated by miming what they wanted to say. This is my version of the story. Seamus had a different interpretation. It didn't matter, he was a lovely man.
We walked through one of the main squares, which was lined on both sides with tall plane trees. Our first stop was Duclos, a wonderful bakery and coffee shop. Close your eyes and imagine all the wonderful French pastries you can and they can all be found in Duclos. We did restrain ourselves and had a petit creme coffee, espresso with a bit of milk, and shared an almond croissant with a creamy almond filling.

The market was quite busy on this sunny day. Since we are going on a short trip next week we didn't want to buy too much but we couldn't resist the spinach and goat cheese quiche and leek quiche. There were lots of stalls with French cheeses and we did buy one little rondelle. There were a number of butcher vans with organic rotisserie chickens, meats and a mouth-watering selection of sausages. Along with jewelry and clothing there were stalls selling local herbs, lovely cotton bath sheets, olive oil, local vinegars and even some wine. Book stalls catered to the expat community with a variety of English-language books. One vendor had nothing but English foods including Bird's custard powder. It is always a treat to wander around the Ceret market even if the selection of fruit and vegetables is much better in Spain.

As we were wandering around we spotted from behind a large dog with a thick, beautiful long coat. At first we thought it was a pale Leonberger since it was the color of champagne. He had a very expressive, soft face. I asked the owner what breed it was, and he said Tibetan. His friend called it a Tibetan Mastiff but it had a very long tail almost touching the ground rather than the curled up tail of the Mastiff. We are still puzzling over this dog’s lineage but what a lovely dog.

With only a few minutes to spare at the market we spotted some sweet peas at one of the flower stalls. Now this is something that you never see in Spain. I was tempted to buy some for ourselves but since we were going to be traveling I bought them for our hosts. The seller added lots of greenery and wrapped them up beautifully for no extra charge. It was lovely to walk along taking whiffs of the sweet peas’ delicate aroma. As we were leaving the market we passed a stall with some lovely home made brioches. We couldn't resist but we only bought two.

After one wrong turning we found the right road to our friends' house, which is a little out of Ceret. It is a lovely winding drive there through little villages and across old "ponts". We forked left at an old church and wound around a narrow road until we spotted their letter box signposting the old mas or farmhouse. Our little car negotiated their very steep driveway. We had arrived.

It is always fun to visit here. Our friends bought their three-hundred-year-old house and renovated it to modern standards, while keeping all the stone walls and winding staircases. They have added a pool and a guesthouse that resembles the old farmhouse. Best of all they are on land that slopes right down to a small river that we could hear today. Usually, it is dry. As we sat on the upstairs terrace the sun beamed down. We were almost too hot. The lunch was perfect accompanied with some lovely French gris — pale, pale pink wine — my favourite, and some great company. What a beautiful setting in this little valley surrounded by the mountains, some still snow-capped. It was difficult to tear ourselves away and return to the still windy Port.

No comments: