From the red isilines bus on the Via Domitia, a first view of the snow capped Pyrenees brings chills. But those peaks are not where i am going. The transit terminal of Perpignan, down on the warm plain, is the transfer point for travel to Spain and everything else, and also the main city of French Catalonia. It’s afternoon and it feels like the city is taking a nap from the heat. For the first time, I hear Catalàn language spoken. Until my local bus comes, döner kebab and wooded creekside walk satisfy.
The local bus goes to Argelès-sur-mer, on the coast with mountains towering to the south. On the other side of the mountains is the international border with Spain. My couchsurfing host here describes this charming town jokingly as “the end of France…and the end of the world.” So, i feel it is a wine, cheese, and baguette kind of day, and my host shares with me all of these as the sun set approaches. The wine is local, and delicious – Fréderic Schram Vin Catalàn Blanc (2013).
Then he takes me on a sunset walk into the foothills of those mountains, to the grounds of Château Valmy, in what is known as the most southern wine region of France. Looking to the east, the deep blue Mediterranean shines. To the north, the Roussillon plain. To the west, the Pyrenees, obscured in the gathring clouds. All around us, vineyards, cork trees, pine trees, and no people. The streets are so quiet here, and my host explains that if this were in Spain, folks would be out all night.
Back in his home, my host and i share travel stories and music. I talk of Ariadne and the infinite sea and my creative projects, and he plays Ethiopian classic tunes and the awesome “Afro Temple” by Sabu Martinez on vinyl.
In the morning, it is market day and the main street is full of fruit and clothes vendors. My host waves to the man who runs the winery of one of the wines we drank last night.
It turns out it is cheaper and easier to take the train to Figuères, my next destination, than to return to Perpignan by bus and go across the border from there. The train track follows the coastline, on a cliffside, through tunnels and clouds. It’s really beautiful. At Portbou, the actual border, there is an hour wait between the French and Spanish trains. So i walk downhill to the pebble beach and town area and wade in the water. Signs are in Catalàn and Spanish – and tapas is offered at restaurants.
As i step into the Spanish train, excitement builds again. Figuères and the Dalí musuem is less than an hour away.
Sabu Martinez – Afro Temple
Wine: Domaine Fréderic Schram Vin Catalàn http://www.tourisme-pyreneesorientales.com/fr/4048/9/23/DEGLAR066V50WSAV/sit/d/art-de-vivre/caveaux-vins-produits-fermiers-qualite-sud-de-france-po-66/domaine-frederic-schram
Arianna, 14-15 April 2017