Final Visit to Montcabrier

As promised this is the post of our Halloween visit with Sally at Atelier de la Rose in Montcabrier. We left Collioure in sunshine on Halloween morning and had a pleasant drive through the hills and mountains of southwest France. Sally was tending to the last of her tomato plants when we arrived much earlier than planned. We decided to take a walk around this familiar village.

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Next we left the village and walked up the road to the cemetery. This has been a holiday week in France with children out of school and families traveling back to home towns. The week ends with All Saint’s Day, a time to honor your ancestors by decorating their graves with flowers. It is colorful and moving.

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This was Halloween so one might expect some carved pumpkins. Sally carved one to greet the village’s children as they came by for sweets.

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The families organized a group event for the trick or treating. The children and parents gathered at the church then came house to house. Children’s voices bubbled through the village.

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Finally the sun set.

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Then it was time to say goodbye to Halloween until next year.

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On November 1 we returned to Paris. However, that story will have to wait for my next post.


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For the first time on this trip my computer will not connect to the internet. The hotel’s server doesn’t speak Windows 8 apparently. That means no posts for several days. I can do this much on my phone.

At the end of this week I will catch you up on Collioure goodbyes, Halloween in Moncabrier with Sally at Atelier de la Rose, a long drive north, and Paris adventures to come.


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Last Days In Collioure

Our time in Collioure and in Europe is winding down. Yesterday we went to the annual regional antique show in the Chateau Royale. Unfortunately, yours truly forgot to put a memory card into his camera. Therefore, you must take my word for it that this was a great show. Highlights: there was a great deal of early to mid 20th century art, prices for French antiques in the hinterlands (outside of Paris) are quite reasonable, and the views from the Chateau remain stunning. It was a bit depressing to find that art work completed during my lifetime is now considered an antique.

In the middle of the night our apartment did a little shake, rattle, and roll. There was a 3.8 magnitude earthquake just across the Spanish border. Jean felt the tremble for 10-15 seconds, but I slept through it. The Pryenees seem to still be moving.

Today we decided to explore the cliff trail between Collioure and Port Argeles, something that has been on our todo list since 2011. Every time we enter the town we see the remnants of a fort/chateau on the headland to the north of town. It was time to see what was there. We hiked up out of the town to a trailhead just 1km from the fort.

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The trail took us out to the clifftops and then along the precipice to the fort. We meandered around the site and then wandered across the cliffs on various unmarked trails to find our way back. Although an ancient fort, the walls were shored up by the German army in WWII and the area was used for bunkers to protect the coast from invasion. Alas, the invasion came many hundreds of miles north in Normandy. Therefore, these bunkers were abandoned and left to ruin. It was a great walk and I’m beat!

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A simple supper with tarts and salad. Now to rest.



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Happy Birthday in Collioure

I’ve had a very nice birthday in Collioure. Jean and I spent a lazy morning in the apartment and then took a walk along the waterfront. Once again the rollers were coming in from far out to sea.

Of course the big waves bring out the commandos for their kayak landing training. People line the quay to watch. We were among them.

On the way around Chateau Royale the waves washed over the quay. By the time we reached the inner harbor we were wet to the knees and our shoes sloshed with each step. It was time for a stop at Les Templiers for a late afternoon libation and a bit of drying out. We had a drink and enjoyed the artwork on the wall.

Once back home Jean whipped up a delicious Thai Curry with chicken, mushrooms, peppers, and coconut. Served with Camargue rice from Provence it was a fine birthday dinner.


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Catalan Coast By Water

Yesterday afternoon we made our way to the quay to meet the sightseeing boat. These daily trips go along the coast in places where we have been on land. It was great fun to see the same area from the water.

Port Vendres Fishing Boats and Houses

Port Vendres Fishing Boats and Houses

Large Seiner

Large Seiner

Of course one of the primary attractions are the cliffs. When standing atop them, looking out to sea, one has a sense of height but no sense of the rock beneath your feet. It’s quite imposing from the boat.

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And there were sea caves that our captain insisted on getting close to. While in here they chummed the water and thousands of small fish swarmed the boat. The glass bottom panels enabled us to see these beauties, but photos were not so easy.

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It was a great late afternoon adventure. Today the clouds have descended and it is raining. We expect rain for the next 2-3 days…just like Seattle!


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New Friends

Yesterday we took a stroll around town. It was a warm day, but a bit overcast. The streets are full of people because it is a weekend and Collioure is a popular get-away. However, we were able to find some empty spaces in the small back streets.

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We sat on the quay for a time to watch the people and boats. Much to our surprise our new found friends from our hike to the windmill, Marie and Jean-Marie, walked down the beach. Jean called to Marie and they joined us for another crazy conversation bouncing among English, French, and Spanish to communicate with each other. What a fun couple! We learned that Marie was born and raised in the small town near Les Orgues where we visited on our previous post. Jean-Marie was from Prades, a larger town not far from there. Although they live near Toulouse, they make it a point to return to Catalonia where they feel at home. We have each made a commitment to learn the other’s language better and meet again on our next trip to France. Jean-Marie has promised to share some great paella with us.

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Marie told us she had been watching an artist sketching on the beach near us. She was quite impressed by the drawing. Within minutes a woman approached and Marie greeted her. This was the artist – Sylvie Batlle! She was born and raised in Collioure, but lived in England for 20 years. Therefore, the communications became easier. Sylvie is an art therapist as well as fine artist. The five of us chatted for a bit and then Sylvie invited us to come to her atelier to see her work.

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Sylvie’s atelier, Grain de fable, is in the same small shop that her parents ran as a take-out eating place when she was young. The basement kitchen has been converted to her studio. Her mother was tending the shop when we entered and called Sylvie up from the basement when we asked for her. If you click on the link above you will get to a page with some of her paintings at the bottom of the page. Click on the small images to see enlargements. This is a small portion of what she has in the atelier. Her work varies from figurative and realistic to abstract. Every piece has a liveliness that captures your interest. The abstracts are mostly done with a base of sand mixture to create texture and then painted over with either acrylic or oil paint.

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Sylvie is another of the amazing artists we have met on this trip. Her warmth and passion for creativity are an inspiration.


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Les Orgues

Yesterday we experienced an extreme change in the weather while out walking on the waterfront. Strange clouds formed over the Pyrenees, the wind switched dramatically from onshore to offshore in a matter of minutes, and the resulting gale whipped the palm trees and waves crashed into the pier with renewed ferocity.

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One result of this weather switch was that today dawned bright and clear with no wind. This was the day to visit Les Orgues, a site we learned about from brochures in our apartment. When the Pyrenees were first formed (30-40 million years ago) they stretched all the way to Provence. However, millions of years later the east central portion collapsed, creating an inland sea that flooded, silted, and created sandstone. When that was uplifted the erosion began. (That’s the abbreviated version of the geologic history in the guidebook.) The result is a unique area of hoodoos and slot canyons carved into this very soft rock. Who would have thought such a place would exist in Mediterranean France?

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We spent two hours walking the trails and taking in the views. The Pyrenees loomed in the background. The trail into the site passes through private land. One of the landowners has decorated the byway with metal sculptures. Here’s one of them.

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A great day!


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Paulilles – Dynamite!

Today the wind arrived. Flags stood starch straight, trees bent, and the skies cleared. The wind was coming from the west, so it came right out of the Pyrenees and out to sea. After going to the public market this morning (disappointing because our favorite vendors weren’t there) we decided to visit Paulilles.

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Paulilles is the former site of an Alfred Nobel dynamite factory built by Paul Francoise Barbe, an associate of Nobel. The plant operated from 1870 to the 1980’s. After closure it was set aside as a protected area to keep it from being developed as real estate. In 2005 the decision was made to raze 70 buildings, renovate 9 buildings, and turn the site into a free ecological and recreational park. Many picturesque artifacts of dynamite production remain.

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However, this is now an ecological and recreational site. The varied trees and plants combine with the sea to create a beautiful park.

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In addition to all that three buildings have been set aside for a non-profit organization dedicated to maintaining the art of Catalan boat building. They build and restore traditional Catalan fishing boats. The organization employs two full time boat builders and volunteers.

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If you visit the Catalan coast, we highly recommend a stop at this park between Port Vendres and Banyuls-sur-Mer. Despite the fact that the clouds moved in we stayed for three hours to soak up the beauty.


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Trouble On The High Seas

Today dawned with promise of sun, but failed to make do with that promise. Instead we got clouds. When I saw young men heading to the beach with boogie boards I thought the sea might offer some entertainment. In the town the winds were calm, but the Mediterranean was showing signs of strong winds to the north and east in the form of huge rollers. These were seas we haven’t seen in Collioure before.

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One sad woman stood on the rocks, surrounded by breaking waves, and tossed roses into the sea. She appeared to be praying and seemed oblivious to the water at her feet.

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However, the greatest drama involved two small sailboats who had ventured beyond the harbor. This was quite foolish on such a day. At times the boats disappeared behind the rollers. Eventually, of course, they both capsized. Righting a small boat in six foot seas is not small feat. Each crew managed to right their boats twice, but both also fell a third time. Zodiacs to the rescue! It provided an exciting 45 minutes for us on the pier.

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The winds finally reached us in late afternoon. Of course the views of the harbor were even more beautiful than usual with the clouds, the mist, and the filtered sunshine.

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A Walk to the Windmill

Today it was cloudy. Despite the recent cloudy and cool weather the oranges continue to ripen outside our window.

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We waited until mid-afternoon and decided to take a hike when the sky became lighter. Our destination was the windmill that sits on a hill/mountain halfway to Fort St. Elme. This is something you have seen in our previous photos, but always as seen from the harbor. It’s a beautiful hike up terraces of olive trees with peek-a-boo views of the harbor, the town, and the Pyrenees.

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Along the hike we met Jean Marie and Marie, a couple near our ages. Originally from Catalan France, they now live in Toulouse and vacation here in Catalonia. We spent a wonderful half hour conversing with them and sharing our histories. They spoke French and Spanish and I speak Spanish (sort of) and English. Jean speaks English and we both speak a very little French. It was great fun trying to switch between three languages in an attempt to explain what we meant. We exchanged contact information and perhaps our paths will cross again in the future.

However, I do not want you to get the impression that all was fun and games today. I also practiced my ukulele…twice.

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I also have done some paintings recently in my continuing attempts at abstracts. Here are the two latest. I’ve been drawn to natural shapes without the details that define the objects.

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Tomorrow the sun is supposed to shine!



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