TRAVEL with pat and lew

expats in Collioure

Posted by Lew Weinstein on February 23, 2007

Valerie and Lorcan

Pat first met Valerie by email, seeking a home exchange in Collioure. That never happened, but Valerie led us to Una and our home (see finding our home in Collioure).

We subsequently met Valerie and her husband Lorcan, they have become regular and wonderful companions.

In mid-July, we invite Valerie and Lorcan, and her brother and sister-in-law Ann from New York, to cocktails on our terrace. It’s a perfectly delightful evening. Conversation never lags, everybody laughs. Lorcan sits so quietly you almost forget he’s there, and then he pipes in with a hilarious comment.

We show our Budapest pictures – too many, but everybody loves the Szechenyi baths.

Ann is reading Valerie’s copy of The Heretic. She brought a pile of books with her, but Valerie decrees she must read this one first. Ann is full of questions about the research and the characters, and excited to know I’m working on the sequel. But we can’t really discuss that because we don’t want to spoil the rest of her read.The conversation ranges widely.

We repeat the story of how Valerie helped us find our apartment, and she insists we tell the story of “stealing” the shopping carts from IKEA in Montpellier.

“Listen now to what these fine upstanding people did.”

But the biggest laughter is reserved for my 13 page Home Exchange Instructions for Guests, complete with 45 photos. Valerie insists I show what I’ve written. Ann calls it a “thesis” and Valerie, chortling, manages to say it’s a “Ph.D. in Home Exchange.”

It’s well after midnight before we finish the last of four bottles of wine and call it a night.

Frazier and Ann

We’re relaxing on our terrace and are surprised to see someone on the terrace above us. It’s the first time anyone had been there. Turns out to be a couple from York in England, with a friend of theirs. They’ve just purchased the unit and are here getting it in shape, just like we did in January.

They come down to see our apartment, and we agree to have dinner later in the week.When the day comes, we stroll down to the village about 8:00 pm and wander until we find a restaurant to our liking. There is, at first, the usual talk, how we each learned about Collioure and made our purchases.

Then we listen spellbound while Frazier tells about his project working in Romania with orphaned children.

He describes abandoned children who spend all of their lives in hospitals, sometimes tied to their beds. His work is to try to rehabilitate them with play therapy. Some respond rapidly. These, Frazier believes are the ones who were born normal but were damaged by the way they were treated. Others, perhaps retarded from birth, respond less. All are, and will always be, significantly under-sized.

After dinner there was live jazz on the plaza near the beach.

Rose and Mike

Rose and Mike live next door to us. We meet Rose first, in June. She says hello and promptly climbs over the low wall between our terraces to join us.

She and her husband Mike, and son Alex, are from London, and they are in Collioure several times over the summer, sometimes together, sometimes just one.  

Rose was a great help in my dealings with France Telecom (see problems).

She read both of my novels, and I took a photo of her holding both books. She was one of the first to read the as yet unpublished A Good Conviction, and was quite helpful in finding typos which had eluded me and all the previous readers.

We have many conversations with Mike towards the end of the summer, share strategies for discouraging the cats which by then had become an annoyance, and have dinner with him in town the night before we go to Australia.

Una

Of course we had met Una the previous summer when we bought her apartment, but we hadn’t seen her since, not having been in Collioure at the same time.

The next time we see her, it’s in Dublin. Pat and Una had been corresponding by email, so she knew we were coming, and she invited us to her home for dinner.

Her friend picked us up at our Dublin exchange house, and both he and Mary, who we had met in Collioure the previous summer, joined the dinner party. We also met Una’s daughter, the one Pat had called who told us Una was in Collioure.

Una has a magnificent home behind high hedges on the outskirts of Dublin, and she had prepared a wonderful meal. Later in the summer, Una comes to Collioure and seems pleased at how we’ve enjoying her former apartment.

The next day, we get an email. “I’ll be at Templiers at 10:00 tonight.”

We join her for wine and late night talk.

Later, as walk back up the hill to our apartment, we reflect on just how active and delightful our Collioure social life has become.

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