TRAVEL with pat and lew

* a fortnight in Collioure – May 20 to June 5, 2007

Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 16, 2007

Sunday, 5/20/07

We have just arrived in Collioure (Saturday) and our first visitors are arriving on Tuesday, so we have to get the apartment ready. This means unpacking clothes, building the bookcases, and unpacking the 95 books we brought, in that order.

We interrupt our work to go to the outdoor farmer’s market, where we buy wonderful fresh peppers and onions and lettuce, plus of course a baguette.

By the time we have dinner on the terrace, the apartment is in good shape, except for the 5 suitcases which still fill almost all the floor space.For the moment, we have no place to put them.

It seems that the syndic (Les Rocades condo association) changed the lock on our cellar (closet in the access hall) some time over the winter, and didn’t tell anyone.

When Madeleine came in to get the apartment ready for our home exchange guests, she was unable to retrieve the terrace furniture from the cellar. Eventually, we emailed our neighbor Brigitte and learned that the lock had been changed, and Madeleine went to the syndic and got the new key. But it’s Sunday, Madeleine is not in her office on Sunday, and we have no key.

Tuesday, 5/22/07

We get the cellar key from Madeleine and put our suitcases away. Finally, we have room to move in the apartment. If 300 square feet can seem large, it does.

I ask the syndic – in French – “Je suis Lewis Weinstein, de 303B Les Rocades. La clef de cave est différente. Je voudrais savoir pourquoi?”

Translated, this may mean “I am …, of 303B … The key of the cellar is different. Why?“

The answer is they don’t know. Brigitte explains. There was some problem with the apartment above our cellar, perhaps water related, and the syndic broke into our cellar to see if anything was wrong there. Then they replaced the lock. But they never told us or provided a new key.

Debbie and Tom, our first visitors from the new world, have been visiting Debbie’s brother Evan in Paris and are coming to Collioure today. 

Debbie has emailed Pat that they will be on the 2:30 train. We go down to the station at 2:20 and wait, but no train arrives. Nor is one due from Perpignan for several hours.

Pat goes to the Templiers, where they will be staying, but they haven’t checked in yet. I look up the train schedules. The 8:24 out of Paris, changing in Perpignan, would have arrived shortly after 2:00.

Where are they? Lost in town? Pat says, “If I call Evan and tell him I lost his sister, he’ll kill me.”

Then she checks Debbie’s email – it said 2:03, not 2:30.We go back down to the Templiers, and there they are.

“We just arrived,” Tom says. “Our train was late getting to Perpignan, and we missed the connection. They drove us here in a Mercedes taxi!”

So they have no idea we weren’t at the station waiting for them at 2:03. I tell Pat, “You don’t have to tell them.” But, honest woman that she is, she does anyway.

Finally, we all relax with a glass of wine, rose all around.We have dinner at the beach, and great ice cream cones for dessert. Two boules of scrumptious butter pecan.

Wednesday, 5/23/07

Pat, for the first time in Collioure, has running partners. Debbie and Tom are not used to the hills, but they reach the high road to Port Vendres and enjoy the stunning views of the Collioure bay.

We tour the 14th century Château Royal which dominates the village. It was built on Roman foundations during the reign of the Counts of Roussillon and Kings of Aragon, and became the home of the Majorcan court, after which it was occupied by the Spanish until1642, when Collioure fell into French hands.

There’s an art exhibit in the castle by a painter named Andrzej Umiastowski, featuring enormously fat women in various states of undress. The paintings showed great good humor and we really enjoyed them. Prices range from 2,000 to 3,500 euros. We don’t but any.         

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The castle also houses a large painting depicting the expulsion of Jews from Collioure in 1493. I was not aware of this event, but will now do some research and see what I can learn. Collioure was, of course, still part of Spain at that time.

While at the museum, we are able to purchase the video, describing the work of Matisse and Derain, produced in 2005 to honor the 100th anniversary of their appearance in Collioure in 1905. The video has numerous shots of Collioure today and excellent descriptions of the art, in French and English.

A brief rain deposits a layer of  brown dirt over all of our terrace furniture. We’re told by three different people that this is sand, blown from Africa across the Mediterranean from the Sahara Desert.

The distance from Marrakesh in Morocco to Collioure is about 1000 miles. That’s a long way to blow sand, but what do I know.

We hold our first party of 2007, in honor of our visitors from the new world. In addition to Tom and Debbie (US), we’ve invited Valerie & Lorcan (Ireland), and they in turn have brought their guests Richard and JoAnne, and the honeymooners, their son and new daughter-in-law.

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I observe that Debbie, Richard and myself may constitute the largest assembly of Jews in Collioure since the expulsion in 1493.

We enjoy many bottles of wine, lots of cheese and olives, and great conversation.

Thursday, 5/24/07

Today the three runners make it all the way to Port Vendres. I take pictures as they re-enter Collioure.

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An interesting vignette on the way the French think …

At breakfast, I sit next to Pat, with Tom and Debbie opposite us. We all order petite de’jeuner, two with tea and two with café. The waitress brings the first tray, with two orders, sets it on the table between Tom and Pat.

There is coffee in front of Pat, so she picks up the cup to give to me.

The waitress emphatically says, “No.”

She indicates that Pat and I should change seats to match the tray she has brought, and Pat, obedient after 12 years of Catholic school training, begins to get up.

“Not a chance,” I say. “Please sit down and give me my coffee.”

The waitress frowns, but brings the other tray, sets it in front of me, and I give Pat her tea.

This incident tell us all we need to know about the French approach to service. The customer must adjust to the worker, not the other way around. As Americans, we find this incredible, but to the French it is perfectly normal. Good luck, Mr. Sarcozy, at changing the French work ethic.

Debbie and Tom are taking the 11:24 train to Paris, and we go to the platform to see them off. There’s a young couple there who have just come from Spain and are carrying Rick Steves’ Spain 2007.

“Does he recommended things to read before going to Spain?”

“Yes.”

“Novels?”

“Yes.”

“The Heretic by Lewis Weinstein?” 

“Yes!”

Pretty exciting, huh. Being listed with Ernest Hemingway (For Whom the Bell Tolls), Miguel Cervantes (Don Quixote), and Washington Irving (Tales from the Alhambra) is a great honor and thrill.   

Friday, 5/25/07

We’ve settled in Collioure, renewed acquaintances with our friends and had our first visitors, and now we have two weeks before our first trip (to Nice).

Time for me to get to work … this journal, research for my next novel, my self-education project on novel writing, French with Michel Thomas, and promoting my just-published novel A Good Conviction

Pat sets up her Yoga tape on the terrace. She strikes poses as I watch from the sofa. She really looks good.

About a month ago, I decided to publish A Good Conviction via a POD publisher. I investigated several, chose WingSpan Press, submitted the manuscript and cover, reviewed and approved proofs, and the book is now available on amazon.com. ( * purchase “A GOOD CONVICTION” at amazon.com)

My job will be to promote it. I purchased a book by Brett Sampson called Sell Your Book on Amazon, which is a treasure chest of suggestions about using the various options amazon.com makes available for publishers and authors to promote their books.

We watch the movie Anna Karenina, starring Vivien Leigh as Anna. Pat loves it; I am less enamored. We each had the same response to the book. If you’re interested in my comments on the book, you can see my blog, (* Lew’s blog about writing novels). Enter “Karenina” as the search term. 

Saturday, 5/26/07

We hang around the apartment and watch the brown rain come down. 1000 miles? 

The sun comes out and Pat does a load of laundry, which must hang outside on the rack to dry. She takes a chance and it’s almost dry when the rains start again. We drag the rack with the now once again damp clothes into the house.

The Yankees play an afternoon game at the Stadium, so it comes on at 7:00 pm here, and I get to watch it live, via internet and mlb.com. The reception is great, but not the Yankees, who lose again in what is so far a terribly disappointing season. They’re now 11.5 games behind the Red Sox and fading fast. 

Sunday, 5/27/07

It stops raining long enough for us to exercise on the terrace, using the lounge chairs for floor mats.

Pat is reading Pride and Prejudice. It got onto her summer list because she had never read anything by Jane Austin and felt obliged as a cultured person that she should. She is being rewarded. She’s over half done and loves the book.

I’m reading about Lorenzo de Medici, who will be a central figure in my next novel, set in Florence in the late 15th century.

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Actually, I’m reading three books at once. One is an old biography by William Roscoe. I mean old. It was written in 1796, and the 10th edition I’m reading was published in 1896. Pat cringes every time I yellow highlight this old book, but I must.

When I get to Roscoe’s comments on Lorenzo’s poetry, I switch to Lorenzo de Medici: Selected Poems and Prose, collected and translated by Jon Thiem. Lorenzo is now regarded (by Thiem at least) as the foremost poet of Renaissance Florence, and Thiem’s book, published in 1991, is the first published collection of his works in English.

I read the opening stanzas of Lorenzo’s long narrative poem The Supreme Good.

“Lured on, escorted by the sweetest thoughts, I fled the bitter storms of civic life to lead my soul back to a calmer port; and so my heart was carried from that life to this one – free, serene, untroubled – which retains the little good the world still knows.”

This poem was written in 1473, when Lorenzo was 24 and had already been the “ruler” of Florence for 4 years. What other man in history, so renowned as a politician, banker, diplomat, and patron of the arts, has been known to write such poetry?

I’m hoping that Lorenzo’s poetry will be a route to his inner thoughts, and from this beginning, I am much encouraged.

The third book I open and browse is Janet Ross’s Lives of the Early Medici as Told in their Correspondence. This is a collection of private letters from and to Cosimo (Lorenzo’s grandfather), Piero (Lorenzo’s father), and Lorenzo himself, and again, I’m hoping to find insight into the mind of this remarkable man.

At 4:00 pm Collioure time (10:00 am on the east coast) we watch Tim Russert interview Gov. Bill Richardson on Meet the Press. Richardson is not impressive, despite his wonderful resume. Slingbox, by the way, works perfectly to bring us our Key West television in Collioure.

Our movie tonight is the Boynton Beach Club, a enjoyable comedy of life among the still spry elderly in south Florida.  

After the movie, I watch the last out (Derek Jeter this time, with the tying run on third base, although he did hit the ball hard) in yet another Yankee loss. 

Monday, 5/28/07

It’s Memorial Day in America and Whit Monday in France.

“What is Whit Monday?” you ask.

I search the web and learn it is the day after Whit Sunday. Not very illuminating.

Next I learn that it has some connection with the Jewish holiday of Shavuos, which I suspect would surprise most Catholics.

Finally … Whitsunday is the Pentecost celebration, commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles seven weeks after Easter … which still leaves Whitmonday as the day after Whitsunday.

In any case, the French are trying to eliminate the holiday. Too many days off in France.

Several years ago, Whit Monday was officially cancelled in France, but French workers took the holiday anyway. The Socialist candidate in this year’s French presidential elections promised to re-instate Whitmonday, but she lost, so I guess the celebration will continue as a renegade affair.

During the month of May, there’s a holiday in France nearly every week.

Enough … more than enough. 

Tuesday, 5/29/07 – Sunday 6/3/07

It’s a quiet week in Collioure, with mostly rain and clouds, broken occasionally with sunshine. We meet with more of our neighbors.

Mike (UK) has made his adjoining terrace blossom with trellises and plants. I go with him to Jardinland and pick out 3 plants to begin our own terrace garden.

We have dinner with Mike at Casa Leon. There’s a funny story about dessert. We didn’t order dessert, but the waiter puts one in front of Pat and she starts to eat it. Well, it was intended for the next table. The waiter comes to retrieve it, too late. Everyone laughs, at our table and nearby. The intended dessert eaters, from Barcelona, get another one. By the way, the unordered dessert was on our bill, and we paid it.

Some months ago, we received a communication, in response to this travel blog, from a couple living in Tasmania (Australia) who also have a home in Collioure. It’s incredible the connections made possible by the internet.

We invited them to a terrace wine and cheese, but only the husband, Peter, showed up. Apparently, there had been a plumbing disaster, made worse because they were leaving the next day and a tenant was coming in, so wife Lynn has stayed in the house while Peter came over.

We had the strange experience of having this person, Peter, whom we had never met, know all about us – from reading our blog.

We talk about buying our place in Collioure, and he says, “Yes, you bought it from Una.”

Left without our usual stories to tell, we nevertheless spend a very enjoyable two hours and resolved to get together when we both return from our travels in 10 days or so.

We are invited to lunch with Valerie and Lorcan at their French “in-the-village” chateau in the hill town of Laroque de Alberes, which they have been fixing up. Fixing up old houses is what they love to do.

Lorcan came to “collect” us, and we drove 15 minutes to the town and up the narrow streets to their home. Valerie conducted the tour. … a huge basement, a first floor with living room, master bedroom and kitchen, and a second floor with 3 more bedrooms.

Lots of outdoor space on all 4 sides of the house, and extensive grounds with great trees and plants behind. An area being cleared for a swimming pool.

Wallpaper – such wallpaper! – being scraped from almost every wall.

We had a delightful lunch on the back patio, on a spectacular table that we will try to duplicate for our own terrace (from Weldom or Auchan) at the conclusion of the Nice visit.

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Last year, we were bothered by several cats, who live in or around our building, coming onto the terrace and seeming to have an interest in coming into our apartment.

We have a similar problem in Key West, which we solved with a water cannon. Same solution here. Pat spotted the weapon at a Collioure shop, and, armed and dangerous, on the next cat appearance I had two direct hits from 15 feet.

The next time the cat came across the terrace, he didn’t put a foot on it, nor even on the ledge, but walked quickly across the sloping roof beyond the ledge. I think we have, for the moment at least, established our respective territory. I won’t bother the cat if he doesn’t bother me. 

Monday, 6/4/07

On Saturday, we’ll begin the 2007 version of “travels from Collioure” with a trip that will include Nice, Arles, and two nights with Valerie and Lorcan in an exchange property in the French village of Caune-Minervois near Carcassonne.

There are also some shopping objectives for this trip – a stop at IKEA in Montpellier, and visits to Auchan, Leroy Merlin, Weldom, and Carrefour on the way home.

In Nice, we’ll be meeting our friends from New Jersey, Herb and Marlene, who will begin a Mediterranean cruise in that city. Lots of excitement coming. 

Tuesday, 6/5/07

We can’t wait to begin our shopping, so we take the train to Argeles-sur-mer (4 minutes) and then a taxi to the shopping complex that includes Weldom and Carrafours.

At Weldom, we see the spectacular table we saw at Valerie and Lorcan’s new (old) home, and also a round table with bright green and yellow tiles. We choose round, plus four wrought iron chairs.

“Can you deliver? “

“Yes, will this afternoon be ok?”

They arrive at 3:30, thirty minutes early, and agree to assemble the heavy table for us.

Is this France? 

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One Response to “* a fortnight in Collioure – May 20 to June 5, 2007”

  1. Mike Leavy said

    Delightful! We stayed 2-3 days in Collioure a couple of years ago and loved it (including the unexpected and mistaken (presumably) visit of a somewhat drunk young lady in a black satin nightie to our bed in the hotel room in the middle of the night). “You must leave, you are in the wrong room” spoken very clearly in English accompanied by a tug worked; schoolboy French failed me utterly”.

    Now thinking/fantasizing about retirement from Victoria,Canada (a pretty nice place but…).

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