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Thursday, January 29, 2009 – Perpignan Is Okay

Our Man in Paris is Our Man in Paris no more.  Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, has ended his many years there, and now you can find him in the South of France. He has relocated to Port-Vendres (département of Pyrénées-Orientales, Languedoc-Roussillon région), a fishing village on the Mediterranean, just north of the Spanish border, where the Pyrenees drop into the sea. This is the third dispatch from those parts.

Perpignan Is Okay

Wednesday, 28 January - Brilliant sunshine, some wind fluttering the flags, and two freighters busily unloading, was the essence of the scene outside my hotel window this morning. Commerce, industry, sunshine. I went out to sniff around.

On the east side, I guess, of the harbor beyond the maritime terminal, there's an 'Ed' discount supermarket I checked it out a couple of days ago. A great place to buy water in bulk, but a long way to carry it to the apartment. Up the hill from it is a big hardware supplier. I went over there and walked its aisles. A place to return to if I need a shower curtain or an eco-lightbulb, a doormat or a drying rack.

The exploration didn't take too long so I picked up the Mac and went to the cafe La France to hook up with their WiFi to check my email. The Mac could 'see' the WiFi but claimed it didn't exist. Monsieur behind the bar declined to restart the Livebox, the router. I decided to give the WiFi a rest until there were more customers needing a restart.

After killing a bit of time I caught the bus for Perpignan. The fare was one euro and the bus lumbered along the wiggly 'corniche' to Collioure, where it dipped into a couple of bus stops before climbing out of town - past a plaza de toros - before descending to the coastal plain and Argeles.

There the bus made some stops, first in south Aegeles where there seemed to be no folks, and then in the village and beyond it some flats, home to a huge Carrefour and other big outlet stores. After that it was a tour of the old town of Elme further away from the coast.

It had its chateau too, stone walls, houses in pastels and scattered palms. Then the bus found a four-lane divided highway and briefly got up to 70 kph before rumbling into Perpignan, about 70 minutes after leaving Port Vendres.

Across the street from the huge bus stop and two blocks away seemed to be the centre of town, the Place de Catalogne. There, a Fnac was installed in a former department store. After getting no new information in an Orange boutique, I presented myself to Fnac, to change the address for my card. But their Intranet was broken down.

More interesting were the DVDs on sale, five for 30 euros. Same price for music CDs. Some other time. Even more interesting was the one shelf of books in English. Once you get to be a reading addict it's impossible to quit. I got two books that might actually be readable, but in the future once the Internet is working, I'll have to see what I can get online.

Buying the books made me hungry, and I fixed this in a sandwich shop. Then I walked back and caught the bus for the early afternoon tour in reverse. Around Perpignan and Argeles the land is flat, and I suspect it tends to be swampy. There's a fair bit of cane. Off to the south you can see some Pyrenees' peaks, some with a lot of snow. They looked big and mean. They looked magnificent too; real mountains.

The foothills begin after Argeles, and the road becomes twisty as it climbs. Not much, because Collioure and Port Vendres are at sea level. A great road for giving a steering wheel some whirls. A little car would do the trick; no great high speed necessary.

The towns are old. Port Vendres, Collioure and Elme are built on hillsides so they are sort of jumbled, although central Port Vendres is easier to understand because it is ranged around its deep-sea harbor. Argeles, on the flat, and especially south Argeles, has a lot of new villas, mostly made with a standard cookie-cutter. 'Mediterranean'-style features, rose tile roofs and orange walls, thin walls I think. Older places have thick walls.

I forgot to mention seeing the first lemon tree in somebody's front yard. And, on the port-side walk in Port Vendres I noticed dark blotches under some trees. It took several days to realize they were fallen olives. Yeah, so, if you are going to be taking an aperitif at one of the terraces, just reach up and grab an olive. For all I know those are date palms too.

- Ric

Perpignan Is Okay

Text and Photo Copyright © 2009 - Ric Erickson

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