May 10, 2016


The Mediterranean. The name of a sea that for me has long conjured up romantic images, romantic associations. Blue, startlingly blue skies over unbelievably blue water; fragrant herbs; thyme and rosemary, growing alongside little roads; warm dry temperatures, often hot in the summer. People continuously living here for far more than 2000 years, finally  the Greeks, then Romans, leaving their history, culture, ideas, parts of their language, remnants of their buildings and roads. I could mention the food. Fish that I love, and shellfish. Garlic and tomatos, peppers and eggplant. Olive oil, olives. Wine.  In some ways, it is not that sea I am now by the side of, though it is the same sea.

It is not of the Mediterranean of film festivals, of the chic Riviera, that I dream. It is, I know, the Mediterranean of my imagination, though I have found something of it in less popular, less developed places, sometimes protected parkland, near Arles, Montpellier, Narbonne.

I am now in Collioure, a pastel-colored town, hills from the Pyrenees running down to the sea, with an economy once powered by fishing. The anchovies are still completely, absolutely delicious. Fresh, white, served with Catalan flavors of olive oil and peppers, or with flavors of lemon and white wine. Or on fougassa, similar to the pissaladiere I so enjoy further east on the coast. The economy now powered by tourism, as is so often the case, both here in southern France and at home in the Berkshires where I live.

But the Mediterranean. For three days now, the famous blue sky of Collioure, painted by Picasso, who is buried here, Matisse, and so many others has been grey, heavy, low. I write this not with complaint, but with appreciation and acknowledgement. I am safe and sound in a lovely apartment, a block from the sea, with broom blooming yellow outside my window, the plants blowing hard sideways in the wind. It rains. I sit comfortably inside reading, relaxing, reflecting. For that is what I need this trip. But from time to time, all these three days, I go out for walks, to get some air, some activity, to stretch. Relaxing, stilling myself mentally and physically,  does not come easily or last long. It is something I would like to learn.

This afternoon, I walked in the rain, in the wind. The rain sometimes misty and soft,  other times drenching, yet still soft. It wasn't so cold, and my feet walked on solid ground. The stone walkway around the old fort was closed, the sea too high over it. The little swimming cove had breakers four deep rolling in. It was certainly never dangerous, never even so uncomfortable, just wet.

Early afternoon I walked past a highly recommended restaurant, but feeling alone I guess, or maybe just feeling a stranger, I didn't go in. I walked near the sea, watching, thinking. Watching that roiling sea, watching water breaking white over rocks, even in the quite protected cove, I thought of people, people in small boats, not so very far to the east of here, trying to escape the destruction of their ancient civilization, people trying to get away from destroyed old cities, from war, to get to a nearby place, Europe, that shares so very much of their history and culture. This is not a big storm, but still I saw the Mediterranean then as a dangerous place, not so unlike the Atlantic, harsh, unforgiving in a storm to people in small boats.

As I walked back past the restaurant I stopped, took off my wet jacket, shook it out, and went in. I was glad I did. It was warm, a tiny bit steamy even, so I could also take off the wool jacket I wore under that raincoat. The restaurant was small, clean, walls in places painted white and smooth, in others made of light-colored stone and concrete, the kitchen open. The conversation was quiet, calm and friendly amongst the other diners. The food was delicious, I ate mussels, then calamari, all local I am sure. Whatever I had felt, a bit of a stranger, a bit alone, was gone.


  1. Oh dear, you haven't had the best of luck with the weather. We're hoping things improve in the next day or two.

    1. Indeed, it is damp, with thundershowers this afternoon. It will change ... when it changes:-)

  2. Hi Suz,
    Looks like you're having a wonderful trip. Love this post...and your blog. Shared this post on my Facebook page..hope you don't mind.

    1. Why thank you, I'm flattered and appreciate it. Would send you a friend request, but don't find you in facebook, so have been unable to. Are you there as Susan Burpee?

    2. Yep. I'm on FB as Susan Burpee and I just created a High Heels in the Wilderness FB page.

  3. I hope that you will get some sunshine soon. By contrast, we have been doing some unaccustomed basking here and feeling smug.


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