May 15, 2016

Thursday, Collioure

Part Two: Something has happened to me.  Though maybe that tense is wrong, maybe I should write: something is happening to me. Part two.

Wednesday night my plan for the next day, Thursday, was to cycle to Ceret. The weather was forecast to be fine, I have not been on my bike, and I would like to see Ceret, a village in the Pyrenees Orientales. It is a ride of something less than 25 miles, probably 45 miles round trip, with very little climbing by Berkshire standards. Part of the draw to that town is the fine museum, respected for its collection of painters known collectively as Les Fauves, including Derain, Cezanne, Picasso. Cherries: Ceret is also famous for its delicious, first-of-the-season cherries. Typically May is cherry season, but the spring is late and chilly, and I have yet to see any.

Thursday morning. I woke early by my French standard, made coffee, ate something, showered, dressed, took a look at the sky, took a look at the map. Stopped, and took another look at the sky. It was almost that startling blue Collioure is famous for. Not quite, it has been wet and moisture remains in the air. Still, very blue. Things started shifting. I started making excuses, they went like this:

"Oh, but my nagging painful hip, I don't want to aggravate it again. Oh, but look at those red roads, (Departementales, a map designation) they might be busy, with cars whizzing by. Oh, look at those towns I will need to find way through. Oh, perhaps if one of my Berkshire cycling buddies was here with me.

I took another look at the sky. Not a cloud. Clear. Saturated blue. Now all of those things are true, of course. None really gives me a moment's pause, except the hip, an issue that doesn't disappear.

But, whatever my brain's chatter and expectations, the fact nonetheless emerged: I wanted to continue yesterday's quiet reflective pace. Wanted to walk along the Mediterranean. That was the heart and truth of it.  My changed intentions had nothing to do with that chattering brain's excuses.  My real desire was to walk along the sea, where I knew there was a path, sometimes high on the cliffs, sometimes at water's edge.

Thursday, I didn't get on the bike. I walked.

It isn't lazy that I feel. Maybe it is calm. Maybe it is an enveloping lack of ambition. It feels like a question of time and space, of a desire to hold on to, and make the most of this quieter experience.  This possibly changing understanding of ways to live in the world. Dan Klein's book Travels with Epicurus, which I read last winter, lingers in my thoughts.

As I sat I remembered how the sound and sight of the sea so deeply quiets me. The smell plays a part also, here more subtly. The Atlantic has a strong, pervasive, salty smell that I associate with the ocean. The scent of the Mediterranean is milder, sometimes almost unnoticeable. Being at the shore is a rare experience for me these days, and it has a strong effect, one I have recognized for at least 30 years

I waded in the water: it was not cold, but not warm enough to be inviting for a swim. Sitting again, my feet became sunburnt, as did the back of my neck. I became hungry: lunchtime had passed, hours had passed. It was time to move. I returned by the same path to Collioure.

So I walked. The sentier, trail, was not as long as I hoped, though it was stunningly beautiful. The route effectively ended at a small sheltered beach 2 or 3 km from town, the way forward closed, with a sign marked:  Dangerous! Do not proceed!

When I arrived at that beach around 10:30, my presence made a total of 3 people on the gravelly sand. For the next three or four hours the total human count varied at any moment from 3 to 15 . Most were walkers like me, but they paused only a few moments, then turned back, returning by the same route. Others arrived from the nearby campground, towels, beach gear in hand, and stayed longer.


Lunch was at a cafe next to the cove near my apartment. Everything in that cove is under the windmill, which itself is below the medieval fort. They sky turned grey, the wind picked up, the rain returned and I returned to the shelter of that apartment.

This trip itself is definitively changing itinerary, not being totally about the cycling as my trips to France have been. The change remains a bit odd to me, and not totally intended.


  1. You've captured the area beautifully.

  2. This made me feel that I was actually with you. The biking blogs are so very interesting, but so not me. At least I used to be able to do the walking, and could actually picture myself doing exactly what you did. Thank you so much. I had a wonderful time. Missing you. Stay safe.

    1. And I would be glad to have you with me. Thanks for keeping reading!

  3. I can sympathise with every one of your thoughts regarding cycling as they seem to invade my mind more and more as the years go by. The nagging hip is in every way, a real pain.

    Still, you had some beautifully photographed delightful compensation to bring a little balm to the soul. Thank you for sharing it.

    1. And thank you for reading ... you remain my role model!

  4. beautiful post, both in writing and images. Thank you.

    1. Glad to see you are still here! I appreciate your comments most particularly since I so enjoy your writing.


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