day 4 :
wednesday, 14 september
We left Spain today, driving north from Roses across the Pyrénées on many windy roads along the cliffs of the southern coast of France. The sky was cloudless and the sun at midday sparkled brightly, almost blindingly, on the water.
On our drive, we stopped at the beautiful town of Collioure for sightseeing. Famous artists such as Matisse, Derain, Picasso, and Dali were captivated by the light and color of Collioure, and painted scenes of this city. The artist community is alive and well today, with little galleries around nearly every corner of the tiny streets. Some paintings by one artist in particular caught our eye - Caroline Clet. Her paintings have great texture, such as the brushstrokes of vibrant yellow sunflowers in a field in front of the houses of Collioure. We found a nice small work to bring home with us as a reminder of this beautiful city.
After wandering lots of little streets and taking photographs, we bid adieu and drove to the tiny town of Cascastel-des-Corbières. This is what we had pictured as the typical small, French countryside town - there's one road through town, and a regular group of locals sits on the same bench every day, chatting, watching the few cars drive by, and staring at strangers like us who happen to show up. Although our high school French classes were coming back to us, we are by no means fluent in French, and it was a little daunting to arrive in a small town like this, knowing that virtually no one knows a word of English. Fortunately, the hosts at our gîte, Domaine Grand Guilhem, knew enough basic English that we could scrape together a few conversations in a mixture of French and English. We found that everyone we interacted with was genuinely nice, helpful, and understanding of limited French vocabulary.
We wanted a low-key dinner tonight so we could go to bed early since we were pretty tired. So we went to Le Clos de Cascastel, just a few doors down from our gîte and the only restaurant in town. The entertaining thing was that the fixed-price meal took longer than our 30+ course meal at El Bulli two nights before! The food was surprisingly good for a town of only a few hundred residents, but there was just a single chef and waitress doing everything there, so the whole endeavor ended up taking over four hours.