A Postcard from Collioure

Wish you were here!

I just adore Collioure: sun, sea, sand, mountains… an ancient fort, a castle, an old lighthouse and even a windmill that used to crush olives into oil. And that isn’t even everything! There are vineyards covering the hillsides and colorful fisherman’s cottages lining the narrow pedestrian “streets” and some wonderful restaurants featuring seafood and tapas. I could go on and on.

I’ve never been here at the height of tourist season when French people flock from all over the country and flood the streets and I can imagine that I wouldn’t particularly like it then… but during the off season it is delightful. I decided to base our French-Spanish Borderland sojourns here for partially selfish reasons… I wanted to spend as much time as possible here!

This time I was here to cook for the group of two dozen painters for whom Francis was doing the logistics, translations and a bit of guiding. As I mentioned in a previous post I figured this would be a good opportunity to see how it would go if we provide the breakfasts and dinners for our Live-Like-a-Local sojourners. It was one of the most profoundly life changing and inspirational experiences of my life: it was like reliving the work conditions of the Industrial Revolution ( twelve hour days, poor equipment…). When I wasn’t completely exhausted and physically in pain, I was loving it!

The best part was the appreciative comments and faces of those I fed.

Wait, the best part was how people popped in the kitchen to linger and share snippets of their lives with me while I was cooking.

Actually, the best part was shopping. Carrying hundreds of pounds of produce and meat around the village made a gym work out seem like a waste of money, but that wasn’t the part I liked ;). I discovered a new level of what Francis calls ” l’esprit commerçant” -a sort of camaraderie of between shop owners and other service providers. France still has lots of little specialty boutiques so I was buying meat at a butcher shop where the butcher and cashier were husband-and-wife shop owners, bread in a bakery where the baker owned the shop and his mother tended the cash register, vegetables in the market from the farmer himself… all of these people quickly came to know me (and I was picky). Once I’d purchased the food for my group, they’d offer me gifts for myself –a bag of cherries, some Serrano Iberico ham at half price. My favorite where the presents the baker’s mother tucked secretly in my bag to discover once home -cookies and other surprises that she suspected I would love and return to buy in large quantities for my group!

–Lisa Gustavson (Sojourner Tours Owner)



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