Local Wine, Roast Chickens, The Mediterranean, French Cheese, and Poppies - just another day in the Eastern Pyrenees


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Published: June 8th 2010
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Our second day began with breakfast on the terrace of our hotel - it was a decent spread of little pastries, yogurt, fruit, some cold cuts - no complaints. Unfortunately the weather was no longer hot and sunny, but rather a little on the cooler side and overcast. Nonetheless we donned our bathing suits and, after checking out, headed further south to Banyuls-sur-Mer. Once a major good-smuggling center, now the city is known for its wonderful dessert wines and of course for being a lovely town just on the water.

After walking along the shore a bit, we stumbled upon a very nice open market that boasted cured meats, local wines, soaps, hand-carved utensils, you name it. What caught OUR eyes were the chickens and rabbits roasting on spits, their juices dripping over potatoes. Lunch later? Noted. This whole time it was drizzling a bit, but then it started to legitimately rain, so it was clear we needed to do a wine tasting inside one of the wine shops.

The woman presented us with three types of wine from Banyuls, one white, two red. The white was very young, only aged for some 6 months in these plastic barrel things, and very sweet, not unlike Moscatel. The second wine (Domaine Pietri-Gerard Banyuls "Rimage"), red, aged a bit longer, was our favorite - it was not quite as sweet with very strong strawberry and cherry notes. The last was most akin to port, aged 4 years in the barrel, with a much fuller body. All three of us bought the second bottle - I very much look forward to drinking it this summer :-)

Moving on along, we explored the historic center a bit, but as most things were closed on a Sunday we figured it would be best to go ahead and get that roast chicken lunch. With a bottle of water, bag of roast chicken, and plastic container of potatoes in tow, we headed toward the beach, finally settling on a rocky area along the side. The feast did NOT disappoint, and we really channeled the Mediterranean barbarians of yesteryear as we ripped apart the carcass with our hands.

With the weather still somewhat sh*tty we had no choice but to go eat cheese and drink more wine at a lovely little wine bar in the center. Since we had already tried 3 wines from Banyuls, we decided to go for something from Collioure, where we were the day prior. The red "La Tranchée" was very interesting and ever-so-slightly carbonated. To accompany our bottle of wine we had 5 French cheeses, a local butter, incredibly fresh bread, and a small salad with some greens and flowers in it. PERFECT. Alex and I wanted to bathe in the butter, and I could have eaten both the Morbier and the creamy cheese from Bourgogne until I vomited. To think, in three weeks little gems like this will be an ocean away. *Sigh*

Satisfied with our visit to Banyuls-sur-Mer we started to retrace our steps home, but this time we stopped in Perpignan. With some 120,000 inhabitants in the city proper, Perpignan (Catalan: Perpinyà) is the biggest city in the department and also its capital. It was the capital of the former province of Roussillon and continental capital of the Kingdom of Majorca back in the 13th and 14th centuries.

After stopping for a coffee to reenergize we began to explore the city's rainy streets, first walking under the Castellet (little castle), the 14th century former gate and military fortification. Next was the Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Perpignan, a French national monument constructed by the Majorcan kings from 1324 to 1509. The interior was slightly under construction, but above all the altar was the most glorious part, entirely cut from a grey stone and with beautiful stained glass above. There was a girl practicing the organ while we were in there, and literally when Alex and I started walking down the aisle she started to play "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring" - very amusing - for a second we thought we were getting married. Pictures were forbidden inside, but I managed to sneak one from way in the back. Unfortunately it doesn't do the church any justice.

The rest of the city was very cute - lots of street names reflecting the occupations of their inhabitants centuries ago, like Carrer de la Fusteria (Carpenter street) and many nice little statues and plazas. Unfortunately since it still was Sunday, not to mention gross out, nothing was really open and there wasn't too much hustle and bustle. After maybe two hours of wandering we returned to the car and continued on our journey.

On our way from Andorra we had noticed several lookout points and also fields of poppies in which we wanted to take pictures. This time we made it a point to actually stop. The first stop was at the "Site du Pont Gisclard", with views of several of the mountains, not to mention the incredible valleys below. Further along, closer to the Spanish border, we came across the fields of poppies, and as luck would have it the sun was starting to show its face a little bit before sunset. 3,000 photos later we were satisfied, and by 10pm we were back in La Seu d'Urgell, where we would spend the night at Pere's before returning to Andorra early Monday morning.






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13th June 2010

You forgot to mention you stopped in the poppy field on your way to see the wizard.

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