July 24 Collioure A friend recommended the small town Collioure where the French Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean. The costal plain approaching the town is about as flat and built-up as Ocean City Md. Suddenly the Pyrenees rise and make roads engineering feats. Collioure has a beautiful old fortress and a town to match. I'm not alone in this view because it's as overrun with tourists as Annapolis in the summer.
Collioure was put on the map by some Impressionist painters (including Matisse) who worked there. It's the headquarters of an anchovy co-op 'Anchois Roche'. In one store a woman was laying out anchovy fillets in rows on stacks of sheets of papers.
In the Pyrenees the town of Foix has a castle dating from the 10th century. You can climb up two of it's three towers which are about 100 feet above their base. I had never realized how these medieval towers gave defenders a straight shot down against attackers. The top walls (with crenelations) are catalevered out to leave an 10 or 12 inch gap between the top of the tower and the top wall. It's really unnerving to me to look straight down 100 feet.
-- Collioure Again I returned to Collioure because when I´d been here in July I had taken a half dozen of the best photos of the trip but I was put off by the summer crowds. Not 24 hours from Alexandria I was treated to something ¨worth the trip¨. The small park in the town center had two dozen sycamore trees in two geometric patterns and a dirt surface - probably from all the bacci (sp?) games played there. (It´s called ¨balls" in France.) A 10 piece band (which I thought was playing a march from a distance) consisted of two wooden oboe-like instruments, two baritone oboes, two trumpets, two baritone horns, and a bass violin. The youngest and only female member of the group played a ¨"piccolo" oboe held in her left hand and lead the group by striking a 3 inch drum attached to her left elbow. Their piece had three parts. One was so unusually synchropated that I thought at first that some of the players were trying to catch up with the others. I soon realized that it was a Catalan rhythm. The audience was mostly middle-aged with a few young. I guess they were mostly local Catalan farmers. After a few times through the piece the audience linked hands a formed about 10 circlies and started dancing the Sardana (don´t know if this spelling is French, Spanish or Catalan). The movements are subtle with nimble toe-pointing steps and modest lateral movemnts. There´s a little bit of clapping, a little singing and the nimble toe-pointying jumps are higher as time goes on. At the end everyone had refreshments -- olives, salted peanuts, two types of almond cookies, and Banyuls -- which reminds me of muscatel.
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