Monday, 3 April 2017

Early April in and around Cerbère

The Tramontana wind was whipping around the streets of the town when we arrived causing the singing railings to really do their full repertoire. Braving the elements after settling into the flat, we walked up into the pine forests at the back of Cerbère and observed the after-rain mass of wild flowers, some I've never seen on previous Spring visits.

The sea was a myriad of blues from deep aqua to violet, the waves topped with flecks of white, and the sky a mass of white clouds against vivid blue, moving swiftly from the direction of snow-covered Canigou mountain.

View from above Cerbère when the wind had dropped - a bit . . .

Platane trees near Cerbère church in the last light.

We returned to the town centre, bought supplies, cooked ratatouille back at the flat and settled down for an evening of reading which rapidly turned into sleeping after the drive, wind and sea air.

The following day was a time of discovery of 'what's over the border' a bit more. I'd been to Port de la Selva before but Mark hadn't so that was the objective, except we never got there, distracted by an extraordinary building on top of a hill. I turned left, followed a small road and ended up in a little village called La Vall de Creu.
Mark, seeing a challenge, donned his walking boots and set off to walk to the perched building (in fact the ancient Benedictine monastery of St Pere de Rodes). I followed for a while and then went back to explore the village which had a beautiful source dated 17 something (other carved numbers sadly part-covered by some bit of crap plumbing) and a lovely stone church - sadly, not open.
After walking and exploring, we returned to Cerbère via the Voramar restaurant in Port Bou. Mark had been there before and wanted me to experience the food and ambience. Fantastic! Anyone visiting this area should book a table: amazing: very reasonably-priced food, beautifully presented by welcoming, polite staff wearing black gloves . . .


                              The tiny church at La Vall de Creu

                     Wild lupins


                                                     Port Selva from the valley at Val de Creu

Mark's main course of Dorade fillet at the Voramar

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Almost got in the sea

But not quite. It was tempting, and I did wade in with trousers rolled up but that was it. Actually the temperature was probably around 14 degrees - balmy for the some of the 'Cebèrians' who take a dip on New Year's day. I'll try again same time next month.

After sitting on the beach for a while I took a walk into the hills above the town. The Mimosa trees were in full flower and butterfly lavender scented the air.


Photograph taken on the way down to the bakery to buy a Baguette 'Payse', (particularly chewy and delicious bread of Cerbère)


Sunday, 21 August 2016

A different route to the border

Within half an hour you can be up in the wild landscape behind Cerbère (depending on your walking speed). Today we decided to walk over the border into Spain and find the fresh water lake or barrage that supplies Portbou.
It was a beautiful walk, a little windy as the Tramontane was blowing, but not enough to be a danger, (and it kept us cool).
The Cerbère valley is quite different to that of Portbou, the former being wider and sunnier with vines, olive, wild lavender etc; the latter, more pine trees and less imprint of man.
Before we arrived at the top, I was musing on how people would have decided where the border between the two countries should be; when you look at the terrain on each side and the vegetation difference, it suddenly appears quite obvious how the decision was arrived at.
No animals noted apart from bees, but still a fair amount of wild flowers blooming despite the heat and dryness, and amazingly several blackberry bushes with ripe fruit - I assume their roots must be well down into some underground source.
I saw a weather warning on France Meteo before setting out on the risk of forest fires in the South of France. Standing amongst brittle, bone-dry vegetation I could imagine the speed at which a fire would take hold.
I walked back to Cerbère, and the more intrepid Mark, into PortBou. Next time I will walk to Banyuls along the crest of the hills - not on a windy day . . .


View back to Cerbère, about half way along to the border point

The barrage above Portbou at its low summer level.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

First swims

Actually, the second - I was down a few weeks ago and did swim but it was a bit, arrrggg!

Now (late June) the sea is around 23 degrees in the shallows and perfect for swimming.

                       The town with its 'for the summer' installed floating boat pontoons


                         Wonderfully clear water at the poetically named 'bay of no troubles'


                           Mark enjoying a very early morning swim in the town's bay

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Restaurants and shops

Cerbère is a town of few shops but actually everything you need for everyday, also some great places to eat . . .

   The back of the town with post office, hairdresser, etc


                       The bakery


The paper shop with the 'Eiffel' railway arches behind it

La Coba, restaurant and café perched high on a bluff has a wonderful terrace (in the summer) and a wonderful 'equipe', Jean-Michel and Valerie.


My friend Sue about to enjoy a Jean-Michel creation

La Dorade on the seafront is run by friendly Cerbèrians Ann and Yves who came back to their home town to run the hotel and restaurant that was started by Yves's grandma.

                La Dorade restaurant                 Ann and Yves, les propriétaires.

Le Café de la Plage also serves good food - try their 'pic pic de poisson'. Cerbère also has excellent pizzas at La Caserne as well as several other good snack cafés. All they need now is an eccentric salon de thé - something I'd rather like to do, one day . . .

On a recent trip a friend and I discovered the cool 'Le Bout du Monde' restaurant situated in a cove about two kilometres from Cerbère - a good appetite-building walk, and one you can continue after lunch on to Banyuls and beyond.
Then there's Spain - a nip over the border (see last post) and there's all the pleasure of eating in tapas bars and restaurants in Portbou, Llança, El Port de la Selva, Girona . . .


  Delicious Greek salad at 'Le Bout du Monde' and the view!

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

A walk over the 'hill' between Cerbère and Port-Bou

I have done this walk/minor climb once with my son, in the winter when we got stranded in Port-Bou (next town - in Spain). Some hardened hikers showed us the way, and magnificent it was, although somewhat cold.
Yesterday, Mark and I did the walk both ways, with a cake and tea stop in between.
To pick up the trail, you walk up the dry river bed/road at the back of Cerbère and follow it all the way, not taking the route through the big tunnel on the right. Keep walking and you pass through a small tunnel and into a curious area at the back of the railway sidings full of old chicken runs and debris . . . not the most picturesque spot but take the small path to your left, marked with a fellow line and walk/clamber up until you reach the white border-point (disused) building.
The route in spring is beautiful; full of wild flowers, gorse and lavender, and if, like me, you have to stop every few minutes due the gradient, the views of the sea, town and station are wonderful.
Cross over the main road (with care as some drivers take the bends a little recklessly) up onto the top of the hill (small mountain?) feel the wind thrashing you if it's a Tramontane day, and walk down across the border into Spain.
This hillside would have once been equally flower and cactus-filled but due to a severe forest fire a few years back most of the ground is just grass covered, although the trees and bushes are beginning to make a come-back, slowly.
If you have remembered a back pack, you can fill it with pots of local honey, olive oil, nougat, etc, enjoy some Tapas/cake/cervezas, have a wander about and either catch the train back across the border or walk.
If you have a bit more time, it is well worth visiting the Walter Benjamin memorial and grave situated in the cemetery above the town.
The walk, without counting the cake stop etc, is about an hour and a half - two hours, depending on your speed/leg length . . .

the Cerbère side

Cerbère station and sidings




                 Port-Bou side with the Cap de Creus land mass in the distance

        walk back with shopping bag as we forgot the rucksack


                                       Port-bou honey, olive oil and Turon (nougat)

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Hillside wanderings

So far I have discovered two ways to reach the hills surrounding Cerbère: one, is to walk in the dry river bed (very wet during occasional monumental downpours) at the back of the town; through a long echoing tunnel, (over which the train activity happens), more river bed and then into olive and lavender filled hills.
The other, is to walk through the sprawl of mega-villas at the top of the town and follow the road until the houses run out and you are left with a pot-holed tarmac 'chemin'. These two routes eventually meet up, thus creating a circular walk of great variety.
Last time, I intended to follow the road to something called 'Las Rocas"indicated by an ancient bull-shaped wooden sign. I didn't get that far but did enjoy a couple of hours of total silence except for bees and occasional distant sounds from the railway sidings.
Another walk we have done a few times is up to the old border point customs building (now unused, even the café - what a missed opportunity . . . mm, interesting thought) and over the hill to Port-Bou on the Spanish side.
A lovely hike-ette with the plus of being able to eat a great meal for very little money when you get there, and then walk back/get the train if you've over-indulged.

          Beware bees

       View from bee area

Gecko house