Monday, October 13, 2008

Riding the Hogwarts Express

This past Sunday some of the other assistants and I decided to go to a nearby village, called Banyule-sur-mer (FYI any town with the name Something-sur-mer is going to be beautiful, because “sur-mer” means on the sea…Another lovely Mediterranean town) for a wine festival. We caught a regional train at around 12:30 and were there by 1:00. When we walked down to the beach, following the trail of people and dogs, and the directions of a little old French woman, there loads of people with wine glasses strapped on lanyards around their necks. After asking several rather tipsy Frenchmen and women, we discerned that all the glasses were gone, the wine was gone, and the festival (the wine part of it anyway) had started right after Mass, at about 10:00am, and ended around noon. Don’t they know that if you drink before 5pm you are clearly an alcoholic? To say the least, we were a little miffed about missing the wine tasting part of the wine festival, but there was still plenty to see and do. There were so many people on the beach, sitting at makeshift tables, on lawn chairs, on blankets, on rocks. They had all prepared food for the day, and brought huge picnics with them. There were giant platters of couscous for an entire extended family to share, racks of meat, fruits, vegetables, baguettes galore, and bottles upon bottles of wine on each table. There were also food booths for people to buy food at. Restaurants (or families, I am really not sure) were preparing food for hundreds, roasting whole pigs and chickens on spits over beach-side fires, making assembly crêpes with Nutella, and stirring a dish of seafood paella the size of my dining room table back home. I am living in the center of a cultural area called Catalonia, which extends into the southeast of Spain as well. The Catalan people have a troubled history, mostly filled with persecution by the Spanish and French governments, and it has only been in the years since Franco died that it has been legal to be proud to be Catalan. Perpignan is a really great mixture of Spanish and French and Catalan culture. So the wine festival was also a Catalan festival, with Catalan food and music and flags everywhere. We stopped at the place preparing the paella, where I got seafood paella as well as a serving of this delicious Catalan sandwich. They slice a baguette, toast the bread, then rub garlic on it, then rub really ripe tomatoes on that, then layer this delicious Spanish ham called cerrano on top of that. It’s amazing. I also ordered a glass of local red wine, which the generous tooth-less man kept re-filling for free. He also gave out glasses to the other assistants for free, too, which was nice if a little lecherous.

After eating, we went down to the water, and walked on the rocks a little bit. I think that even the Europeans are a little amazed to be on the Mediterranean. It’s just so exotic, you know? Even though we missed the wine portion of the wine festival, and that was really the reason we went, we had a wonderful time. The food was great, the few glasses of wine I did have were amazing and mostly free, and the ambience was just so much fun. The people are so proud to be Catalan, so proud to be sharing their food and drink, and everyone was just happy. It couldn’t help rubbing off on all of us, too.

The train home was a different type than the train we arrived on, and I was stoked to get on the train and see COMPARTMENTS. I rode in a train compartment like Harry Potter on the Hogwarts Express! OH MY GOD! It wasn’t a scarlet steam engine (more blue, and I have no idea what it ran on), but it was still amazing. There were eight seats in the compartment, and eight of us, and we traveled across part of the south of France together like Harry Potter and his friends travel across England to get to Hogwarts. I love Europe.
By the way, I have added a TON more photos to my Google photo page.

1 comment:

B-Gabbard Fam said...

I just got even more excited for my visit in February! I'm so glad you are having a great time! Love and miss you~Mess