We have reached Céret, one of my favourite towns. It is in France, not far from Perpignan in the foothills of the Pyrenees, with typically Catalan high, elegant buildings from the 18th and 19th century.
To my Catalan soul it feels like home, a mere accident of geography and history putting it currently in France.
It is famous for cherries – some say its name comes from the name for that fruit – and once air travel was beginning to establish itself in the 1920s the town started air-freighting cherries from its first harvest of the year to the French president, in an effort to prove how effective this new-fangled form of travel was. The custom continues to this day.
The town is also very famous for its popularity with cubist artists such as Juan Gris, Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso, all of whom spent some time living here. The Modern Art Museum in Céret is a draw for many tourists these days, with works by most of the major cubist school as well as changing exhibitions of contemporary art.
My favourite event in Ceret, however, is the Sardana festival held in August – the Sardana is the typical Catalan dance. It is danced in a circle and people of all ages, from 9 to 90, join in – you can gently push your way into a circle that’s already established, or you can start your own with just two people. It is danced to music played by a band called a “coble” on traditional rather reedy Catalan instruments plus a small drum and a double bass ; the music is an acquired taste, but personally I find it mesmerising!
Anyway, we arrived here by winding our way through the achingly beautiful Spanish and French Pyrenees, and with a little help from Miss Google we found our way to a miraculous 20 minute parking spot just outside our hotel, the Hotel Vidal, which is on the pretty, pretty main street. It is a lovely 18th century building, there is a wide curved stone staircase up to the first floor where Reception is, and the whole place has crumbling old furniture, high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling double windows. It is just the sort of place I love, that ‘faded grandeur’ thing again, but I can see why others might think it was rather basic – actually, for €55 for an ensuite room for two with balcony over the pretty street lined with mature plane trees, I think it is a good price.
Some may think that no TV, no hairdrier and only two bars of soap in the bathroom rather than bath gel and tissues is a step too far into backpacking country, but it doesn’t bother me because the building is just gorgeous. Perhaps if you are the sort of person that loves Céret, as we do, you don’t mind about the details.
We took advantage of the hotel’s enclosed car park a few buildings away for Samson the Skoda, then wandered off looking for an aperitif then supper. So, after half a pichet of local rosé in café Pablo (named after Picasso), followed by rare steak for one of us …
and lieu noir for me,
plus a shared caramel ice cream in the iconic café Le France, we made our way back to the hotel.
Next morning we had breakfast on the hotel’s glorious, cool vine-covered terrace on the first floor.
The sun tried its hardest to beat through the canopy of green leaves, but succeeded only in creating the perfect space for breakfast.
Oh, did I mention, although I’m writing this in the hotel, the wifi here is rubbish …. I don’t care, I still love this hotel. It has so much character, and even if I was rich I’d always choose to stay in places like this!