Day 11 — July 11, 1996 (Thursday)
11.07.1996 - 12.07.1996
I slept well for the first time since Paris — the secret was letting some air out of my mattress. Since you have to order breakfast a day ahead and we weren’t here to do that, we got on the N9 south toward Perpignan and Canet Plage. Somewhere south of Narbonne, we spotted a little restaurant with a breakfast sign. I asked for petit déjeuner and the lady immediately asked if we were British. No, but the man on all my French language tapes was! I must have learned well enough to speak French with a British accent. We explained we were Americans and took a few minutes to catch up on world news. It was fun to carry on a conversation!
We headed on toward Canet-Plage and drove down (or up and down) the Côte Vermeil. The Mediterranean is incredibly blue and the mountains come right down to the sea. We stopped to take photos several times. It was incredibly windy and when you walked along the road, your feet crushed wild thyme and the smell was heavenly. We were so close we decided to drive on into Spain. Now that the EU is a reality, you just drive through — no customs check, no passport check, no cute little stamp on your passport. We drove south to Colera and stopped to walk around. Had no pesos so couldn’t buy anything but enjoyed the little fishing port and colorful boats.
We turned back north to France and stopped at the border to take pictures of me beside both France and España signs. Then we drove up to Cerbère where we had lunch on the veranda of La Dorade on the Mediterranean. I had lamb broquettes and Ed had chicken. Life doesn’t get much better than this! La Dorade Hotel-Restaurant; 1 Rue du Maréchal Joffre, 66290 Cerbère, France; tel: +33 (0)4 6888 4193; La Dorade Restaurant web site
We continued north to Saint-Cyprien-Plage, parked the car along the road and walked across a very wide beach to the Mediterranean, took off our shoes and socks and went wading. Our pant legs got wet, but it was worth it. It’s hard to believe there is such a lovely sand beach on the Mediterranean and yet there is no development and there is free parking. Where are all the tourists? They must be over on the stone beaches of the Riviera. Silly people . . .
Decided to skip Perpignan and wandered the coast back to Narbonne where we stopped at Casino Supermarché for picnic fare. Casino has the world’s slowest checkout people. They were so slow it was hilarious. They sit on little chairs and punch in numbers very carefully one at a time — spending a great deal of thought on each item. Fortunately everyone was just purchasing dinner and breakfast. We bought a round baguette rather like a giant bagel, cheese, peaches, wine and a peach tart and left . . . . laughing. We visited the gas station and then headed for Narbonne-Plage — a beautiful drive. No picnic tables — no surprise. We drove on to Gruissan and actually found three picnic tables (undoubtedly put there by an American) and had a picnic beside a little lake. No campground auberge for us!
It was a great day. [If you don't speak French and haven't figured it out from the context, "plage" is the French word for beach; hence, Gruissan is the town and Gruissan-Plage is the beach.]