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CÚret 21 May 2016

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Today we drove up into the Pyrénées, to the town of Céret (Say-ray)  for the Fete des Cerises – the Cherry Festival. Cherries were the main draw, but there was the year's largest market there today, as well as the best collection, according to the guidebooks, of modern art in this modern artiest corner of La Belle France.

Céret is a good sized little city with the usual maze of twisty narrow streets, all especially choked with cars today, and so we parked quite a ways away and walked in with a goodly crowd of like-minded folks.

I confess a certain timidity when it comes to driving in France ...for about the first three minutes, and then I feel right at home. The roads are well marked. One comes to really love roundabouts, because there are thousands. French drivers are impatient and drive fast, but they're also civilized and stoic. It all works out.

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Cherries we found. Cherry beer, cherry pie, cherry pizza, cherry juice and wine, cherry blossom honey, every cherry theme thing you can imagine and some you can't. The town brass band was playing loudly in the square, people were barking their wares, old friends were seeing each other (for the first time since yesterday) and exclaiming loudly, hugging, doing the European triple kiss. There were dogs, babies in enormous eight-wheeled crispers, little old ladies with enormous wheeled shopping baskets...

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There was the cutest miniature pig and goat right in the middle of everything, and everybody was snuggling close and saying (in French), "Aw..." I had to scritch the pig. It was just as bristly as I expected. The goat wanted, as do all goats, to have its horns scritched, so it butted in.

There was going to be Sardana a little later. There were going to be a lot more people, too. This is Céret's biggest annual event, and while I'm glad we happened to be on time to see it, the crush of people isn't exactly our thing. I did find the knife of my dreams (still my fave in 2017), and we bought some cherries and white asparagus. The stall keepers are phenomenally generous and attentive; they seemed to be having the times of their lives. The goat and the pig were, too. 

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<p>La Recolte (the Harvest) 1943...

La Recolte (the Harvest) 1943 -- a cartoon for a series of azuelos done for the School of Agronomie in Rio de Janiero for a friend who was an official in Brazil. Of the pieces of hers shown, this was my favorite.

So we went to the museum, which was practically deserted. Also, lamentably, mostly stocked with very inferior samples of a few known artists work, and a huge exhibition of an artist of whom I never heard, Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, a Portugal-born artist who lived most of her last years in Céret.  


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The theme for the museum is the effect that living in Céret had on the many artists who lived here for some time. Like Collioure, Ceret has been a magnet for artists ever since this part of France was discovered by the Fauvistes and Salvador Dalí. Here's a Dufy of Céret. A good share of the collection are images of Céret by the usual suspects.

What I love about this work: the economy and obvious quickness with which he captured his image. What an eye, to be able to see that the trees were blobs of green with little contrasting calligraphic squiggles painted while the blob was still moist. Rochelle has been working on seeing, then capturing patterns, and there was plenty to see of that here, even if the collection of the museum is second rate. We'll see all the really good stuff when we get to Paris ... but it's inspiring to see what a first class artist can do when she's just "clearing her throat."

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<p>The piece that knocked me out...

The piece that knocked me out was the character at left, "Woman carrying Catalan Linen" (1919) by Auguste Herbin, another artist I never heard of. I love so much about this piece, but especially the neatly modulated crescents below the face. Here also, another Herbin, this time his 1913 view of Céret, a Picasso platter, and a Miro WTF.

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We escaped with our treasures, miraculously found our car (we were scolded by the owner of the parking lot) and headed deeper up the mountains.

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We drove through a couple of tiny towns clinging to the mountainside, but nowhere found a way to take pictures of them, because the forest is so dense. "It's so dry here," commented Rochelle, and yet there is a riot of wildflowers. (Lots of broom everywhere.) After an hour or so on tiny winding mountain tracks (all paved and neatly walled along the edge) it was time for lunch.

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We're still in Catalunya, and not that far from the Med, and so it wasn't too surprising to find in the town of Amelie-les-Bains a sweet little restaurant, Au Poivre Vert, serving as the plat du jour "Paella Royale." Compared to the paella we had in Barcelona, this was more classical (although somehow it didn't quite have the same paella feel.) The presence of a little sausage and a little chicken to counter the mussels and red shrimp made it very satisfying. 



Back down the highway to a bigger highway, and then the twisties before Collioure. Again miraculously we found a parking place, the last one we'll need before we move along to Séte tomorrow. 

   Below, a portrait of our purchases for the day.

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