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A Potter's Moll: Pyrenees Orientales

…Our friends met us there and they were a mine of information about everything we saw on our fifty- minute journey to their village, including the border town of La Joncquera which is virtually a huge lorry park, complete with the Lady Dallas lap-dancing club and the La Madam brothel.

We were unfamiliar with this area of France called Pyrenees Orientales and quite unprepared for the mountainous beauty. From our bedroom window we had a spectacular view of a snow-covered range called Les Alberes…

Liz Robison and her potter husband Jim enjoy a winter break in the France-Spain border region.

To read more of Liz’s sparkling columns please click on A Potter’s Moll in the menu on this page. And do visit Jim’s Web site http://www.jimrobison.co.uk/

January is a quiet time in the gallery and potter’s studio here and recently we have had a fair bit of stress and bereavement, so it was wonderful when last week, old friends invited us to their French holiday home for a few days.

They got their Ryanair tickets for 99p to fly out on the Monday – we had to pay £25 to go on the Wednesday. But it was worth every penny. The car parking cost more.

We flew from the newish Robin Hood airport at Doncaster – so easy to get to for us from here in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire. It is very small at the moment: the only plane we saw was the one we travelled in. In two and a half hours we were in Gerona, near the Spanish/French border.

Our friends met us there and they were a mine of information about everything we saw on our fifty- minute journey to their village, including the border town of La Joncquera which is virtually a huge lorry park, complete with the Lady Dallas lap-dancing club and the La Madam brothel.

We were unfamiliar with this area of France called Pyrenees Orientales and quite unprepared for the mountainous beauty. From our bedroom window we had a spectacular view of a snow-covered range called Les Alberes.

The house is modern, comfortable and convenient, and they looked after us well with good food and plenty of vin. We had one meal out with their neighbour at a restaurant and strangely we were the only customers all evening. Apparently local people hibernate somewhat in winter. Most of the days we were there we had blue skies and crisp, cold weather.

We roved far and wide on both sides of the border, including the delightful Costa Brava town of Collioure with its ancient harbour and lighthouse. A favourite spot for Henri Matisse apparently. Nowadays it is often the location for glossy magazine fashion shoots.

A day in Figueres was a highlight where we visited the Theatre Museum of Salvador Dali. I had a slightly stereotyped view of Dali’s work before I went there, but I was completely bowled over by the depth and breadth of his work and, boy, could he draw. (I was similarly wowed by the work of Antoni Gaudi when we visited Barcelona a few years ago. Until then I had considered Gaudi gaudy. How wrong I was!) Well, they say travel broadens the mind.

Near the seaside town of Cadaques we visited Port Lligat where Dali had a home on a remote and beautiful part of the coast. Cadaques was approached by a breath-taking Corniche road and then we crossed the peninsula to the town of Roses via stunning mountain scenery.

Everywhere were olive groves and vineyards on ancient terraces. Every available inch seemed to be utilised. The wine-growing area where our friends live is called Languedoc-Rousillon and we sampled some fine red wines from that region.

Another highlight was the town of Cerat where there is a huge Saturday market selling everything from fruit and veg to charcuterie to clothes, soap, pottery etc. We sat, well-wrapped, at an outdoor café drinking café au lait and watching the colourful world go by.

Although we were only in France for five days, the memories will linger for a long time and our appetites have been whetted for further exploration of the region. The memory more than compensates for the return to cold, wet, grey Doncaster.

More from me in a fortnight.

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