03.05.2011 - 05.05.2011 20 °C
On the road again! This time, we headed west to visit Eric's grandfather Andre, "Cacou" as he's known, and his wife Claude. They live in Sant Antoni De Calonge, just outside of Palamós, Spain, in an area called the Costa Brava, the wild or rugged coast of northern Spain.
We took the long way so to speak, following the "national" roads rather than the autoroute to avoid major tolls. Not only is gas about $8 a gallon in Europe, but also the autoroute is very expensive! Often the autoroute and the national route are parallel to each other; thus, by taking the national route, one can save a bit of money and also see just about every little roundabout in every town along southern France. Learning how to navigate the old road system was fascinating, especially figuring out the difference between the national roads, the departmental roads, and the places where the autoroute and the national route are one in the same - and therefore free of charge! Doing so was also a bit tricky with an old tourist map, so of course we got lost a few times.
We stopped for lunch in Bel-air, Salon-de-Provence, a tiny throughway with exactly two restaurants. The first was La Cabane à Frites, the Fry Shack or the Friterie, a place for "fresh fries" (no need to say French fries in France) and other fried foods -yum!
Folks at the Friterie - this place was très popular
Parking for fried food only
Le Pétrin - special, traditional breads
The other place, Le Pétrin or kneading machine (also slang for pickle or jam, as in boy, did I get myself in a real pickle), had the most wonderful baked goods for sale. As usual in France, it was a tough choice between the lesser of two delicious evil: fried food or bread products.
In the end, we went for the bread!
Eric had a mammoth ham and cheese sandwich
I opted for the tomato and brie panini and side salad
This lovely three-course meal included a strawberry tart for dessert
Moving on, as yes, we were passing through France, headed for Spain…
The countryside in the southwest part of France is beautiful, with flowers, vineyards and olive mills everywhere
Pretty houses and flowers too
A glimpse of the beautiful Pyrenees
Note: most of my photos taken during an 11-hour drive were from the passenger's seat. Maybe I should have cleaned the windows a bit?
Map of our trip from France to Spain (not crossing the water by car obviously)
Finally, we made it to Spain, just in time for dinner. It took us all day to get there, but luckily Cacou and Claude were still happy to see us by the time we arrived. Fortunately, we ate around 7:30pm rather than the customary 10pm or later in Spain.
Claude and Cacou's house
Once we arrived, we took a tour of their impressive garden.
Claude, Jennifer, Eric and Cacou in the garden
Claude's wonderful lemon tree
Cilantro or "fresh coriander"
Beautiful roses in the garden
Cacou also gave us a tour of his woodworking shop in the basement, where he makes superb miniature sailboats
The next day, we went to the market in Platja d'Aro and then onto Sant Feliu de Guixols for a wonderful lunch by the sea.
Looking at the buildings near the town square
Jennifer loves castles!
Spanish pedestrian crossing
Market in Platja d'Aro
At the fish market
Fresh fish for sale
This area of Spain is known for its gambas or Spanish shrimp
Claude selects the perfect fish for us
Friendly Spanish fish vendor cutting up our catch of the day (for the next day, actually) - her hands moved so fast!
Cacou in the market
Walking around town
Cacou and Eric by the water
An interesting Spanish ship vocabulary lesson
Tree just outside La Palmera restaurant
We went to La Palmera in Sant Feliu de Guixols for a traditional Catalan lunch with a view of the sea. There, we ran into a big group of Portuguese cyclists, who dined on carb-loading sandwiches next to us! This area of Costa Brava in northern Spain has many campgrounds and also lots of tour groups. It was fun to play tourist for a day or two.
Apparently, there is a very fancy hotel tucked away somewhere on this nearby cliff, where various presidents have stayed over the years… maybe next time!
View from our table
Isn't this menu pretty as well?
The very sight of the menu made me want to sit in the ocean and drink wine, although it was a little cold for that. We did have a nice bottle of white wine, which is always an adventure if you are not accustomed to drinking wine at lunchtime.
The Spanish bread is very good, but not quite the same as French bread
We had calamari all around…
and flan for dessert, which was absolutely delicious!
The wine absolutely put us to sleep afterward. And so, in Spain...
La Sieste becomes La Siesta!
After a little nap, we went to the downtown area of Palamós to walk around and check out the sights. This little fishing village, still with a very active port, has long been a commercial center for fishing and cork production. More recently, tourism has taken over as the main industry in Palamós and surrounding towns, particularly in the summer.
A 14th century tower, at least the stone part presumably
Every town needs a kiddie Ferris wheel
The view from the top of the town
So many beautiful boats in the harbor
Check out those rocks - don't they look fake?
Goofing around on the precious monuments - it looks like I'm about to jump
Near the square, we saw kids playing soccer and adults playing petanque, which is played mainly in France but also in Spain
A statue by the beach, perhaps of Cacou, Claude with a harvest basket, and Eric the stoneworker
A successful fishing boat coming into port, accompanied by many hungry birds
We bought flowers for Claude and Cacou… perhaps only the second time in his life that Eric has bought flowers?!
We could have bought them this gem for the kitchen instead - a fantastic "toaster with radio" combo!
This part of Spain is known for beautiful, brightly colored ceramics
It was great to see the photos and hear Claude and Cacou's stories of growing up in France and living in Tunisia (a former French colony), and then Paris. Later, they settled in Spain in an old, rambling farmhouse with many rooms and many, many fruit trees. That was a long time ago, and they have a different house now, but it was fascinating to hear their stories.
Eric and Cacou looking at old photos; later, we scanned some of our favorites
Eric's grandfather Cacou as a baby
Cacou with Eric's mother Annie in Tunisia
Eric as a baby, with his mother Annie and Aunt Cecile
Eric getting a haircut in high school!
Finally, it was time to eat that amazing fish for lunch!
Eric, Cacou and the fish, all with happy smiles
Claude is a fabulous cook and hostess, and she filleted and served the fish in no time
Mmm the fish was so delicious, served with a delicate mushroom cream sauce
Fresh strawberries for dessert
Time for coffee on the balcony
Although it felt as though we had just arrived, before we knew it, it was time to go. We were off again!
Back to France, land of ample produce
More cyclists! Or could this be the Portuguese guys from the restaurant?
Such beautiful countryside
So many pretty villages too
Next stop: Carcassonne, France, ancient city and land of Robin Hood!