For my last day in Berlin I planned brunch with some couchsurfers. Five of us, from four different continents, met up on a Sunday and traded stories over fresh peppermint tea and croissants. Afterwards we visited the Flohmarkt Am Mauerpark (fleamarket) to check out some old GDR paraphernalia and ogle the pretty jewelry that none of us could afford.
It’s a nice feeling, being able to just meet up with people and hang out for a few hours and sort of knowing that wherever you are, if something goes wrong there’s probably a fellow surfer that can help you out.
That’s exactly how I was feeling a few hours later during a plane to train layover in Barcelona, ‘whatever if I somehow miss my train to France I’ll just find some couchsurfing and everything will work out.’ Fast forward to 4:20 when I was attempting to catch the 4:22 express train with a regional ticket. Suddenly all that zen travel attitude and 7 years of subpar Spanish classes went out the window “I NEED to get on this train” I barked at the ticket collector and a few minutes later I was sitting in the bar car paying too many euro for a last minute ticket that didn’t even come with a seat. I was sitting there sweaty and flustered when the guy across from me said “Blah blah blah?” “I don’t speak French” “AH! English! I speak some English.” Great… Pierre was on the tail end of a 6-day techno bender in Barcelona and was already several beers in on this Monday afternoon. We talked for the next two hours about the things that people who are travelling tend to talk about, and by the time I got to my destination in France I had one more couch connection, outside of Geneva— should I ever need to stay with an alcoholic Swiss man.
Another short train and then I was in Collioure for the third time in my life. Collioure is a town in the Catalan region of France where British people with toddlers go on vacation. It’s also got some amazing cycling (so I’m told), cheap apartments to rent, and most importantly the Mediterranean. Why Collioure? For those of you who don’t know Luke, he is an eighty-year old trapped in a young man’s body. Luke doesn’t like change, actually there isn’t much Luke does like outside of coffee and cycling, so when he finds something he likes he sticks with it, and that’s why I’ve spent a total of 6 weeks of my life in Collioure. There’s not much going on there, but it’s ok for a week of downtime, and when I’m there I mostly focus on cooking, eating and laying in the sun.
There are two rules when it comes to eating in France: carbs are your friends and fats are your friends. The dairy in France is unbeatable. There’s no good reason why two people should eat half a pound of butter in three days, nor a pot of crème fraîche all of this slathered on two baguettes a day, but the quality here is so amazing that you justify it, “I just won’t eat cheese or butter or bread for a year in New York, because after this what’s the point?”
And since farms are legit subsidized in France you can make a picnic brunch that looks like this for about 4euro (total, for 1 normal human and 1 bottomless pit). Not bad for two unemployed grad students, huh?
It normally rains something like three days a year in Collioure, and with my luck I got two and half of those days, so the eating of butter and cheese and baguettes was intensified. At one point I made a peach and cherry crumble from farmer’s market produce, but I put crème fraîche on top, because I’m disgusting.
One of the highlights of Collioure is hanging out with Terry and Gina, a retired American couple who now live in the region. They are super supportive when we’re in town and they let us come along for whatever day trips they go on. During our first time here they took us to Provence so we could bike up a Tour de France stage, Mount Ventoux, where a professional photographer captured the exact moment when I decided that I’m never biking up anything steeper than the Williamsburg bridge ever again; and of course, Luke looked like a pro.
So now they take us to places where Luke goes biking and I go for a hike. This time we went to Caribou, a mountain with a chateau on top. In my opinion you see one old chateau, and you’ve really seen them all but Terry and Gina liked the place and so that was my hiking option. I had to pay a fortune (5.50euro) to get access to the hike and then I made it up there in eleven minutes. The views were spectacular, of course but I feel like those things rarely translate well in photos so here’s a picture of the creepy dungeon basement instead.
Since eleven minutes can barely be considered a hike, and I needed to get my euros worth, I decided to just start climbing rocks along the mountain pass. Over the past few years I’ve become the kind of person who will climb anything, and I haven’t died or broken any bones yet so I’ll continue. There were some scary bits but eventually I got over the mountain pass, and this is the view of the chateau I started at including the scary bits:
I stayed up there until I could see Luke’s fluorescent bike jersey ride into the parking lot, and then it was time for picnics and wine tastings and getting cookies at a bakery that is attached to the mill that grinds the flour, fucking France.
On our last day in Collioure I pulled myself out of bed at five-something to watch the sun rise over the Med.
Soon I was joined by a band of drunk French teenagers who, judging by the puny amounts of liquor in their bottles, really should have been passed out by then. Obviously the sunrise was spectacular, even if punctured by broken English pick up lines “How many clouds are in the sky?” I’m sure that question is romantic if you’re sixteen, drunk, and French.