Friday, October 24, 2008

More News From the Gray Gazette

Dear Doug and Nancy

You have been all over our corner of France and I'm sure that you went to Collioure and Port Vendres, close to the Spanish border. We had a few days there with our son Thomas, staying in an EXTREMELY small apartment overlooking the harbour at Port Vendres.

As you know the most important thing to do while you are in that part of France is to eat fish, fish and fish, so fresh that it almost hops out of the pan when you cook it. The next bit is the culture - the art gallery at Ceret a few miles inland (Picasso and many of his contemporaries lived and/or worked there and bequeathed wonderful collections of their pictures, ceramics and drawings to the museum), and the incredible Dali Museum just across the border at Figueres in Spain, including the bit we never knew - Dali designed the most amazing exotic jewellery. And the third is the opportunity to walk along the coastal path. Some of it is in raw scrub above the cliffs and the sea, other parts have been overtaken by housing developments and you find yourself looking into people's pools and backyards, where the residents compete with the seagulls for space by the water.

Here are a few pictures including some of the war-time work by the Germans who occupied this part of France during WWII. We found the remains of their reinforced concrete gun emplacements and other coastal defences. They were constructed to harass the Americans and Brits if they dared to invade this part of Germany's newly annexed territory from across the Mediterranean in north Africa, where Reichsmarshal Rommel was eventually defeated. My father, Major Peter Gray (!), was involved in the north Africa campaign with Montgomery's Eighth Army, and then all the way up Italy in 1944/5. His civil engineering 'Company' rebuilt landing strips, roads and bridges destroyed by the retreating Germans so that the allied troops could get through en masse.

Also here is an image of France that Léran does not offer - we haven't got a 'boules' pitch in the village. In Port Vendres we found lots of retired gentlemen playing boules (or 'pétanque' by its other name) and we happened to see a concluding moment where the umpire had to use his measuring tape to decide the outcome of a tense contest.

We're off to the UK for a few days.

Love to Fergus.

Julian and Gwenda

We wandered into Colliure and Port Vendres on our exploratory trip around France trying to decide where we might want to buy a house. The wind was howling along the coast, and although it was beautiful, we couldn't find anywhere to stay. So we headed inland. We did indeed get to Ceret and stayed there for one night before we somehow wandered into Chalabre, Mirepoix and then Leran the next night.
I am reminded that Julian and I spent one evening at one of the Marche Nocturne Leran trading stories that we remembered about our respective fathers' WWII exploits.


Anonymous said...

My Lord, what a beautiful place! Luke felt like she was seeing the backdrop for a romantic movie...or maybe a wartime action adventure!

Angela Murrills said...

Hello Doug and Nancy--and big thanks to you for taking us to your part of the world, and to Julian and Gwenda for keeping us in touch with home while we're back in Vancouver. A bientôt to you all. Ange and Peter