OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMountains of cherries at the market these days. They are labeled by variety–Burlat, Montmorency, Bigarreau, coeur de pigeon (yes, pigeon’s heart), Napoleon, Van–and by origin–Spain, France, or, more specifically, surrounding villages like Caunes-Minervois. A lot of cherries, especially the early ones, come from Céret, south of Carcassonne. Actually, it’s also south of Perpignan, right near the border with Spain.cherries closeCéret has several claims to fame. Cherries, to be sure. It is in the foothills of the Pyrénées, in the neighboring department of Pyrénées-Orientales, in a little protected valley that has a very mild microclimate. Hence the early cherries, a crate of which is sent to the French president.

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Lots of arches!

It also was the capital of the Catalan county of Vallespir, back before this area became part of France in 1659. Even today, there’s a Spanish flavor to the region. Although official borders are delineated down to the centimeter, in reality, countries–cultures–overlap, and you pass from one to another not by hopping over a line but in a progression, like ombre colors, with the intensity deepening the farther you go. Especially here, where borders have moved so many times, and where people have moved even more.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAn example of Céret’s Spanish–or, really, Catalan–heritage is its feria, with running of bulls and bullfights every July (11-15 this year). The modern feria was started in 1980, but records of the practice date to the 1500s, when the celebration was held in September for the feast of Saint Ferréol. Never heard of him? I know the name only by the reservoir that feeds the Canal du Midi. I looked him up and found this site, which warns, “Don’t mix up your Ferréols!” Who knew this could be a problem with such an uncommon name? Saint Ferréol was born in Vienne in the 3rd century. Though he doesn’t seem to have visited Céret, there’s a chapel dedicated to him just outside town, with crutches of the miraculously healed hanging on the walls.

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Narrow streets!!!

Céret is a small town of around 8,000 inhabitants, but it became an important center for Cubism. Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque moved there in 1911. Soon their friends joined–Raoul Dufy, Jean Cocteau, Max Jacob, Juan Gris, André Masson and others. The little town lost in the mountains became a refuge for Marc Chagall and several other artists fleeing the Nazis during World War II. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn 1950, Picasso and Henri Matisse helped establish the Museum of Modern Art in Céret. Besides those painters, the museum also has works by Salvador Dali, Joan Miro and many of the artists who have stayed in Céret over the years, like Chagall and Masson.124.Street in CeresCéret is another pleasant day trip from Carcassonne–about an hour and a half drive. It’s a little place, and even with a visit to the museum, you have time to include a stop at the beach.

 

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27 thoughts on “With a Cherry on Top

  1. Last year in Grenoble I rocked up at the market as usual around 9 a.m (it was a daily market except on Monday) and my lovely marchand sidled up and popped 6 cherries in my paw – the first of the year and of course from Céret … I munched them as I wandered round buying what I needed and then bought a heap for home. That is one of my treasured memories of that time. Your lovely article brings France wonderfully close today. 🍒 🇫🇷

    Liked by 1 person

      1. My first memory of cherries was my father bringing them back from the local orchards near where he worked. Bags of cream and rosy treasures and later red red rubies. I have yet to explore cherries here but there must be more than one variety surely?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. We went to Ceret a couple of years ago for the Cherry Festival – great fun, great bands playing traditional music all over the town – and millions of cherries!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love cherries! In fact I love them so much I have been known to eat a pound or two in one sitting.

    This post is so interesting because of all of the history and information. I took notes and am going to exlpore further with the information you provided.

    Liked by 2 people

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