Margaret and Dick   


June '07: Arrival

Gypsy trio with apricots and pasteque

Returning to Limoux after eight months absence provides fresh eyes.  I notice what’s changed (not much), regret some of the changes (farm fields turning into subdivisions), and cherish the special things I always loved. 

Getting there always holds uncertainty.  Air travel is not fun these days, especially if you screw up.  Departure day I had plenty of time to get ready, even time to go to the gym before Margaret would take me to the airport.  Just before shutting down the computer, I re-checked my itinerary in case there was a change in flight time.  Bad news and no one to blame but myself:  my flight time was two hours earlier than what I had written on our calendar.  Margaret arrived and we dashed to the airport.  No luck – flight check-in closes one hour before the flight.  The worst part was explaining to the cat why she’ll be drugged and shoved into the kitty carrier two days in a row.  The next day we got to the airport in plenty of time.

The Limoux neighborhood looks unchanged.  A few older neighbors have died, a few younger neighbors have moved out or in.  Neil and Lorna arrived from Texas on the same day; David and Barbara invited us all to dinner.  Great to see old friends on arrival day – it reminds me how much we enjoy the people in our neighborhood. 

The next day was weekly outdoor market day, my favorite day of the week.  On market day you not only stock up but also intersect with friends.  I ran into Fabienne, who filled me in on some gossip. 

Walking along the street that leads to the market, passing gypsies selling their handmade (in China?) baskets, I was serenaded by a gypsy trio: accordion, guitar, and bass.  They played with emotion and gusto.  A suitcase propped open on the ground held their CDs for sale, as well as a hat for contributions. 

And what was special in the market today?  Fresh apricots are just coming in from the south, as is the pasteque – a small spherical watermelon that  concentrates all the flavor of the huge American version into a much smaller volume.  It is intensely perfumed and full of flavor. 

I walked home carrying local organic lettuce and carrots, regional tomatoes, pepper, and zucchini, regional apricots and pasteque, local goat and sheep cheese, fresh Atlantic salmon, and a farm chicken roasted and ready to eat.  Carrying this bounty, I passed the Gypsy trio and enjoyed their lively music.  Ample reward for the tiring ocean crossing.

First impressions

A day after arrival, as a jet-lagged zombie, I am moving carefully.  Do the shopping, open the mail, do little chores.  Reconnect the car battery, pump up the bike tires.

Out the window, the swooping birds are diving after mosquitoes.  Kids on bikes are dashing along the street, shrieking.

I ran into across-the-street neighbor Joel cleaning up his motorcycle for a ride.  Madame Sourbies was chatting with him.  "She's going for a ride with me on the motorcycle," he joked.  She laughed, a little nervously.  I seriously doubt that Madame Sourbies has worn pants ever in her life.  Riding side-saddle in a dress might be a little tricky.

I ran into Mme Garanto the younger.  Old Mme Garanto is still alive and kicking in the nursing home, she says.  When I visited her there last year she had no idea who I was but was glad to see me.  Old Mme Garanto was in fine form.

The town crazies are still around.  Limoux is a regional center for the mentally disturbed.  Higher-functioning individuals are released to live in the community.  The guy who talks and fights with himself is still wandering the streets, very involved in his ongoing conversation.  I swear I hear several voices coming from him.  Yesterday I saw him up at a café on the

Tivoli Boulevard
with broom, sweeping around the sidewalk tables.  He would sweep a bit, then pick up the broom and dance with it, then resume sweeping.  That day he was dressed impeccably all in white.  The bearded man who bums cigarettes and asks for a Euro is still walking around morosely.  He is dressed these days all in black, with a black hat and black overcoat even in summer heat.  He remembers not to ask me for a cigarette.

with broom, sweeping around the sidewalk tables.He would sweep a bit, then pick up the broom and dance with it, then resume sweeping.That day he was dressed impeccably all in white.  

I like seeing that things in Limoux don’t change – or not much, and not rapidly.  And I love repeating the same sequence of events upon returning here.  The first bike ride is always the Buc loop.  It takes less than two hours, with some climbing.  There are views of hills and farms at the first hilltop, and (sometimes) views of the Pyrenees on the second hilltop, perched amidst the vineyards.  The first hike is always Mt Teich.  The hill climb goes up 350 feet, and takes about an hour and half round trip.  It is steeper than I remember.  There are rewarding views of all the valleys that lead down to Limoux.

This is the season of flowering genet bushes.  Scent of warmed herbs, explosion of yellow.  The cocquelicot wildflowers are also in bloom.  Red fireworks on a field of green.  I see on the road a lizard as long as my hand, colored flamboyant green.  A snake carving S-curves as it frantically tries to avoid me.

After the hike up Mt Teich I treated myself to a beer on the Place.  Heaven, with nice people-watching, always.

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