Saturday lunch at the ham man again, this time alone as Marcel and Carrie had gone to Spain, presumably to get closer to the source of the jamon. Still no sign of the elusive florist and I’m beginning to wonder about the hallucinatory powers of Serrano. After lunch, a café in the Republique and then a walk. I’m seeing more Catalan flags than usual and wonder if today is a holiday. The streets are crowded with people in Catalan colors, some draped in flags and my first thought is a major rugby match is about to happen, but many of the t-shirts bear the names of towns and villages not teams and, unless this is a large regional tournament, it’s not about Rugby.

Some Things Make Sense ©2012 Ron Scherl

When I catch sight of several film cameras, one on a Steadicam, one on a crane I decide I’ve just become an extra in a movie. This is plausible, but there’s no making sense of some of some the costumes: I mean OK a bear in downtown Perpignan, that’s fine, but what’s he doing hanging out with guys all in white, some with cleavers, others dusted in flour. The butcher, the baker and the bear: there’s a lot I don’t know about Catalan culture.

Some Things Don't ©2012 Ron Scherl

Moving with the crowd, I head for the Castillet where, there’s music, confetti, smoke and bikers. Someone stamps my hand but I can’t read it and gives me a pair of cardboard 3D glasses and a leaflet in Catalan. Now you need the glasses to view a 3D movie, but not to be in one so I’m still confused.

Bikers ©2012 Ron Scherl

There are some very tall colorful figures off to one side that I first took to be religious figures but a closer look shows them to be historic and primarily secular figures appearing to represent different sectors of society from peasant to royalty.

©2012 Ron Scherl

Now the volume picks up, people are looking up at the camera and cheering, smoke is rising, flags are waving; two men are scaling the wall of the Castillet. I thought this might be the time for the bikers to rev up but they remained quiet. Then, as quickly as it began, the camera crane descended and the crowd started drifting away.

Starting to Look Like a Catalan Les Miserables ©2012 Ron Scherl

I asked a gendarme if this was a demonstration for Catalan independence and he told me no, it is in support of the Catalan language. With the French presidential elections taking place in a few weeks, this was a defense of cultural diversity and a plea for human rights not to be forgotten in the face of economic crisis.

As I walked away, I passed a street musician playing Hava Nagila on the accordion.

Great city.

A Little Background

The idea of moving to France goes back to the first time I landed there on a rainy night, not much money and no clue where to go. A friend and I had been on the road for a while and decided we needed a hotel for the night. Wandering empty streets, looking for a hotel or someone to ask, we see a driver pulling into a rare parking space and stop him to ask for directions. Putting the lie to every cliche about rude Parisians and giving up his parking space, he takes us to a nearby and very cheap hotel and thereby creates a bond with the country and the people that has only grown over the years.

Many visits and French lessons later I was in a management training program, playing games and doing exercises designed to move me up the ladder. We needed to select a goal and chart out the steps to get there; my goal was to own a house in France within five years and all my necessary steps added up to the height of the Eiffel Tower.

But things happen and some things you make happen.

Prospective partners appeared, web searches pinpointed affordable areas and turned up a real estate agent, one town led to another, and the right house came on the market. Finally, George Bush was reinstalled in the White House and I wanted to be sure there was somewhere else to go. We bought the house.

Lunch on the terrace
Lunch on the Terrace

Maury is in the southeast corner of France, in a valley between the Pyrenees and the Corbieres mountains. It’s close to the Mediterranean and the Spanish border about three hours north of Barcelona. It is French Catalunya. Wine grows here and not much else and wine is the major source of income in the region. This blog will look at regional societal changes caused by globalization in the wine industry and generational changes in wine producing families.