Springtime in Céret:
Le temps des cerises
If you’re in the southeastern most reaches of France, a stop in Céret and
the Vallespir is a must. Not far from Perpignan and the Côte Vermeil
beaches, it’s just off the A9 that leads to Barcelona, but light
years away from the autoroute fray. On a recent trip, we were coming back
into France from Spain, taking the beautiful backroads through the eastern
Pyrénées. We came upon Céret on a mid-May evening, with the sun setting
serenely over the mountains. What a sweet little town, perched in the
foothills, and only truly French since 1794. Prior to that it was tossed
on the waves of territorial swapping between Catalonia, Spain, France, the
Moors, Rome, even Greece and Phoenicia.
Still snow on
the mountaintops in May in the Vallespir,
just north of Spain and the eastern Pyrénées
Cerises from Céret...the first in France!
| The Catalan roots run deepest here, as
in northern Spain – summers here swirl with outdoor dancing, concerts,
bullfighting and café socializing. July and August bring the Feria and the
big Sardana Festival, when amateurs and professionals fill the town’s
plazas with music, corridas and dancing. Mediterranean influences abound –
fruits, fish and olives.
Céret is particularly renowned for its cherries, which
are the earliest to ripen in France – so famous that a special supply of
these cerises de Céret are flown to the President at
the Elysée Palace in Paris every year in early to mid-May. The late May
Fête des Cerises is a true crowd-pleaser…plenty of berets, baratines,
vigatines and espadrilles can be seen on both vendors and visitors
assembled under the shady plane trees.
| This unassuming little town is an art
center and home to an incredible Modern Art Museum. Céret was a favorite
haunt of many modern artists including Picasso and Braque, and was
considered the Mecca of Cubism in the 1910s. The Museum of Modern Art,
opened in 1950 in a converted 17th century Carmelite convent,
has an impressive collection of both modern and contemporary works, with
several cubist paintings, a Picasso collection, and works by Chagall,
Dali, Miró, Matisse and Juan Gris as well as the Catalan sculptor Manolo.
Aristide Maillol, the renowned sculptor from nearby Banyuls, created the
town’s war memorial.
May is le temps des cerises in France and across Europe. Céret
and the Vallespir region usher in the first wave of this symbolic return
to good times, to vacation, to summer. Ahh, the south of France! Sunshine,
fresh fruit, modern art, espadrilles...
sardana in the streets of Céret...
or visit the Musée d'Art Moderne
Cannes: sun and cinema
Cannes: un peu de soleil, beacoup de cinema
It’s May and that means the topic of French media conversation turns to
the annual film festival on the Côte d’Azur. Just the mention of Cannes
elicits images of glamour, stars, sex, and, oh yes, cinema. The Palme d’Or,
Cannes’ version of the Oscar, is a much desired prize. Many a film,
director and star have been launched from this Festival. What’s the scoop
on this gathering? And what’s the correct pronunciation of Cannes?
Back in 1939 a group of French filmmakers
withdrew from the Venice Film Festival, protesting the influence of
Fascist politics. They created their own small gathering in Cannes that
year, but had to cancel it almost immediately when war was declared.
© Alerte orange
Carlton dressed for the fest.
Many a star and director have stayed at this landmark hotel
where Cary Grant and Grace Kelly romped in the
Hitchcock film, To Catch a Thief
| After WWII, the festival took
off, and the 1960s sealed its reputation of attracting glamorous stars,
powerful directors and quality films. Today that reputation is somewhat
tarnished for a number of reasons, primarily because it has turned into a
huge gathering of wanna-bes, very few of whom
get to see the crème de la crème of the Festival.
This year 30,000 people
have been issued passes to the two-week event, May 12-23. Of those, the
A-list numbers only in the hundreds. The other tens of thousands have to
line up to eat, drink and see movies…and access to films is on a tiered
basis. The locals not caught up in related services are hardly involved, and tend to get out of town if they
can. There are public showings on the beach at Cannes, so if you’re in the
area in May without a pass and want to get a taste, you can go down to the
beach with the teeming millions. For celebrity spotting, line up with
other gawkers and the papparazzi at the red carpet staircase of the Palais
des Festivals, where stars and directors enter and exit screenings. Or
stop by one of the grand hotels for a drink in the bar.
| What about the films? Of 3,500 entered, only 56 made the official
selection this year. The big competition yields the Palme d’Or but there are plenty
contests: short films, world cinema, young filmmakers,
etc. For a list of entries, previous winners and other information, try
festival's official site.
way, how to properly pronounce Cannes? First, the final “s” is
silent…always. And we have from official sources that although it isn’t
“can” (as in tin can), nor is it “con” (as in cheat or against). Rather it
is somewhere between the two, but closer to can than con. Clear as mud?
The beach at
Cannes filled with "beautiful" people...
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