This year, as part of our village fête (the commune of St Jean de
l’Albère), we enjoyed paella on the lawn terrace of the mas. Lunch was
followed by a selection of desserts, from traditional fougasse to tarte
au citron and tarte au pommes, chocolate gateau, and an offering from
the Antipodes – pavlova.
The day starts with a service in our village church then musicians
‘wake the dead’ in the neighbouring cemetery (I can only imagine this
is so they can join in the festivities?). Everyone gathers at 11.30am
for the mayor’s annual speech and a rendition of La Marseillaise,
before the official ‘apero’ when we descend a rough stone path into
the shady reaches of the river and partake of the local muscat
(golden and sweet like dessert wine). The cobla orchestra then
strikes up, as old and young alike join hands to dance the ‘sardane’.
The population, which includes visitors from surrounding villages
(Le Perthus and Maureillas) then disperses to various lunch venues.
Here at Mas Reste we dined in the shade, overlooking the mountains,
and were then entertained by a classical recital – talented young
musicians from Paris playing Bartók and Bach – before heading back
to the village centre for more music and the sardane. As evening fell,
the square came alive once more, as the local theatre troop performed
‘Le Centenaire de Mina’. The smell of a catalane grillade – sausages,
merguez and roustes (sliced pork ) – filled the air, the wind whirling
around the stage set and challenging the actors as we expected the
heavens to open at any moment. They did, but during the night, as the
storm front passed through, bringing 14mm of ‘very welcome’ rain.