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A Jewel in Catalonia: Ceret, France

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Ceret, France is a wonderful small town in the Pyrenees-Oriental department of southern France fifteen minutes north of the Spanish border. Unlike many of the towns in the area that are affected by the various winds that blow up and down the Mediterranean Coast, Ceret is nestled in the foothills of the Pyrénées and protected from the Tramontane.

Once a part of Catalonia, Ceret still has the flavors of this culture in its architecture, foods, and language. It is common to see the Catalon flag displayed, and bullfighting is a big part of Ceret’s culture, as well. The feria, or running of the bulls and bullfight, takes place on the weekend nearest to Bastille Day.

The town has long been a beacon to the artistic community and was a safe harbor for the likes of Picasso, Soutine, Matisse, Chagall, and Modigliani. An excellent Museum of Modern Art in Ceret’s old town houses collections from many of Ceret’s visiting artists.

The old town is very charming, with the remnants of the ancient ramparts visible, and narrow, winding streets. Mornings are especially pleasant, with the residents going about their business in an amiable environment. Afternoons, with the warming sun, attract residents and visitors to the welcoming cafes for a coffee or glass of fortified wine.

Ceret is a big agricultural area famous for the cherries is produces. These cherries are the earliest of the season and for decades the tradition has been to send a crate of the delicious fruit to the French president. The ever-present vines also surround Ceret, since wine is almost as cheap as water, and the area is a microclimate that grows oranges, figs, pomegranates, and apples.

A big draw on Saturdays is the weekly market that snakes through the streets of Ceret’s old town. In addition to vegetables and fruit, vendors sell local cheeses and sausages, breads, seafood, meats, all manner of clothing, crafts, art work, sewing supplies, prepared paella and Catalan stews … anything and everything … in a festive, friendly environment. If you’re lucky, you might see Catalonians dancing the Sardana.

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