Where am I? Languedoc? Rousillon? Catalana? The Kingdom of Mallorca? Occitane? Yes! I think.
It's fascinating that when you cross a border- a border that's shifted location and domination so many times it's hard to count- that the language seemlessly (and I mean suddenly) changes.
I went to Perpignan because I had some time to kill before a meeting in Paris, and the weather looked beautiful. From Barcelona/Girona, it's an easy choice. This is January, and although I wear my jacket, I could easily not. Here's the thing too: wear nice wool pea jacket, get addressed in French, don't wear jacket, get addressed in English. Unscientific study with subject of 1.
Perpignan is charming. There's a palace for the Kings of Mallorca here, because although I thought Mallorca was just a Baleric island, it was a Kingdom into itself for over 400 years.
A canal runs through town- a canal that looks like it would be a great place to walk dogs and such, but that is not a possibility. It looks like a lovely park, but there are no access points or stairs. It is not.for.you.
Maybe they just want to keep all the giant dog turds on the street.
There is also quite an impressive Cathedral in Perpignan. The Cathedral Basilica of St John the Baptist. It may answer a long held question for many of you- but yes, Jesus is a Separatist.
Separation of church and politics? Don't mind if I don't, thank you.
Day one I wandered into the central area with a single goal- lunch and The Hyacinthe Rigaud Museum. It was Sunday, I was pretty sure the museum was open, but I wasn't positive about restaurants, so I winged it.
I went into L'Cafe Arago because they had a formule listed at something like 15 euro, starring a "gambette" and gratin dauphinois. I love legs and potatoes- I'm in. Turns out it was a goose leg! And while not the best goose I've had, it was still roast beef on a stick with a nice salty jus. The potatoes were creamy and delicious, and difficult for an american to keep on the back of my left-hand fork without looking silly and them sliding all over. I didn't get pics of this dish, it was pretty good, though.
The week before I had been sorely disappointed by the collection at the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art. A whole floor dedicated to a woman who moved sticks around (Rosemary Castoro), and the next floor to poet/artist Joan Brossa that had a few interesting found-art sculpture pieces that justaposed unrelated objects in interesting ways, but still felt (from the 1940's or so) that close up pics of women's crotches (lots of them) was somehow a new thing. I'm sorry dudes, but faceless naked black and white torsos with bush hasn't been avant-garde since the caveman. There was one funny one that had the faceless woman looking at her bits in a mirror, and the mirror had a man's face- I LOL'ed at that one. But I'm probably being too hard on him because the first was so without feeling. Was that the point? A couple of Joan Miro's saved the trip.
Back the the Hyacinthe Rigaud- What an interesting collection. He was best known as a classical portraitist, and his work is stunning. He also has a cleft in his chin like The Family Guy, and so do most of his subjects. There was a special exhibition of Jean and Jacques Capeville that had interesting landscapes, florals, and oddly, a dead-on painting of my mother.
There was one room that was fascinating to me- a person who's name I have forgotten had collected small canvases from his artiste friends, and they were all displayed together. I've gone back to the website to try and learn more, and failed, but I spent as long in this tiny room as I did in the whole rest of the museum.
Pano shot of the room, with a couple of my favorites:
This was up high, and I was on my tiptoes stretching my arms up, so I couldn't get it square, but it i loved the energy and subject.
And this one:
I had the whole place to myself on a winter Sunday, and spent about 4 hours. Really enjoyed this one. I have more pics, but I won't bore you- just if you go to Perpignan, visit this. I didn't go to the Modern Art Museum in town, it wasn't open on the days I was there.
Back to food. Or on to food.
Day two I headed to a nearby lunch spot called Lou Grilladou. It's down a little alleyway on north side of the canal, and I showed up a little late for lunch, probably around 1:30. I was quickly sat at a dirty table by a charming girl who cleaned it up quickly. It was clear that the first wave had left, but half the tables were finishing up.
and the closeup of the formule:
I got the entree + plat for 13.5
Honestly, I didn't know what I was getting with the first, except it was some kind of tarte, and the I ordered the cabillaud, which I knew to be cod. A Demi (50 cl) of rose, and I'm good to go.
Tarte a la morue turns out to be cod pie! And it was really great. I could see this being a brunch hit.
the tomato between the crust and fish added sweetness- this was a really nice dish I could see working with any white fish.
The next pic isn't that impressive, and I think it's because I was late to lunch, and things looked a bit... overcooked. But I'll say this- I have a great idea from one of the sides- the one on the upper right that looks like a charcoal. It tasted like, and had the texture of, a ratatouille held together by a roasted eggplant mousse. There were pieces of veg in there, but there were all ensconced in this fluffy matrix that was very enjoyable. I'm sure at least one of you knows what this was called. I want to figure it out and make it.The other side was like a fideo casserole- good, but at this hour, overcooked and that top layer wasn't really edible.
But the fish- the fish was a little crusty on top in a good way, but moist and flaky, and a massive serving I'm sure the sauce helped. Like I said, I am aware the pic doesn't look terribly appetizing, but I was quite happy. Maybe it was the demi de rose speaking.
The 50 cl of wine was 4 euro. I love france.