It's the first Saturday of Christmas break, 9 am here, and a fluffy snow falls. Small groups of skiers and snowboarders drift past on their way to the pistes. One trail comes straight down to the back of our apartment building and then slopes right to avoid colliding with it, and ending at a restaurant just to the right of the supermarket/our apartment building. When I walk down the stairwell, I can see the skilift out the window.
Today, apparently, hopefully, the first wave of Christmas tourists will arrive. The next two weeks will be pretty non-stop but I don't go downstairs to start my day at the store until 11h30, so I thought I'd take advantage of this moment to check-in; there probably won't be another moment like this for a little while.
So, so much to learn, see and do here, but here's a brief mishmash of what I've learned so far about this Catalan culture and Pyrenees life I've parachuted into...
Where I'm living was a part of Spain until 1659 when a royal marriage between prince whoever of France and princess whoever of Aragon (who said history was in the details?? sorry the precise factoids escape me) shifted the border and we became part of France. Regardless, this is Catalan, folks, and we've got the red and yellow striped flag, the funny accent, the cerdagne dance, and most important, the sausage, to prove it!
Catalan has existed a long time. ("long time"--a historical measure) The first written documentation of the existence of the Catalan people goes back to Clovis, who was ancient (466-511 A.D., thank you Google)
It's a region with a sense of mystery to me--the Cathars, the Black Madonna of Montserrat. And according to my colleague Claude (you will hear much more about him later, as he is a jewel), there are unexplained Celtic symbols found in the region and a history of magic. Much to explore.
Meanwhile, the forests apparently hide bears and wolves. Claude showed me photos of bear prints taken near his home. I'm currently reading a guide book of the local herbs and wildflowers of the region that I found in our little library. Apparently, the geographic isolation has favored the development of many species of flora and fauna unique to the region. I look forward to sun-soaked summer days of hiking.
The larger region as a whole, Languedoc-Rouissillon, also creates 50 percent of France's wine. And our little superette stocks many local wines from vinyards in the region.
Many, many different trails of discovery in the time ahead...in the meantime, au travail (to work!)