Before we tell you about today's journey to Perpignan, we need to finish up a few loose ends from Toulouse.
First of all, there's the rest of the story of the Toulouse street market -- the one that had been setting up early in the morning as we walked from the hotel to the train station. When we got back from Carcassonne, the market was over, and a city crew with four city trucks and ten workmen were cleaning the St. Sernin Basilica ceiling whole thing up. The merchants had left the streets littered with boxes, old fruit, paper, and trash of every imaginable description. The cleaners swept up with brooms, they threw boxes into garbage trucks, they used powerful street sweepers, they had trucks to spray the streets with water, they had guys using powerful hoses like fire hoses to clean the sidewalks (pedestrians better get out of the way or get wet) and they made the entire area spotless in short order.
Then there's the matter of St. Sernin Basilica. We had been trying to get into the church to take pictures of the frescoes since we arrived in Toulouse, but if it wasn't one thing, it was another. The flea market blocked the way, the church was closed for lunch, we had forgotten the camera. So after we got back from Carcassonne, we also got the pictures of the church, which we enclose.
Now. This morning, leaving Toulouse, once again in the rain, we took a cab to the Gare. We found we had almost two hours to wait for the train to Narbonne, where we would change for Perpignan. St. Sernin altar
One of the things we did to while away the time was inquire about trains from Perpignan to Barcelona. Then we went back a second time to inquire about trains from Barcelona to Perpignan. We must like waiting in line.
Then we lunched on sandwiches and coffee in the station restaurant and boarded our train. It was then we discovered our hat was missing. (Our pocket knife had gone AWOL a couple of weeks ago.)
We've left our hats in many places--in a cafe in Taft, California, on the back seat of a rental car in San Francisco, on a couple of river cruise boats, and now possibly in a Toulouse boulangerie. Perhaps before we return to the United States we'll buy one more European hat. One of us has the theory that a warm head keeps the entire body warmer and it's been cold and windy for too many days.
The train went in and out of showers, and we wondered if it would be dry when we changed trains in Narbonne. It was, but the wind was blowing at 20-30 knots through the station. After viewing what were called toilettes in the Narbonne station, we congratulated ourselves on staying in nearby Perpignan instead, and passed the time chatting with a woman who shared our opinion.
We are in the very south of France, and the temperature is reluctantly getting warmer; the flora and fauna are changing, too, showing there is rarely a hard freeze here. South of Narbonne we saw the Med, and the railroad goes along a causeway next to the sea, or, rather, next to a lagoon. In the lagoon are thousands of pink flamingoes, their heads under water as they search for food. Dali at Perpignan station There are clumps of agave, palm trees, even some cactus, but with the temperature in the fifties and the wind blowing it doesn't feel like the tropics! As if to reinforce this fact, the snow-capped Pyrenees mountains could be seen in the distance.
The Perpignan railroad station bears two giant statues of Salvadore Dali, jumping for joy. Walking up the street one day, Dali looked at the station and declared it Le Centre du Monde. So now Perpignan has a sign over the street agreeing with Dali's assessment.
After checking into our friendly, but smaller, Mercure Hotel, we ventured into town, found the tourist information, a bookstore, laundry, and a grocery. Perpignan is just over 100,000, and has a nice old town, with winding streets, and a nifty red brick tower, Le Castillet, just across the street from the hotel. We picked up some maps, bought guidebooks for this area and snuggled in to study all our options.