• Carol Duval

Coping with Catalonia


Catalan map at St Laurent de Cerdans


A recent email from my school friend Jenny (North Sydney Girls) brought a sigh of relief with her recounting of the time she was traveling in this same area and had trouble with the language even though she’d been learning Spanish for ages. I had nowhere near as much Spanish as Jenny but I too found that it looked VERY ODD. All the signage, menus and so on looked kind of Spanish but also a bit like Portuguese and sometimes French or even German. With snails and pigs’ trotters being specialties around here, it’s clear I’ve got to add the Catalan as well as the Spanish words for these to my linguistic repertoire. It was also a relief to realise that my listening comprehension hadn’t suddenly deteriorated as I’d feared when not understanding a word some people were saying to me. It wasn’t French OR Spanish they were speaking but Catalan!


Prats de Mollo and La Preste
Taking a break from the bends

Another odd thing about Catalonia is that nothing much ever seems to be open. We did a lovely scenic drive up these mountain roads—another white-knuckle day for me—to the French Prats de Mollo which is in a valley lined with gorgeous old buildings, walled gardens and well-maintained old washing tubs with clothes lines hanging close to the river’s edge and castle way up the top and then to the Spanish Mollo—all very Catalan.


Another odd thing about Catalonia is that nothing much ever seems to be open. We did a lovely scenic drive up these mountain roads—another white-knuckle day for me—to the French Prats de Mollo which is in a valley lined with gorgeous old buildings, walled gardens and well-maintained old washing tubs with clothes lines hanging close to the river’s edge and castle way up the top and then to the Spanish Mollo—all very Catalan.


Prats de Mollo
Prats de Mollo washing day. Washing was on the lines but whether it was actually washed in the stone washing tubs is another story.

We’d planned to have lunch at a resort hotel just out of Mollo and actually found it easily enough and a parking spot in its large and totally empty carpark. It was a Wednesday, so not a Sunday, Monday or Tuesday when places are often closed. The hotel looked fairly new with immaculate stonework, a pool surrounded with lounges, and outdoor bar, tables all set up with cutlery and place mats. It was around 2 pm so definitely in the Spanish lunch hour — and not a soul in sight!


Prats de Mollo
Bright colours in Prats de Mollo

So we headed back to Mollo where we knew there was another hotel. More traditional and not nearly as elegant looking so probably more of a pigs’ trotter and snails place than I’d like but at least we’d possibly find something we could eat. Not so. The hotel was empty apart from the staff who were having a family lunch in the dining room. The whole place was closed for business.


There's one restaurant over the mountain on the other side of the ridge near us at Tapis that’s always open but at that stage it was way too far to go and we knew what the fare was—massive steaks with chips, served at rustic tables with lots of smoking and bellicose flies. We were also feeling greatly in need of fruit and vegetables by this time, the Catalan fare being very meat heavy, so it was home to melon, peaches and salad.


It would be very hard being a vegetarian here! Thank heavens we've found a great vegetarian spot in Céret for something healthy!


Vegetarian restaurant
Square outside Le Chien de Pascale, Ceret



vegetarian restaurant for lunch and Sunday brunch in quiet setting
Fig tart and heritage tomatoes at Le Chien de Pascale, Céret



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