A quaint village of tiny squares with cafés and fountains, and narrow streets lined with lofty plane trees, Ceret is famous for its cherries and art history, the locals’ love of rugby, good hiking in the hills, and a fine Saturday market.
Apparently the first pick of cherries of the season are traditionally sent to the French President for a taste and the town produces cherry beer and cherry jam and has a lively cherry harvest festival, although unfortunately we won’t be here for that. We saw the pink and white cherry and almond blossoms in flower on our way in, and they looked spectacular.
The village has a fascinating art history and a connection to some of France’s most celebrated painters, which is why, even though it’s not the most stunning of French villages, tourists wander the streets with guidebooks and cameras and linger in cafés scribbling postcards.
Picasso and Braque lived in Ceret for a while, and Matisse and Modigliani visited, and there’s an excellent Museum of Modern Art, with an impressive collection of art including works by Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, Miró, Gris, Dufy, and others, which we’ll be visiting the first chance we get.
Our latest HomeAway holiday rental is in a grand old house located on one of Ceret’s most charming streets, lined with colossal plane trees – apparently Saturday’s market takes place right outside our door and you know how much we love a good market.
The house has been divided into three apartments and we have quickly settled into the ground floor flat, which has its own garden with an olive tree and garden furniture and high stone walls, which the neighbourhood cats like to slink across.
There are two pretty bedrooms, a double that looks onto the attractive garden, and a twin with shutters that open onto the front street, and both come with modern bathrooms.
There’s a spacious open plan kitchen, dining and living area (and a small laundry hidden behind a curtain), and we’ve already cluttered up the smart contemporary black dining setting with our laptops, hard-drives, cameras, notebooks, and research materials. The floor to ceiling French doors let in loads of light making it a fantastic space to work.
The lovely owners, who we met at our Grantourismo launch party in London, have decorated the light-filled apartment beautifully, in neutral tones – lots of beige, cream and white – and have struck a balance between rustic-chic and contemporary-cool, and as you’d hope, art hangs on the walls.
The kitchen is as about as new as they come, with a decent stove, separate fridge and freezer, a good-size dishwasher that’s ideal for families, and loads of bench space for prepping, which pleases Terence – as does what’s in the cupboards. This is definitely the best kitted-out of all the places we’ve stayed in so far, with plenty of plates, cups, glasses, and cutlery, all the mod cons you can imagine: toaster, microwave, blender, etc.
The drawers are full of all those little things that Terence has been missing, like tongs, and things I can’t even identify. (It’s a cheese slicer apparently). There’s a cupboard full of herbs and spices, vinegar and olive oil, and when we arrived there was a bottle of wine, milk, coffee, smelly aromatic French cheese, and some fresh bread to get us started.
There are things in the kitchen you take for granted at home but rarely find in a property rental, like egg cups, a Moroccan tea pot, a wine rack, candles, and loads of placements and big ceramic salad bowls and one of those thingies where you pop the cake under the screen to keep the flies off – all of which make me want Terence to bake a quiche so I can decorate the table and serve lunch outside in the sunshine – which has been intermittent so far.
Another cupboard is home to board games like Trivial Pursuit and Travel Scrabble, and there are poker chips, decks of cards, chess, checkers, and even dominoes.
There’s also one of those drawers that I love that we all have at home (you know, the kind we always feel the need to sort through but never do) filled with light bulbs, power adaptors, batteries, matches, citronella tea-lights, and even a first aid kit – things that property rentals never seem to have, and yet we always end up needing.
Bookshelves burst with holiday novels, guidebooks, maps, French phrase books and dictionaries, and there’s an extensive CD and DVD collection, although strangely there’s a CD/cassette player, but no TV/DVD player, unless we just haven’t located it yet. But we don’t really mind, as we tend to use our laptops to watch movies anyway.
Our only complaints about our latest home: there are five gorgeous cats that come to visit us in the garden, but we’re not supposed to feed them.
We’d also love to be able to plug in our AirPort Express or have an iPod docking station to play our own music (but that’s what happens when we’re spoilt with so much other choice); and (somewhat related) while there’s a wide selection of music, from plenty of classical to Art Garfunkel, the only French music is Café de Paris.
P.S. If you’re just visiting us at Grantourismo for the first time, you can have a snoop at all the other stunning preperties we’ve stayed at so far on our 2010 Grand Tour by clicking on ‘The Digs’ under Categories or clicking here for our ‘homes’ in Dubai, London, Marrakech, Essaouira, Jerez, and Barcelona.