I’m not sure what I think about the refurbishment of the shops in Mirepoix’s medieval centre. At first I thought the new all glass fronts and revamped interiors were too modern; then I realised that the “old shabby chic” shopfronts and interiors weren’t original and that maybe I was just reacting from the point of view of my love of shabby chic. It might even be I disliked the new look because not all the shops have been completed. I shall defer from opinion until I see it finished. Anyway I found it hard to wander round with the usual enjoyment with all the plant around and decided to hightail it to the coast.
Mirepoix before the recent renovations
It wasn’t much of a hardship to drive one of my favourite routes running parallel to the Pyrenees, the views quite make up for the parts where the road surface is extremely poor and the camber frequently wrong, especially as I suspect that is what makes the road so fabulously underused!
On Sunday, the day after arriving at Argeles Plage, right down in the corner of south western France, I meandered through the pine trees heading for the promenade when I was, at first distracted by a heavy Gendarme presence, and than told I couldn’t proceed along my chosen route. There appeared to be some sort of demonstration (which I was politely informed would be over in 30 minutes) and from the flags I saw I thought it must be the Basque Separatists protesting. LWD and I detoured round and walked the promenade to the port – where I was unable to finish more than a few mouthfuls of the disappointingly cold leathery crepe that arrived along with my drinkable tea.
The next day I took LWD on the same walk up to where the beach and pinewood had been cordoned off. On the beach I discovered an exhibition of photos of the camp that was set up in 1939 to house the 100,000 Basque refugees who escaped over the mountains from Franco’s forces in Spain. The previous day had not been a protest but the 80th anniversary of the events. The camp was set up right on the beach, it was early February when the first refugees arrived and the conditions must have been horrendous. Exposed to the elements, families were split, as women and children were housed in one camp and men in another, taking up 1.5 kilometres of beach. The camp remained open for two years before all the refugees were dispersed to more permanent accommodation.
And I, 80 years later, find myself camping in almost the exact spot, although parked somewhat more comfortably and for far more pleasant reasons. The story does go to show that in 80 years dictators have not disappeared, and that ordinary folk are always the ones who suffer most. The more things change, the more they stay the same.