In her latest flower diary, Freddie’s customer Misti listens to the song of the spring flowers and dreams of the beautiful country she likes to call ‘Sprance’…
Each spring I’m amazed at how quickly the world moves out of winter darkness and into summer light. It’s always just after the clocks change. Suddenly the sun rises much earlier and sets a lot later. We have to put up an extra curtain in our daughter’s room otherwise she wakes up too early. Little songbirds start trilling at indecent hours and every street you walk down seems to be in full bloom.
The song of the spring flowers is cyclical. I take comfort in this. I know which blossoms will be on the table for the annual celebrations in my life. For instance, I associate Easter not just with lilies like Freddie’s has been sending out (above), but with the pink camellias (below) and pale purple rosemary flowers that grow in my in-laws’ garden…
I love that the walks to and from school with my daughter smell of lilacs in the morning and stocks in the afternoon. And I adore how she tries to talk to robins and collects flowers for me on the playground that inevitably get smashed in her dress pockets before giving them to me.
But as much as I love spring flowers and spring in South East London, my favourite place to be at this time of year is within the confines of France and Spain. There a magical region exists where two countries bleed into one. I see it as a venn diagram of deliciousness. Most people call this place Catalonia. I call it Sprance.
If you’re on the Spanish side, local graffiti will tell you “Catalonia is not Spain.” And if you’re on the French side, don’t expect the residents to want to parlez vous. They won’t. They have got their own language and pronounce Xs as CHs probably just because it sounds quite cool.
Sprance is a spicy pocket of the world where pork and small salty fish dominate on the dinner table and Cathar blood is still visible on ancient citadel walls. It’s a place where even babies drink Banyuls and residents are blessed with a minimum of 300 sunny days a year.
Couvent des Capucins and cherry trees in Céret. Image: Fabricio Cardenas
The light in the Pyrénées-Orientales is so beautiful, that artists have always flocked there to paint the dusty hillside and the sparkling sea. Picasso, Soutine, and Chagall all called the tiny medieval market town of Céret (above) their home. Matisse and Modigliani visited. Sure the light is beautiful, but I think the real reason they settled there was because of the food.
Céret is a major fruit producer and it’s famous for its cherries. Traditionally, every season’s first pick are sent to Le Président. May marks the end of this stone fruit’s harvest and in my opinion this is when Céret is at its most picturesque and certainly when I like to go.
So if you need me in the next few weeks, you know where you can find me. In Céret, listening to Charles Trenet under the shade of a 250 year old Corsican pine, enjoying a bowl full of cherries while my daughter runs amongst the irises and my husband sips Bandol rosé in the pool. (At least in my head!)
For me, this peace is as perennial a pleasure as the flowers that let me know the cherries are on their way.
Misti Traya fell in love with an Englishman and moved from Los Angeles to London in 2009. After her daughter was born, she began a blog called Chagrinnamon Toast that won the writing category at the 2014 Young British Foodies. She was also named runner-up for the Shiva Naipaul Prize. She has written for Gawker, Jezebel, Look, Mslexia, The Pool, The Spectator, and Stella Magazine.