Thursday, August 29, 2013

Look Up

I suspect most people are like me when walking - eyes either on the ground, lest you trip over something, or straight ahead.

Try looking up sometime. There's a whole 'nother world above your head.

I was in Perpignan on business today, and will return next week with Barbara so she can renew her carte de sejour (residency permit). The website for the Prefecture said their office had moved, and Barbara, Lydia and I were all having difficulty locating the new place on Google Earth. (Last time I went to Perpignan without writing down directions in advance, I drove around town for more than an hour trying to find the Hertz drop-off.)

The website said the Prefecture office was now located in Hotel d'Ortaffa. But the nearest place with that name on Google was miles away in another town.
I decided to try to find it by driving the streets of downtown Perpignan - narrow, twisty, mostly one-way streets with barely room to get one car through. Found the castillet with no problem (note the red-and-yellow Catalan flag) along the flower-lined canal that bisects the city. But could not get to the parallel street one block over from the canal - Rue Lazare Escarguel - because a large section around the castle is a pedestrian-only shopping area.

So I parked in my favorite underground garage - the one with easy access back to the main route to Argeles - and set out on foot.
I found the street I needed by semi-accident (the way I find most things), not far from the local pigeons' best friend, Francois Arago.

Rue Escarguel is barely more than an alley, but they've put government offices and hotels in stranger places. No sign of either, and all the sidewalk cafes were making me hungry.

Almost to the end of the street / alley, there were some government-looking signs on a corner building. Worked my way up the side street - sometimes locations are 'approximations,' as 'in the direction of' - but alas, it wasn't the place.

At the end of the side street, I turned around to head back to Rue Escarguel. Smack in front of me, like a rising colossus, was a most impressive facade. Above the top floor, chiseled in stone in huge letters - PREFECTURE.
All I had to do was look up. (Although from the narrow Rue Escarguel, next to the building, I probably could not have seen the sign.)

Mission not quite finished. The wide doors beneath the facade were barred and locked tight. Still needed to find an entrance.

Around the corner, another very old ornamental facade - the (former) Hotel d'Ortaffa! And inside, the offices Barbara needs to stamp her ticket.
To reward our good fortune (we can proceed directly to the Prefecture next week with no wasted steps), I had lunch ... and some chocolate ice cream ... at one of the sidewalk cafes near the canal. Got a good table where I could people-watch ... toddlers splashing through the ground-level mini-fountains, pigeons scuttling away from dogs, seniors checking out the posted menu.

And, once in awhile, I'd look up - admiring the fascinating architecture, the wrought iron balconies, the workmen removing scaffolding from a rooftop, stately pine trees with bunches of yellow flowers nestled near the splay of their peaks, and yet another beautiful blue sky over this piece of paradise.

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