We arrived here upon a Sunday, when the inhabitants had on their best apparel: but instead of high head-dresses, false curls, plumes of feathers, and a quantity of powder, the women had their black hair combed tight from their foreheads and temples, and tied behind, in either red, blue, or black nets, something like the caul of a peruke, from which hang large tassels down to the middle of their back; the men’s hair was done up in nets in the same manner, but not so gaudy.
Before we arrived here, I overtook a girl with a load of fresh hay upon her head, whom (at the request of my horse) I entreated to spare me a little, but, till she had called back her brother, who had another load of the same kind, would not treat with me; they soon agreed, however, that my request was reasonable; and so was their demand; and there, under the shade of a noble grove of large cork-trees, we and our horse eat a most luxurious meal: appetite was the sauce; and the wild scenes, and stupendous rocks, which every way surrounded our salle a manger, were our dessert.
And that you may not be alarmed about this mighty matter, (as it is by many thought) of parting from France to Spain, by the way of Perpignan, it may not be amiss to say, that I left the last town about seven o’clock in the morning, in a heavy French cabriolet, drawn by one strong English horse, charged with four persons, and much baggage; yet we arrived here about three o’clock the same day; where at our supper, we had a specimen of Spanish cookery, as well as Spanish beds, bills, and custom-house officers: to the latter, a small donative is better bestowed, than the trouble of unpacking all your baggage, and much better relished by them: as to the host, he was neither rude, nor over civil; the cookery more savoury than clean; the window frames without glass, the rooms without chimneys. The demand for such entertainment is rather dearer than in France.
Before I left Perpignan, I found it necessary to exchange some French gold for Spanish, and to be well informed of the two kingdoms. There were many people willing to change my money; though but few, indeed, who would give the full value. Formerly, you know, the Pyrenees were charged with gold, from whence the Phoenicians fetched great quantities every year. In the time of the Romans, much of the Pyrenean gold was sent to Rome; and a King of Portugal, so lately as the year 1512, had a crown and sceptre made of the gold washed from those hills into the Tagus; their treasures were known, you may remember, even to Ovid.
“Quod suo Tagus amne
But as I did not expect to find a gold mine on my passage into Spain, I thought it best to carry a little with me, and leave nothing to chance; and I should have been content to have found, by the help of my gun, the bird vulgarly called the Gelinotte des Pyrenees; it has a curved bill like a hawk, and two long feathers in the tail; but though I saw a great number of different birds, I was not fortunate enough to find the Ganga, for that is the true name of a bird, so beautiful in feather, and of so delicate a flavour, that it is even mentioned by Aristotle, and is a native of these hills.