Writer Ernest Hemingway wrote in ‘Hemingway Finds France is Neutral’ in March 1937……
“Yesterday I traveled from Toulouse to the Spanish Mediterranean frontier to check the efficacy of French border control. It is certainly effective. Since Feb. 20 no one has been allowed to leave France for Spain without a passport especially visaed by the French Government with a visa which is procurable only on demand at the bearer’s consulate or embassy.
Up a winding road lined with trees through which we could see the cloud-circled, snow-topped mountains of the Pyrenees, ours was the only car. Twenty kilometers (about twelve miles) from the important frontier passage of Le Perthus we were stopped by two Mobile Guards with fixed bayonets, who allowed us to proceed on production of the proper credentials.
FEBRUARY 1939 AS SPANISH REPUBLICAN REFUGEES POURED ACROSS THE BORDER.
With the road climbing steadily along rock-studded hillsides bright with almond blossoms, we were stopped again by two more guards with fixed bayonets before arriving at the final barrier at Le Perthus, where we were questioned by the Commissary of Police.
We found no traveler had been through along this road, which formerly was the most important highway into Spain, except “a few diplomatic people.”
The controls, so far, are completely efficacious. On our return we passed only one motor car in forty miles on this road, which formerly was crowded with traffic to Spain.
There is much espionage and counter-espionage on both sides along the border, and people with anything to communicate are very careful about choosing their seats in cafes, which are clearing houses for all information. An attentive waiter receives a dirty look now instead of a tip, but, no matter on which side of the Spanish war people may be, they all agree on one thing — that the French border is closed up and airtight.”