Archive for July, 2012

July 21, 2012

20 July 2012 La Vallee de Cautarets

Today we drove through the Pyrenees to the Valley of Cautarets for some mountain hiking. It was foggy along the way and fairly cool. The town of Cautarets boasts a market, casino and spa. Apparently you have to have all three! The way up was steep but filled with waterfalls, wildflowers and other hikers. By the time we got to the lake mountain (Lac de Gaube) the mist cleared to reveal soaring cliff faces, mile-high pine trees and a clear lake that went forever. On the way we also saw a giant yellow gentian flower, mushies, slugs and other assorted delights. The Pont d’Espagne (Espagne bridge) was spectacular and really steep. It was freezing at lunchtime so just as well I bought out Kathmandu!

July 20, 2012

Walking around Ferme St Justin, Sers, Viea, Viella and Luz

Out bright and early  to be greeted by mist over the mountains. It’s the first day here that hasn’t been bright sunshine! Off towards Ferme St Justin along a walking track in mist like pea soup. Took photos of plants and spiders as there was no view to speak of for a while because of the mist.

Through town of Sers and an old church (another one!) Eglise St Vincent with churchyard. Most towns have a communal washplace (laundromat!).

Viella was a pretty little place where we stopped for lunch next to a fountain with a berger (shepherd) and a dog. Love the photo with a lamp and waterfall in the background. Craig would like the cement table tennis table I found. Bit hard to put it in the luggage! Plenty of veggie gardens and chooks as well.

Found the ruins of Sainte Marie (I think), sort of a castle.

On to Luz-St Sauveur and the Templar church, Eglise de Saint Andre. The history here is doing my head in.

The Promenade Napoleon III et Eugenie (Napoleon III and Eugenie’s walk) went on forever. Apparently Napoleon built a bridge for his wife, Eugenie, from the spa in St Sauveur across the river to their home. Check the photos.

We were let loose in Luz for shopping but I was so stuffed from walking for 7 hours that I just sat at the carrousel (merry-go-round) in the main street and waited for the car to pick us up!

July 19, 2012

18 july 2012 Le Tour de France

Walked up Col du Tourmalet and found a great spot near the ski lift and just up from the van park about 5 kms out of Barege. We left at about 10.30am and arrived an hour later. Then waited until about 1.30pm before the ‘caravan’ started. All the sponsors send floats and throw out giveaways. It’s a little bit like Moomba! That goes for about an hour which amuses the spectators before the main event. There are gendarmes (police) and vans making announcements on what’s going on. Unfortunately they are all in French! You can tell when the riders are coming by the amount of helicopters buzzing around the place! The atmosphere is electric and because of the spot we were in we saw a slow (comparatively) stream of riders for about half an hour. It takes them about half an hour to get from the village to the top. Such a fantastic day!
Tonight is dinner in my Hotel de Tourmalet, a little up the road to where most of the others are staying at the Mountain Bug.
What a wonderful holiday!

July 18, 2012

17 July 2012 Cirque de Troumouse

Drove about an hour to Cirque de Troumouse which is another origin of a glacier (like Cirque de Gavarnie). Rob showed us a plant that tasted sweet. There were lots of cows and sheep grazing. They brand them by painting a colour on them. These ones were blue!

It is not immediately noticeable but there are hundreds of tiny wildflowers dotted around the meadows and in between the rocks. Forget-me-nots like we have at home are prolific. Also a type of thistle. We had a break in a rocky crag and Rob told us about the geological origins of the area – how the rock mixes up and turns over in time. My blisters were killing me by the time we got to the statue of the Virgin Mary. She was no help!

Another break on a clifftop and we were treated to soaring griffin vultures that were floating on the currents. The pictures do not do justice as to how majestic they were.

Another trek down to the van and a short trip to a medieval church. We walked on the same path as the Knights Templar escorting the pilgrims. The church has a large painting dedicated to St Bernadette – famous for miracles in Lourdes. The quaint little stone bridge was gorgeous. A drink and an icecream in the cafe topped off the day!

July 17, 2012

16 July 2012 Cirque de Gavarnie

Words can’t describe how spectacular the scenery is in the Cirque de Gavarnie! We jumped in a car and travelled about 3/4 hour through Luz to Gavarnie. Climbing up and around the mountain top was gruelling. Tomorrow I will use poles! I fell on my butt once and was a bit tentative after that. We had lunch in a meadow surrounded by trees and a creek. A marmote (small animal) made an appearance just for us as well as a few donkeys carrying loads for the restaurant at the summit. If you’re really lazy you can ride a horse up! The place was full of tourists. Not many English speaking ones though.

Just came back from a drive to the Col du Tourmalet (top of the mountain) where the Tour de France goes. The amount of campervans there already is amazing. Some are parked so close to the edge it’s scary! 

Must go to bed now. Another big day tomorrow.

July 16, 2012

Documents found

Hi everyone

I am so sorry to worry everyone but I did find all the documents in my backpack.
In a secret pocket that I couldn’t possibly find when I was frantic last night.

More pleasant report to come on our walk tomorrow.

July 16, 2012

Disaster strikes

I spent all last night worrying about where I put my tickets for the journey after my hiking expedition. After packing my backpack for today’s hike I realised I no longer had them. Needless to say I had no sleep. Last time I remember having the folder was back in Paris when I arrived which is not good. A few phone calls and emails later and I am no further forward. It includes airline tickets, train from Lourdes to Paris, Eurostar to London, Harry Potter, Britrail pass and hotel vouchers for Paris and London.

I was sure they were in the backpack so can only assume they were stolen. Will have to get a police report and claim them on my insurance. Painful but not impossible.

Nevertheless our day in the mountains doing a circular walk from Barege to the Bastan valley, barns and meadows was spectacular. It was hard not to take a photo of everything but what do you leave out? We were back at our accommodation in time for afternoon tea after having a packed lunch on the way. To say I was a bit distracted and tired is an understatement.

Let’s hope for good news soon!

July 14, 2012

Sarlat to Les Eyzies de Tayac

13/7/12 Filled up at breakfast with lunch provisions. The roads were much easier to ride on – hills not so steep. Visited Marquay, a pretty little village for morning stop. On the way one of the bikers (Linda) slid on some gravel and sprained her thumb and grazed her chin and knees. We stopped until Sebastion picked her up. She was very unwell. Memories of another incident were prominently in my mind! It was a little upsetting.

Had lunch at a clearing before walking through the forest to the ruined castle – Chateau de Commarque, a medieval castle with cave dwellings! (see photos on Facebook).

Arrived in Les Eyzies around 4pm. Time for a bath before perusing the main street. They have a museum of natural pre-history! There was also a market outside the hotel. I am staying at Le Moulin de Beane which is about 50 metres away.

14/7/12 Today we move on to the Pyrenees and the hiking leg of the journey. I am going to look at the museum and around the shops. Today is Bastille Day – French public holiday.

July 13, 2012

From Sarlat market to Domme, La Roque Gageac and Beynac

From Sarlat Market we rode to the medieval bastide (walled) city of Domme. Hell of a ride up there! Had lunch at La Roque Gageac overlooking troglodyte dwellings in the cliff face and the Dordogne river. Canoeing is popular!
Beynac is a medieval village. The castle is owned by a 90 year old gent who bought it for one france because he promised to do it up!
Dinner was at Les Jardins d’Harmonie. I had Three Kinds of Duck, fish and mille fillieu.
I am exhausted but cannot believe the amount of things we have fitted in. Kate is an extraordinary travel guide with lots of anecdotes

July 12, 2012

Day at Musee du Louvre

7 July 2012 Breakfast at the Hotel Le Littre then train to Chatelet. Oh no the line is closed to the Louvre! Get off 2 stops early and find my way down the Champs Elysees then along the Seine River to Le Louvre. No I didn’t get lost which is a miracle.

The line at the Louvre was a mile long but with my trusty Museum pass I slip straight in the group entrance at Richelieu Pavillon. Then in to see another queue to pay but no my pass gets me straight in. It saved so much time! What a lifesaver! I managed to see the French paintings then on to the Mona Lis (La Joconde). The people were 6 deep and you had to jostle to get a spot close enough to get a photo (yes you can take photos!). She’s the size of A3 not A4 as I was led to believe but is beautiful. Had lunch in Cafe Mollien and then went off to find the Venus de Milo. That is beautiful too. Although I was very taken with a marble sculpture of a woman reclining on a bed (no name sorry). You wouldn’t have believed it was made of marble it was so lifelike. Then walked through the Tuileries Gardens (cafes, statues, carnival), along the Seine to Bateaux Parisien for a cruise. It was very breezy. Caught Les Cars Rouge (the red bus) back to Musee d’Orsay slowly and then on the Metro to Montparnasse station. The station is massive with lots of stations within it and I went the wrong way yet again. Time was tight to meet my fellow bike riding companions at 6.30pm. To top it off the room key wouldn’t work so I had to get another one before I could get a shower and go out again!

The bar at La Littre Hotel is a cosy affair with lounge chairs, the obligatory bar and a cute French barman. Kate Stedman is talking to him in rapid French. She greets me and buys me a drink. Eventually all the others turn up and the conversation really gets going. Where do we come from? Kids, husbands, wives etc etc? Seem like a lively bunch and I am hopeful it will be a great trip. Dinner was a casual affair at a pizza restaurant (of all places). The conversation is very lubricated and we don’t leave until about 10.30pm. By then the sun is just going down!