Orincles (French Pyrenees), May/June '12

This is the last 'living in France' part of our trip and brings us to the stunning Pyrenees region. Such a change from the previous two locations with lush greenery everywhere - forests and fields alike. No sign of Mediterranean style vines or olives in the fields and no wild scrub. It's rich pasture and other green crops mingled between forest on the rolling hills.

This entry is labelled with 'Orincles' not because we were in that village, but as it is the closest place on the map to the accommodation - the wonderful Pyrenees Pursuits. Although this is only in the foothills the riding can be brutal (15% plus climbs just down the road) but of course that's why we (sorry, I) - am here wink

It is a little telling that this was the first time in the trip I felt the need to drive somewhere to start off a ride - the geography of the steep valleys and mountains just does not lend itself to being able to head off in any direction and form many different loops. Don't get me wrong - there's plenty of varied riding on the doorstep, but if you are limited with time on the bike then driving to the famous climbs was the way to go. Yes... the climbs... wasn't that worried about these after Ventoux but one still has to take care - coming into summer it was very nice to get a little warmth but that heat was vicious on a couple of days. Add to that the effort to string a few cat ones or a couple of HC climbs together and it can get a bit tough. Pretty pleased with how this all went though, and here's what I managed (in no particular order)...

Col d'Aubisque, Col du Tourmalet, Col d'Aspin, La Hourquette d'Ancizan, Col d'Azet, Col de Peyresourde, Col de Spandelles, Col du Soulor, Luz Ardiden, Hautacam & Col du Tramassel. Phew! smile

In between all this we managed a few more standard tourist activities and also some amazing walking which was also highly recommended.

Really, really beautiful place and quite sad to be moving on. We must return!

11:20

Stop in Carcassonne en route to Pyrenees. Amazing, even if a bit of a tourist trap! Must be nightmare in peak season!

12:50

The Basilica of St Nazaire: Stunning stained glass. Lucky to hear beautiful song from a Vocal quartet on this visit.

00:00

Fuel usage from Faucon to Orincles with lunch in Carcassone. Better before the last part of very up/down/twisty road.

05:38

Wake up, look out window. Literally say, "OMG, OMG, OMG... where's the camera?!" Yeah - it's a bit nice here! smile

17:14

Some views from our first ride in the Pyrenean foothills this morning. Beautiful day, great roads, amazing sights smile

10:34

The supermarché in Lourdes: almost fell over when saw the price of Leffe! €1.67/l! Now to enjoy one with the view! grin

11:55

Light lunch on the gîte terrace. Bit cloudy on the mountains behind but the sun is shining on us at the moment! smile

13:00

Views from this morning's ride to Hautacam & Col du Tramassel. Loving the Pyrenees smile

19:30

The Pic du Midi de Bigorre at dusk, as seen from our doorstep. Very nice - might have to wonder up there for a look?

11:30

In Lourdes to have a look around the old religious parts. Who'd even know there's a giant Basilica underground here?!

14:30

A little afternoon snack. Hmmmmmmmmm... tongue

09:30

On the path from Pont d'Espagne to Lac de Gaube (and return)... with the tame butterflies wink

10:05

Lac de Gaube. Clear blue water with that backdrop. Absolutely stunning. Had to stop for a bite to eat and enjoy tongue

12:00

At the Pont d'Espagne end of our little walk. Lots of water everywhere. Very noisy but very cool! smile

12:50

River by the road on the way home from Pont d'Espagne. Babbling brook & raging torrent from the same flow. Amazing!

08:00

Love the light on the mountains this morning. Another perfect day smile

10:10

Visit to Pau which is very nice. The château. Eglise St Martin is more colourful than most. Then lunch, Place Royale.

15:00

What a day, I might have lost a few fluids so time to re-hydrate! Imagine if it was actually hot & sunny!? wink grin

17:00

Post ride casserole. Yum! tongue

18:10

Hmmmmmmmmmm... Drinks and nibbles... grin

19:10

Pratiwi & Vanilla the (short eared) rabbit. Cute... when she's not feeling frisky (the rabbit that is!) wink

12:40

Lunch at Payolle, followed by a short after stroll nearby. Not a bad spot at all!

14:30

Admiring the views from the Col d'Aspin... along with some rather hairy locals wink

10:35

Short walk in the Castelloubon Valley. We got a tiny bit lost but the 'wrong' way just made for even better views.

14:34

Tourmalet & Luz Ardiden from today's ride. Disclaimer: some from earlier in the week but looked the same today wink

11:56

Rest day in the mountains. So beautiful and very satisfying when one has been riding in them the day before.

19:20

Messing about in a field above Les Granges... with two girls... and a camera... at dusk. Nice! wink

19:45

Amazing sunset this evening!

18:10

Dinner at l'Auberge du Bouic in Ayros-Arbouix (at the base of the Hautacam climb). Nom, nom, nom! tongue

19:16

Views from this morning: Col de Spandelles, Col du Soulor, Col d'Aubisque. Road between the last couple is amazing!

10:35

Told to avoid the Breche de Roland (snow/ice) so short Col de Tentes walk. Views to Cirque du Gavarnie & the Breche.

13:00

Cirque de Gavarnie: 1500m high crescent cliff with many waterfalls, largest having > 400m drop. Yes, worth the walk!

14:02

Beautiful ride up Col d'Aubisque this morning. Shame I then got rather lost! Oh well - once in 4 months isn't bad wink

10:00

The modern Basilica of St Pius X. Not your average religious building. Don't build 'em like they used to, huh?