Final weeks in France, Dec '12/Jan '13

It's someone's birthday mid-January, so after the Christmas festivities our plan was to meander back up to the UK and be in London for that date.

But... what route to take? We really wanted to head back over to the Pyrenees and see what winter there was like so I guess that made the choice easy. A big 'L' shape across the bottom of France and then up the West coast-ish.

Even though we'd been lucky with snow in the Alps, seems like winter was late to Europe this year as the outdoors was still very enjoyable. We had some great, sunny, encounters with bird life, seeing large flocks of Flamingo in the Camargue then almost stumbling across a flock of vultures near Lescun - wonderful!

We also learned you can't go past a spot of hiking through the snow to a frozen waterfall, or, further North, lunch in an old village famed for it's wine. Lots of variety in this leg and as usual, it's all good! grin

11:10

Pink Flamingos, in France, in the middle of winter? Wow! Now we know why we chose to drive through the Camargue! grin

12:25

Lunch in Sète. And a slightly unusual one at that... what with this being a fishing village & all!

16:05

Generous tray of tea, biscuits & hot chocolate on arrival at the B&B this evening. Giant cups of yuuuuum! tongue

07:30

Waking up to a misty sunrise. We stayed in a beautiful B&B set amongst the vineyards near Montady.

09:45

Even in winter, you have to love 'tree tunnels' around the French countryside. This one is just outside Capestang.

10:00

Walking by part of Canal du Midi. Must be wonderful to cycle along here in summer - beautiful & it runs for miles!

13:45

Rather be flying? Not really - more great views from the road. These are from opposite sides of the Col du Portel.

16:05

Arrived in Saint-Lizier & here's the view from the front of our accommodation. Great to be back in the mountains! grin

13:00

Pretty lazy today. Just took a drive through some small villages. Here's Engomer, Les Bordes-sur-Lez & views nearby.

14:10

Bit changeable out so just relaxing 'at home'. Clouds add something to the ever changing view from the lounge window.

10:50

On the road (and in) Aulus-les-Bains. It's a beautiful day so this is the start of a little walk we have planned.

12:10

Hiking up to Cascade d'Ars. Passing other small streams then snow (sometimes deep) above 800m or so. Awesome walk! smile

13:30

La Cascade d'Ars, in a semi-frozen state. And the view below. Well worth the hour or so walk.

13:45

My lil' snow angel wink grin

15:00

Back to Aulus-les-Bains. Great trail past mountain huts, mossy rocks & crystal clear stream with it's own mini falls.

08:10

A wide angle view over St Lizier rooftops... from the lounge in our accommodation. See why we extended the stay? wink

10:55

Festive decorations in the streets of St Lizier. They've gone all out & would put a lot of indoor attempts to shame!

11:45

Rolling hills around Carla-Bayle. If not for snow-capped peaks behind you'd never know it was the middle of winter!

12:00

Enjoying views from Carla-Bayle, tiny village at foot of the Pyrenees. Not much going on here this time of year mind.

13:05

Grotte du Mas d'Azil... why build the road over a ridge when nature has cut you a tunnel through it?

14:30

Random views from the road: looking South to the Pyrenees over their rolling foothills on a misty winter's day.

15:05

Back in St Lizier. That castle-like thing on the hill to the right is where home is right now. We like it here smile

17:00

Watching the sun fall behind hills over the valley. Viewed from our lounge window. Did I mention we like it here? wink

18:10

Small but perfectly formed. Evening treat from the local boulangerie.

07:40

Crazy scenes at dawn (if you can call it that at 8:30). Glad we're up here on the hill and not down in all that fog!

15:20

What a joy to be back cycling in the Pyrenees. Glorious mid-winter's day. Just look at that, what's not to love?! smile

14:25

Road to the Col de Pause. Sadly it was closed not far above here so no hiking (what we came for). Nice drive though!

16:50

Another stunning evening light & fog show here in St Lizier.

11:30

Awoke to a misty morning. Took a drive over Col de Marie-Blanque anyhow. Wow! Above the clouds is a different world!

12:35

L'église Saint-Laurent in Aas. Get's you closer to god? wink

12:50

Last of the cloud is almost burnt off by 2pm. Lucky, because it's a great view down on Laruns from here!

12:55

Haven't been here since June & Laruns village square is a little quieter now than the middle of summer. Funny that!

14:00

The Pyrenean Mountain Dog. Very big & smart & protective. Also very friendly & fluffy & cuddly... luckily! wink

16:15

Winter sunset from a random roadside location. Somewhere South East of Oloron-Sainte-Marie if I recall.

19:00

€14 dinner in a French country hotel: bottomless soup bowl, hot cheese & bacon salad, stew then desert. Bargain! tongue

10:55

Picnic lunch in a field above Lescun. Such a beautiful day and so unexpected in the middle of winter. Love it! smile

12:00

Went vulture spotting yesterday with no joy. But eating lunch today saw these guys on the next hill over. So lucky!

12:30

At 900m+ Lescun is the highest commune in Pyrénées Atlantique. Behind is Cirque de Lescun, and beyond that, Spain.

13:20

Original plan for winter was to travel Spain, but that changed & hop over the border at Somport was all we managed.

13:25

There's some XC ski trails by Col de Somport. Was very quiet & the ice-covered car park empty. #CarControlTraining wink

14:35

Aramits, in the Pyrenean foothills. Despite the hazy day... just wow!

18:45

Another 4 course dinner of... well... I'm not sure what that second thing was, but it tasted good wink Yum tongue

09:40

In St Emilion tourist info. The illuminated control board for their 'light up' map makes a nice warm place to snooze.

09:45

Morning wonder round a very quiet St Emilion. Plenty of locals out for lunch though. Best time of year for it?

10:05

At times like this I'm rather glad not to be a connoisseur of wine! wink

11:25

Lunch in St Emilion. The bar was crowded with people swirling, sniffing & slurping their wine. Serious business here!

14:25

Late afternoon in Bergerac. Great light & long shadows so early in the day... winter isn't all bad smile

16:30

Winter sunset among the vines in Bordeaux.

10:00

Fango the Weimaraner (think that's what he is). Full of energy, that's for sure! Lucky his garden is a vineyard! grin

18:50

We don't usually partake in fine dining, but it's almost end of the trip & hotel restaurant had top reviews. Yum! tongue

14:00

Nante Cathedral: looks a bit shiny & new. Due to a fire in 1972 it seems, which meant huge restoration was in order.

14:20

Château des ducs de Bretagne (Castle of the Dukes of Brittany). On a nasty grey day sad Still looks pretty impressive!