Autumn Trip to the Pyrenees 2015 Week Four


Wednesday 21st October 2105

We had stayed in an aire in Pierrefitte-Nestalas on the road from Gavarnie to Lourdes, a popular walking route along a valley with the Tourmalet on one side and Luz Ardiden on the other. We, however did not plan to go onto Lourdes but turn north and cross the Col de Soulor (1,474m) and then onto the Col d’Aubisque, (1,709m) which I had planned to ride up.

First we had to stock up with provisions.

The road up the Col de Soulor was very narrow with overhanging rocks. It became even more narrow up to the Aubisque, however, there was a large car park, a restaurant/hotel/bar. We had lunch, Gally had a walk and the clouds came in and it became very cold.

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We noticed a sign warning the road was inadvisable for caravans and motorhomes. Bit late! It should have been at the start of the ascent, not at the top! There was also a timetable of when larger vehicles could use the two passes so there is only one-way traffic for larger vehicles. Missed that sign at the bottom, too; if there was one.

I really did not fancy the ride down in the mist and cold as I have no gloves and no warm cycling kit and besides I have to leave something to come back to another day.

Col d'Aubisque

TDF colours; polka dot, yellow and green on the summit of the Col d’Aubisque.

I bought a racing vest. The guy in the shop said they were only available to cyclists who rode up. I said I had done the Pyresourde and the Tourmalet so he said “OK”. I think he was only pulling my plonker! The first part of the descent of the Aubisque was a bit bum clenching.

We descended to Laruns and a well organised, mechanised aire and paid for our space for the first time since we started. Jo had to help a French couple who could not gain entrance through the gate although the instructions were in French. What would the French do without the Brits!

Thursday 22ndOctober 2015

Just a short trip today to meet a friend of Joanna’s in Arudy near Pau and in whose garden we planned to stay the night. We managed to catch up on internet stuff as he is an electronics wizard (actually a chemist in an earlier life) We had lunch in a posh café in the town and chatted about rugby (Trevor’s first passion and about which I know a little) and cycling (My first passion and about which Trevor knows quite a lot; Pau being a regular start and finish town on the Tour de France and Trevor is a keen cyclist too. Meanwhile, back at the house, Gally chased Trevor’s cat up a tree.

Friday 23rd October 2015

We grabbed a decent shower whilst it was on offer and the water pressure certainly blew away the cobwebs. We needed to fill up with gas so Jo sorted out a garage near Pau. We wanted gas from a mountain area to ensure it had a high propane content as our next long trip will be to the Alps next February for our skiing trip. Butane alone goes solid at freezing point and does not gas off. The heaters would fail and all the water tanks would freeze up. That would be the end of the holiday. The garage in Pau turned out to be near Bayonne but no worries, the content was entirely Propane.

We headed for the coast and Cap Breton. An aire on the beach with Electric, water and drains all for eight Euros a night. At last the Gally dog could have a real run. We walked a couple of miles on the beach watching the surfers. The aire was filled with camping cars of all nationalities. The British contingent in their surfmobiles (ancient tranny vans) kept everyone awake till quite late.

Saturday 24th October 2015

We allowed Gally a good run on the beach as unbeknown to him he would be in the dog cart for the next few hours. We packed a picnic in case we were unable to get moules frites. It is quite a big marina and also has a commercial sector for small fishing boats indeed the early boats were already selling their catch on the wharf. We followed the coast northwards and stopped to give Gally a run on the beach. Inland the wide cycle paths continued. We stopped for an ice cream. Jo wanted hers in a tub because she can’t eat the cones. We asked for two scoops each. We got one each with a blob of squirty cream, a biscuit and a glass of ice cold water and we were charged about a euro more than advertised. No tip for that lady!

The path became rather narrow at times with hemispherical iron bollards along the track. I chose this time to give one a nudge with Gally’s trailer, it leapt a couple of feet off the ground and slid along the path on its side for a couple of metres before I stopped. Jo got Gally out to check for broken bones whilst I righted the trailer. I was still cussing from when I let about a dozen froggie cyclists past and not one said “Merci!” Obviously affected my concentration.

Gally reluctantly got back in the trailer with Jo pushing him from behind as hard as she could. As soon as we got home we took him to the beach to settle his nerves. We had cycled 27km. The cycle track, for 95% of the trip was excellent, wide and separated from the pietons by a white line. Despite this,  pedestrians are inclined to step into dangerous territory. Well it’s dangerous when I am around. Not sure how other competitors are going to cope when triathlon events are all draft legal!

Tomorrow there is some sort of race on around the town so we plan to go and get our moules frites and watch the race assuming we can get Gally in the cart.

In the meantime, I am writing the blog although publishing will have to wait till I can get a signal. Jo is doing Sudoku and the dog is asleep, exhausted. The surfers are all sitting in their vans as the waves are not the right sort.

After supper we go for a walk, surf is up and there are dozens of black, wet-suited surf dudes out in the waves. Why are wet-suits always black? Mine has yellow/green fluorescent writing on it so why not make an entirely yellow one, for example. It would show up better if a rescue were needed.

Gally is completely exhausted. He just loves to run whether alone or chasing other dogs.

Sunday 25th October 2015

We never go to a port town without sampling the moules. We set off for town on our bikes, Gally reluctantly got in the trailer after I promised to ride more carefully. We parked by the church and wandered round all the cafes in search of les moules but no joy. Back to the bikes and a ride down to the port. That’s better. We found a restaurant right next to where they land and sell the fish. Gotta be fresh here. A starter of one plate of crevettes with alioli between us followed by an enormous bowl each of moules marinieres for Jo and in cream with lardons for me. They were small moules but lovely. We just could not eat them all. We both had ice creams afterwards and the resultant glass bowls full were bigger than those shown on the pictorial menu. Gally had a bowl of water.

Jo, as usual, will do a trip advisor report. Excellent and quite good value. No sign of any race but it could have been on the other side of the lake.

I had had far too much to eat but Jo, after a short siesta, well another killer soduko from her book, headed for the beach with her blow up body board. To avoid embarrassment, we went well away from the proper boarders, finding a spot midway between the campervan crown and the campers a mile along the beach. It was not a great success but Jo thinks it might be if the waves were of the correct type! I held onto the dog.

Looking along the coast the shoreline was shrouded in mist, the spume which blew off the tops of the waves.

The sunset was reasonably spectacular.Sunset Cap Breton

We descended to Laruns and a well organised, mechanised aire and paid for our space for the first time since we started. Jo had to help a French couple who could not gain entrance through the gate although the instructions were in French. What would the French do without the Brits!

Monday 26th October 2015

It would be a shame to come all this way and not have a swim albeit in the North Atlantic in late October in the early morning but determined we were. It wasn’t so much a swim as diving through the waves as they crashed on the beach. Jo had her blow up body board but I gave up trying to inflate mine and just larked about diving through the huge waves. Gally amused himself by chasing about on the beach but when he had got out of sight we decided to give up the swimming. It was great fun. Next time we go down to the sea we will buy proper body boards. I have now swum in two oceans and Jo three.

Hot porridge for breakfast and stocked up with bread and a nice sticky bun from the baker who calls at the camping-car site we head off. We aimed for a site at Fontet near Marmande. We have been before. It is by a small marina/canal basin, very peaceful and has electric but it is expensive, nine Euros a night!

Fontet canal scene

On the way we plan to visit a museum about turpentine which is made from all the pine trees which grow in this part of France. There is a shop, Jo needs to stock up but both were closed. We came across a chateau and as neither of us has ever visited one we pulled up. Everywhere in France seems to close down at the end of September.

Tuesday 27th October 2015

No great rush this morning, we are only going about 50km, first to the vet in Marmande to get his lordship’s anti-tick injection so he can get back into the UK. Wimp! He just cried when he had the jab. My cats were braver than that! Relieved of 41 Euros we had a drive round the myriad supermarkets in the area. We looked in car showrooms as our next rendezvous is with an old friend and one-time pupil of Joanna’s who lives nearby but who would not be arriving home till 9pm. We parked up in his yard and took Gally for a walk but it was really only a cover for scrumping more walnuts. We ate as many as we could on our walk, crunching the shells with our bare hands. They were the best tasting so far.

Gally amused himself by picking up corn cobs which had been missed by the harvester and throwing them about scattering maize all over the place. He just cannot go anywhere without picking something up and shredding it. The maize fields stretch as far as the eye can see. This is arable land. Flat as an ironing board with small towns dotted here and there. Nearer the big towns there are business parks and an enormous number of supermarkets, DIY stores, electrical retailers, car showrooms and all the other shops the consumer society wants and needs.

Jo’s friend is a larger than life chap, a rugby playing, kite surfer who install bathrooms and kitchens for the rich and famous in London. We had a long and chatty evening catching up. (Jo hasn’t seen him, his wife or their two children for about ten years).

Wednesday 28th October 2015

We had breakfast with our hosts having spent the night in their yard. The breakfast juice has convinced us we must buy a Nutribullet to make smoothies.

A top-up of water, goodbyes exchanged and we had a long day of driving ahead. We avoided the Bordeaux M25 (thanks to Mrs Sat-Nav) and headed up towards Angouleme, Poitiers, Chatellerault and are just south of Tours.

Toll free motorway and A-roads along the way and we have settled in an aire we have visited before. Run by a German chap it is a field on the edge of a wood and all very pleasant not that we need any of the facilities.

Thursday 29th October 2015

This is a pretty uneventful part of our holiday. The holiday really finished after our visit to David and his family and now it is just a case of driving home. Jo offered to drive but I know she does not enjoy it and, besides, she is a much better navigator than me and although I have the SatNav on Jo really knows more than Julia or whatever her name is this week about the best route to take. After all Jo has travelled this way for many years always spending summers at home with her cousin Sarah, which is where we are heading right now.

There is no great rush today. We want to fill up in Dieppe. Euros1.06 a litre. We are due to sail at 5:30 tomorrow morning from Dieppe.

Friday 30th October 2015

The usual plan is to arrive at supper time, have something to eat and get to bed as early as we can setting the alarm for 3:30 when they start to whisk us through passport control and customs although, as there didn’t seem to be many vehicles queuing up they seemed to be a bit more leisurely about it. They did check Gally for his chip, well, I did, and then we park in the secure area where we finish our breakfast before boarding, have a leisurely cup of coffee and then wash up under the close supervision of the car passengers who may have brought a flask with them but were generally cooped up in their cars fogging up the windows and staring enviously through the smog at the campervanners.

Loading up is pretty swift. Those who use Dieppe/Newhaven do so for a reason. There is little hassle from illegals. Two likely looking lads climbed over a fence but before they took more than a couple of steps they were spotted and shown le chien gendarmerie. They beat a hasty retreat. Consequently there are a lot of lorries. Campervanners may like it for the same reason as us. You can park up in front of the gates after the 7pm sailing has gone and bed down for the night. Plus, it is not expensive. We can always get a seat, even a comfy aeroplane type chair if you want to sleep. If you didn’t sleep you’d have seen this sunrise!

Ferry sunrise

And so back to the UK. A couple of visits to make whilst we are in Sussex/Surrey and then back home which will have disappeared under the falling autumn leaves and five weeks of post.

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