I started today with a Mini pampering session (for me not the car), buttering myself in candied ginger body butter (a rare treat for my skin). Ade seemed more concerned with the time it was taking me to get sorted, as he needed to do an oil check and get the car packed. Not sure he would cope well with a high maintenance girlie wife!
If there is one thing I have learnt today about the Pyrenees it is that the weather in the mountains can be rather changeable. We have driven through rain so heavy the road was running like a river, cloud so thick visibility was almost non-existent, but we’ve also had plenty of sun – warm sun at that, and just at the right time for morning coffee at the Col de Menté (1349m), looking up to the Pic de l’Escalette, and for a beer in Ax-les-Thermes this evening. A bit dryer for our picnic lunch would have been nice though!
We have seen some fantastic sights as we’ve twisted and turned across the mountains, sometimes on roads so tiny we were sharing them with sheep and goats, every now and then driving through a hamlet of a few houses – a great adventure for our holiday, but I’m not sure I’d enjoy roads like that in the winter when popping to the supermarket or in a car any less nimble than our Mini Cooper. Some of the Cols (passes) we would have liked to have used were still closed, but we still had fun and got to where we needed to. Ade is easily pleased; sunshine, twisty roads and gorges with tunnels and he is one happy boy. I have to say the Gorges de Ribaouto road was great, a fast flowing white water river thundering on our left, mountains to the right and a one-way road with deep, dark tunnels – perfect. We’ve also seen locals dressed in camouflage – the ideal disguise for sneaking up on the wild asparagus they were foraging. Talking of asparagus it is obviously in season as it’s been on the menu for the last two nights, delicious but it does make your wee smell rather odd! Talking of smelling rather odd we have dipped our fingers in the hot, sulphur smelling, thermes water in Ax, but didn’t fancy a full dip as the pool was rather shallow and exposed!
We don‘t usually eat in the hotel, but the delicious lemony, garlicy aromas that greeted us at check-in and the menu (with chorizio, canard and tiramisu) read out with a smile by the cheeriest person we have ever met persuaded us to. Good decision, a truly delicious meal and fantastic service. I don’t think I have ever before been wished ‘bon apetit’ with my starter, ‘bon continuation’ with my main course, ‘bon fin de repas’ with my dessert and ‘bon fin de soiree’ as I left the restaurant! It beats the ‘Enjoy!’ you get with every course in the UK...
Tonight is going to be spent researching our route for tomorrow as the higher we go the more passes are closed. We were hoping to bypass Andorra, but may need to head that way before catching our first glimpse of the Mediterranean at Collioure. !(upload://zryJ8rUVCSgDRwNMWraNLpYA3uj.jpg)