Today we’ve been to sunny Spain, y viva Espana! I have to admit it felt rather foreign, especially as the shape, colour and fonts of their road signs were so different. It was also closed - so morning ‘coffee’ ended up being a cappuccino chocolate biscuit bar, a bottle of water and a wee at the side of the road, disappointing as we had been practicing our ‘dos café por favor’.
We had a bit of a petrol panic in Ax-les-Thermes as it has no petrol station and a car with a small tank that has been driving all day on twisty mountain passes is a thirsty car! Thankfully we found one only a short drive (in the wrong direction), but it was the cutest petrol station in the world. We then joined the traffic (yuk) on the main drag to Andorra, but turned off onto much quieter roads and soon we were at 1800m and surrounded by pine forests (no doubt full of bears) and in Spain. As we were on the cols we were joined by lots of cyclists out for some Sunday morning torture; 30 kms of road that rises to 1800m - nice, but I have to say following the lycra clad bottoms didn’t spoil my view!
The sun was still shining at lunchtime when we stopped in a little Spanish town and made use of one of their many benches in the sun for our picnic. It was then time to wind the windows down (and feel the warmth and wind in our hair) as we climbed back to the Col d’Ares (1513m) and into France once more. Being surrounded by these huge mountains all day has made me think of the many thousands of refugees who have been forced to cross them on foot. From Spain into France to escape Franco’s soldiers and then the Jewish children and Allied airmen fleeing occupied France during the second World War. I really can’t imagine how awful their journeys must have been.
One of the highlights for me today was crossing the border back into France, rounding the corner and catching my first glimpse of the Mediterranean in the distance, and the sun was still shining! It was lovely to wind back down, stopping off for a leg stretch at Prats de Mollo, a lovely bastide town, and then finding ourselves in cherry orchards once more. The Languedoc vines are the most advanced we have seen so far, and we have driven past sheep grazing in olive groves.
Collioure is just as lovely as everyone told us it would be, but wow, it was one busy town this evening and finding somewhere to park the car was a nightmare. The sun was still shining when we met up with some more Facebook friends, Remi and Jacqueline from Experience France and enjoyed a chat and a beer in the sun, whilst soaking up their local knowledge. A lovely end to a lovely day, and Ade has said the roads this morning were some of the best he has driven.!(upload://wacQ5my81adctXhCv0c7creunYE.jpg)