D´tour detour October 1, 2006Posted by Amanda in Travel Diary.
One thing about this sort of travel is that it gives you a lot of scope to change your plans at the last minute. We went off on a pretty major tangent this week. On Tuesday night we were at Pisa airport waiting to fly to Girona in Spain and got talking to an American guy sitting next to us. It soon came out that he was a keen cyclist on his way to the Pyrenees in southern France for a cycling holiday. As you can imagine, he and Chris had a lot to talk about and eventually Mark asked Chris if he wanted to hitch a ride and come cycling with him. After some hesitation (mostly involving something to do with a 42/23 gear ratio??), we decided that chance to first drive across the Pyrenees and then for Chris to cycle there was too good to pass up. For those of you who are not cycling obsessed, the Tour de France regularly goes through this area and it is usually the first of the mountain stages.
So we took a spectacular drive through the mountains and ended up in the small town of Ax-les-Thermes (Axe Lez Thurmees to some). Mark was staying at a B&B he had stayed at previously and we took a chance that we could stay there too. Chez2e is up above the village with a fantastic view over the mountains and Alan (the owner) and Globule (the cat) made us very welcome even though a misunderstanding meant that Alan had been waiting for us for about four hours when we arrived. Mark was even nice enough to let us share his room on the last night.
Ax is a spa town which also has ski fields and great walking and bicycling nearby. Except for one foot bath in the square, all the thermal baths are in hospitals that you have to have a prescription for.
The next day Chris went on two rides with Mark. In the morning they went for about an hour and a half up two ‘cols’ (mountain passes) that were about 1400m high. In the afternoon they did part of the ‘haute categorie’ Tour de France stage that Lance Armstrong won two years ago. ‘Haute Categorie’ means that the climb is so tough that is beyond the category system.
On Friday Mark and Chris rode to the Vallee d’Orlu and the Col-de-Choula which had a gradient of 8.5%.
What was I doing you ask? I was sitting on the verandah patting the cat, reading books and taking photos of clouds and giant bumblebees. It was great.
On Friday night, Alan cooked us a Moroccan feast that we shared with a French family that could have stepped out of a magazine. There was the beautiful and slim, dark haired mother, the handsome and funny salt and pepper haired dad and four gorgeous, incredibly polite children named Camille, Louis, Melanie and Florian. Each of the children kissed us all on each cheek and said ‘Bon Nuit’ before they went to bed. They had a golden labrador Cece who was also very well behaved. They were staying at L´Alpage for a mushrooming weekend.
Today we said goodbye to our new friends and caught the train to Barcelona.