If Provence in South France interested you, then you should skip it and go to the Pyrenees instead. It has everything that Provence has but more. The roads are skinnier and steeper, the path more vast, and the small towns are just as quant with better views. Besides the lines of overhanging trees on most of the roads in Provence, the Pyreness wins hands down. I won’t do too much writing, but will let the pictures speak for themselves. We really enjoyed Provence, but the 4 days in the Pyrenees put a huge smile of awe on our face the whole time we were there. We got back to what we like doing most, biking/hiking in the mountains. We didn’t plan on doing anything before we got to the Pyrenees. The night before we talked with our host and found a few possible hiking spots. We followed one of his suggestions and then took off to do two other things we wanted to do, which came from us seeing two pictures of mountains and saying lets go there.
We went to three sides of the Parc National des Pyrenees. The southwestern (Mt Midi D’Ossoa) hiking up to the lake and middle of the mountains; the south central (Mt Vignemale) hiking up the valley to the base of the mountain; and south easternish (Gavarnie) hiking from town to the base of the surrounding mountains, all pretty close to the border of Spain.
Mt Midi D’Ossoa was pretty awesome. I had this vision in my head of hiking through this awesome open green valley where you could explore everywhere, and this just happened to be it. This was my favorite hike. We started out hiking in some sprikling rain, then as it always seems to happen, it cleared up as we got to the middle of the mountains for some spectacular views. We hiked around 5 hours and didn’t see anyone, it felt like our massive playground for the day. We saw a pretty big bird in the distance, so I started to try and get a good shot of it flying around the valley. That was about the time that he spotted us, and as I was snapping shot 4 and 5 of him, he started circling downward. I paused for a second and thought, shit, he is coming for us. As he was swooping down, he started to look bigger and bigger. Maybe standing he would be 4 feet tall, I’m not sure. I just knew that he might pick the smallest of the bunch (Katie) and that might be a battle Katie wouldn’t win. This was all going through my head in about 3 seconds. So as he circled and started his decent towards us, I screamed and flung my arms up, while Katie ducked and started to run the other way. Luckily that warted him off and we could continue our hike, even though we kept looking back in fear.
Mt Vignemale was quite grand. We climbed around 600 meters and were gone for around another 5 hours. I don’t know how long we went because all the signs were in time to my surprise. We hiked to this beautiful lake to which the sides of the mountains curved down to create a perfect bowl of green water. We had lunch on a rock overlooking the lake, and were happy to be traveling. I was thinking about my lunches at work and comparing them to the lunches I have now. I was happy. We started to climb to the base of Mt. Vignemale, hiking through rivers and a lot more rocky terrain than we encountered the day before. It was hard to get a good shot of Vignemale with the sun being at the worst possible angle and my inexperience not having a lens hood for my camera. The cliffs of the mountain were pretty impressive, and this ended up being Katies favorite hike.
Our second host told us to head to Gavarnie, so we did. What an awesome little town! Surrounded in big cliffs with a huge waterfall and mountains all around. Quite the serene town. We didn’t have too much time for this hike as we had a big drive to Bordeaux that afternoon so we only hiked around 3 hours. Getting to see the base of that waterfall off the cliffs and have another relaxing lunch by a creek on a rock was awesome.
We also had to switch hosts, due to us finding 2 relatively big spiders in our room. We were a little freaked out, but decided to stay the night, but when we woke up to find a third, we were out the next day. Our second host was unbelievably nice so it all worked out!
Heres a few pics of the small towns we passed through on our way to the mountains, the fall colors, Tourmalet pass (most common tour de france route), and some great views from the end of our road trip.
Mountains keep me intrigued all the time. Each one is completely different than the other, and therefore there is always ever changing beauty for us to see.