Big day for Ian (and me!). Ian set off as usual at about 9am with two big climbs ahead- Col de Marie-Blanque (1300m) and Col d’Aubisque(1710m) and a long day (74miles) to the campsite at Luz St Sauveur. A total of 8800’ ascent! And it proved to be no picnic for me either, with a scary mountain route! I had the choice between driving north to Lourdes and then south to Argeles-Gazost, or the more direct route with half the distance, but over the Col d’Aubisque ahead of Ian. I chose the latter. Mountain passes in the Alps had been exciting, with fabulous views and I’d felt totally safe on wide, well-surfaced roads. The Pyreneean roads are entirely different, being very narrow with few spread out passing places. So my heart was in my mouth! It was just about OK as long as I didn’t meet any more campervans coming the other way. The scariness was compounded by swirling mist and cloud at the summit, so I was heartily glad to be over the other side and back down the valley to what seemed like an interesting place to stay at Argeles-Gazost. But we couldn’t . We were to camp further down the valley, past where my cousin, Martin, lives at Arras –Lavendan, and to a great little site perched up the hillside at Luz-Saint-Sauveur. Very quiet with one bar/restaurant open and several others closed! Another very sleepy but pretty village, with a chapel dating back to the 11thcentury. The Tour de France will be coming through here on July 14 and its another staging post on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. A sign at the Cirque de Gavarnie informed that Compostela was 915km away!
I arrived and “pitched” the van and set off on a gentle but definite climb up to the Cirque de Gavarnie. Uphill all the way, in worsening weather (Ian later told me that it had been lovely back at the van), but when I finally arrived 13miles/one and a half hours later, the view of the cirque was awesome- a magnificent grey, mountainous barrier separating France from Spain. Towering mountains and waterfalls, which you couldn’t see the top of because of clouds and mist. Can’t wait to bring Ian back here tomorrow. Back down the hill and really cold by the time I reached the site, but hot showers soon sorted that out.
We have now left the Basque area and are in the Haute Pyrenees – signs are in French only! After a hard day we decided to eat out at La Tasca in Luz – very good food but ate too much and suffered all night! Ian said that chicken was almost as good as his “Sunday Tea Special”!