Over the Pyrenees (week 3)

Day 15 (Sat 16th May)
We woke up for the first time in the Grand Cohot forest. We had not been able to access the internet for a while so we set out to find a wifi connection but had no luck in the first supermarket.

 We found a suprisingly nice and quiet McDonalds but the wifi was far too slow to achieve anything so we drank our tiny coffees (which seems to be the only amount served here) and left.
We decided to drive into Ares, a pretty little town which we had driven through yesterday, in search of an internet café. We parked outside the Office D’tourisme and the plan was to get out and walk around the town, however to our surprise, we discovered the office itself had wifi, and we spent a good few hours there working on the blog and connecting with life back home. After our daily dose of the internet, we headed back to Grand Cohot and had some “cheese pallets” for tea. These were essentially melted cheese covered in a bread crumby oaty mixture. (Heather loves those cheese snacks)

Sun 17th

We awoke inin the forest again and drove back to the little town of Ares to use the internet again at the tourist info office. We were able to write more blog. We also popped into a Carrefour before it shut and bought a pre-made croquet monsieur and cheese crepe. Both were weird. We drove back to the forest and hopped onto our bikes to explore the beach. After locking the bikes up, we walked up steep wooden path to a paradise beach, hot sunny and sandy. Big waves. Perfect but very busy. We sat in the sun for a while watching surfers but soon became thirsty and decided to walk back. We sun bathed in a forest clearing, enjoying some beers and our books.
Mon 18th
Woke up for final time in grand crohet. We had a leisurely breakfast and coffee before packing the van away and setting off for the Bordeux Lac campsite. Getting to Bordeux and general area of the campsite was no problem, finding the place however was a nightmare. We drove through the city center amongst bikes and pedestrians. There were plenty of signs to the Lac but no sign of the campsite. We were soon hot and stressed. We eventually found the site, checked in and had a look around. The pitches were nice, there were showers, toilets and dish washing area etc as well as an outdoor pool. We decided to hop onto our bikes to explore and also to look for supermarket. We cycled to Auchran along the well marked cycle lanes and bought wine and beer, shared an ice cream, and cycled home again. We just so happened to have parked next to some Stokies. 800 miles away from Stoke but no getting away from them. That evening we had good long showers and had a look at the camp shop which sold beer, pasta, crisps and bread.

Tues 19th
Our first full day in Bordeaux and on the campsite. The Stokies had left early morning. We had our breakfast and coffee and cycled into Bordeaux city centre. The bike route was great all the way, we had the river to our left and the beautiful buildings of Bordeaux to our right. We spent the day walking a great distance around city absorbing the sights and culture. The city was very busy and very stylish. It is an old city with a very modern cool vibe. There were lots of amazing catholic gothic churches and castle wall entrances in and out of the city center. We walked around the student area which was reminiscent of Longsight in Manchester. It was very ethnically diverse and there was every sort of takeaway and fast food imaginable. We walked back into the centre and stopped for glass of wine outside the Hotel d’ville. We cycled home and cooked Macaroni Cheese. It was tastearific Relaxed and slept.
Wed 20th
We awoke at the campsite and unfortunately, the weather was not good. We decided to spend the day re-calibrating after over two weeks on the road. We had another mad drive around Bordeux in search of the supermarket we had cycled to the previous day. We eventually found it. The Auchran store is huge and twice the size of any tesco back home. We bought some healthy food. When we got back to the van the weather still wasn’t great so we did our clothes washing and tidied the van etc. After that the weather had improved. We had pesto pasta for tea and a couple of beers in the sun.

Thur 21st
Awoke for our last morning in the Bordeaux Lac campsite. We gathered our clothes off of our makeshift washing line and packed away the bikes before checking out at 12.30pm. We once again managed to get lost in Bordeux and ending up driving around the city center trying desperately to escape, we did get to see some of the city that we missed on foot a few days earlier so it wasn’t much of a disaster. When we finally got on the ringroad and managed to continue south, we stopped in small town to buy lunch and dinner. We bought a whole roast chicken, mushroom source and salad.  We had ceaser salad for lunch and the rest of the Chicken in sauce with potatoes for dinner. It was tricky planning a route south without using the expensive toll roads. We had a long drive andthe terrain soon became very hilly as we approached the Pyrenees. We gained lots of altitude and dropped back down again, we drove through some long tunnels cutting through the mountains. The van survived and we parked up in a picnic area in Spain and spent the night there.

Friday 22nd May
Woke up in the pretty picnic area, it was very cold as we were still high up in the Pyrenees. We enjoyed a leisurely morning studying  the guidebooks and maps over coffee and break fast. Decided to drive to the famous Ordesa Valley National Park further east in the Pyrenees. It was a long and difficult drive, with windy steep roads but spectacular surroundings, lots of tunnels, rivers, forest canyons and craggy cliffs. Whilst travelling we stopped in Jaca to find a cash point. It was difficult to park, but eventually we got some cash out and the were able to get fuel. We then went to our first Spanish supermarket “Mercedonia” and bought some squid, croquettes, cheese, chorizo and bread for a tapas style tea. The prices were already more reasonable than in France. We drove on and eventually arrived in Ordesa by late evening. A park ranger style man told us that we were not allowed to sleep in the national park car park so after eating and having a quick look around, we moved to a scenic cliff face near by and slept near the village of Torla.
Sat 23rd
We drove back to the car park in the morning and made a packed lunch before setting off on a hike around the Ordesa Valley. There were lots of water falls, streams, mossy coverd rocks and trees it was a beautiful route. We managed to see some rare butterflies and flowers along the way. After five hours of walking, we returned to the van and drove to Torla where we explored the steep cobbled streets before having a huge cold beer each on a bar terrace overlooking the tall mountains. It soon got cold as the sun set behind the mountains. We left Torla that night and parked the van near to an abandoned village with a modern looking suspension bridge over a fast flowing river. After some exploring, we called it a night.

Sun 24th

We decided to visit Andorra today. The road had some amazing scenery and was obviously popular with motorcyclists as they were everywhere. En route we saw two types of vultures. We stopped at a lay by and saw a snake in a pool of water. We carried on driving through the mountains and tunnels of the Pyrenees before eventually reaching Andorra. Despite the open borders of Europe, Andorra has a noticeable customs border checking vehicles leaving the country. In immediate contrast to Spain and France there was a huge supermarket still open late on a Sunday evening. We could not believe our luck so we had a look around. Andorra is a tax haven and the supermarket was essentially like a massive duty-free shop. We drove up a steep hill following signs for Naturlandia. We saw plenty of cyclists also going up the 2000m incline without too much difficulty. We parked near the top of the mountain.

Leave a Reply