A trip to paradise

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Flag of France  , Midi-Pyrénées,
Friday, December 28, 2012

How can Gavarnie be best described? I do believe that there are no words to truly do it justice, apart from a little piece of heaven tucked away deep in the mountains. Maybe it's the air, the crystal clear streams, or the cirque itself, but this tiny little town manages to lure me in every time to the point where I never ever want to leave.
We arrived at the youth hostel at lunch time. An absolute no no. One must not interrupt the French at lunch time, unless one is looking to loose an body part. We are given a full mouthed dismissal from the hostel keeper to come back later...and that is that.
We take an afternoon walk up to the cirque. The beauty is undeniable, as is the lack of coordination. The (usually well trodden) path up the the cirque is iced over at this time of year, so it takes all our powers of concentration to not end up with a wet bum. And of course, just as you think you've mastered the feat of walking on solid ice on the flat, the hills start. It was a stressful, slippery mess as our feat hastily take us up the steep winding track to the path. This was not the time for conversation or banter, it's all concentration on not falling over. 
Only thing was clear at the point of passing over the top into the cirque. All the stress of walking up on the ice disappeared. What appeared before us was something out of a science fiction film from a planet light years away. The cirque circles around you in an eerie silence that is only broken by you're heaving breath from the walk up. Stunning layers of ice and snow give you a magnificent winter wonderland display of beauty, serenity and peace.
Everyone's attention was suddenly fixed on the frozen waterfall as a gigantic sheet of ice breaks off, sending a shattering sound rippling through the cirque and down the valley. An athletic little fellow made an addition to our family as we climbed up through the deep snow into the centre of the cirque. As a matter of fact, I have never come across a four legged creature who loves the snow so much, he was in his element and has clearly assigned himself the role of cirque tour guide. We stop before we reach the edge of the cirque walls, as avalanches are a danger this time of year, and the avalanche trails are a clear marker of this. We climbed up onto a massive boulder and peered down at the breathtaking view  of the cirque, and the valley in which the town of Gavarnie lies. Sadly, in the minus temperature inside the shade of the cirque, it was too chilly to stop and stick around, so we soon made our way back down towards Gavarnie.
No doubt, we felt our legs by the time we made it back to the first bar. Naturally, it seemed the perfect time to toast the beauty of where we were. The good thing about hiking? It gives you a great excuse to have a (usually shamefull) second sundowner. This is exactly what we did back at the hostel whilst playing cards. It is a cute little hostel, just what you want to come back to at the end of a day in the cold and wet. An impressive display of books, games and beer bottles (even Duff!) takes up the shelves, and a roaring fire makes the main communal room nice and toasty. Gruff, weather beaten climbers were chewing the cud by the fire, whilst a hippie couple were busy steaming and blending vegetables for their little baby. This is a fantastic time of day. A time to exchange stories about slipping of rocks, sliding down ice sheets and sumetting mountains. And this is exactly what it looked like, as the packed room of outdoorsy peace were immersed in deep meaningful conversation, as they ravenously waited with crumbling tummies for dinner.
Not that we were able to stick around to discover the alluring smells. In this place, if you want to eat, you have to book. So we exchanged the warmth and mouthwatering smells of cooking, for the cold night air to search for food elsewhere. Not that the choice was abundant, sadly it's slim pickings tonight,,,only one restaurant is open! The food may have not been the gastronomy of the world, but the warmth and a nutella crepe for desert sure did suffice. And two carafes of wine later, we decided it was time to bare the cold, late night air and make a run for the hostel. What we did not anticipate, was a sheer beauty of the starry sky. The clearness was outstanding, and certainly filled us with an amazing sense of life and meaning before we hit the sack.
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