The Pyrenees

Trip Start Jun 10, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of France  , Aquitaine,
Sunday, October 16, 2011

We left the gorgeous Atlantic coast and headed an hour and a half east to the base of the Pyrenees. The old town centre sits up on a hill and the panoramic views of the Pyrenees is a pretty decent backdrop.  When we rolled into town and found our hotel, our first impression was that it seemed to be a pretty normal looking and feeling place with the diversity one would expect from a French city. 

We stopped in at the Tourism Office and chatted with the officer who happened to be from Kingston (ON).  Beyond being lovely, she suggested that we head a few blocks north to visit the indoor market.  Saturday is its best day.  Once we got past the flee markety stuff outside, the indoor market was quite impressive.  The variety and quality of the products was top class.  After a thorough tour we thought that this would be as good a spot as any to grab lunch.  I snagged a couple of savoury pastries and Meg grabbed what looked like a lasagna/ratatouille hybrid.  We got about halfway through when Meg decided that her lunch contained raw beef ("steak tartare").  It quickly found the garbage and a safe baguette sandwich appeared in its place.

After our lunching adventure, we headed a few blocks in the other direction and found a very elegant shopping area that would rival any other.  Indoor malls, outdoor malls, haute couture, it was all here.  As were a very young and active population.  There seemed to be teenagers just about everywhere, which gave the town a youthful buzz.

We walked along the promenade toward the Chateau (of course there's a Chateau) and took in the postcard views on the way.  Although it was 25 degrees and sunny, we would feel a cool mountain breeze every once in a while. The chateau does have bit of a neat history, beyond being well kept, it was the original residence of the monarchs of Navarre.  In it, the future Henri IV was born and legend has it that he was cradled in an upturned tortoise shell that is still on display inside. 

Once we got to the Chateau, we chose to tour its extensive gardens and trails instead of the inside.  Even with the draw of the tortoise shell, on such a lovely day, a nice hike at the base of the Pyrenees was certainly in order and our preferred choice.  Leaving the chateau’s gardens we stumbled across a very small but very neat old town.  It is only a few buildings but the medieval and renaissance buildings were quite pretty and in great shape.  The streets were lined with cafes and restaurants and we made our decision to come back here for dinner.

On our way back to the hotel, we decided to grab a coffee/beer on the shopping district for some people watching.  It was a nice break and after partaking in a little shopping ourselves, we headed back to the hotel to freshen up before dinner.

As some of you may remember, on our last trip, we became pretty good at sniffing out the Irish pubs as we moved around the continent.  We have found a few on this trip but we avoided them for local fare until today.  We couldn’t pass up a pint of cider on a warm evening with such a beautiful backdrop as the Pyrenees.   After more of that thin and light crusty pizza (yet tasty) we called it a day as we have our longest drive on this trip tomorrow (2.5 hours) as we head to Carcassonne.
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