The Pyrenees, not Paris

Trip Start Dec 12, 2010
Trip End Dec 16, 2012

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Flag of France  , Midi-Pyrénées,
Sunday, October 23, 2011

When you speak to people who have travelled to France, I guarantee that most of them will say they have been to Paris, and Paris only. So when we decided to visit France for the first time, we were off to the Pyrenees, not Paris. Why the Pyrenees, why not? So after hiring a car in Spain and driving up from Madrid into the Pyrenees, we were over the moon that we chose the Pyrenees not Paris for our first visit to France.
When people go to Paris, they often enter France via a tunnel. When we entered France from Spain, we didn't have to go through a tunnel, we just drove on a winding road surrounded by mountainous scenary. This was the Pyrenees, not Paris.
Our first big driving break was in Pau. Okay, time to test the theory that the French are rude to you if you don't speak French. We did a self guided walking tour of this nice city that looked over the Pyrenees mountain range and visited an Australian bar. The bar sold French beer and was run by Frenchies, but these Frenchies were nice, even though we didn't speak French. But this was the Pyrenees, not Paris, as apparently people in Paris are the rude ones.
Many people visit Paris for the great Notre Dame Cathedral, but we were in the Pyrenees. So what to do to get our church fix, of course head to the sanctuary of Saint Bernadette in Lourdes. A massive catholic sanctuary built on the site where a young Bernadette was said to recieve a miracle. She later became a saint and now thousands of catholics take the pilgrimage to Lourdes to pray and wish for a miracle. It was great to see, but the amount of tacky catholic souvenirs avaliable was crazy. Usually you would see Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame tacky souvenirs, but this was the Pyrenees, not Paris.
One full day in France and we were loving it. When people visit France some are lucky enough to see the finish of the Tour de France in Paris. Well this was the Pyrenees, not Paris, so instead we got to drive on the steep winding road of Col de Touramet, the most difficult stretch of the Tour de France. It was awesome, Shaun was loving it and the scenary was breathtaking. This beats the smog of a big city anyday.
Driving through beautiful little French villages was amazing. We even got to stop at one village and saw a local village festival underway. In another village we got to eat our gourmet French sandwiches, sipping sangria in the foreground of a historical chateau. It might not be in the foreground of the eiffel tower, cause this was the Pyrenees, not Paris.
Strolling around our overnight stop at Foix, there weren't many people in sight. The streets were quite, the shops empty, but once again the people we did meet were so friendly, and didn't get rude when we let them know we didn't speak French, they just had a little chuckle and tried to help us the best they could through body language. People always tell us that Paris is dirty and crowded with rude Frenchies, but this was the Pyrenees, not Paris.
On the day of the Rugby World Cup, I guarantee that in Paris, pubs would have been packed with people wanting to watch the game, while drinking overpriced drinks. This wasn't us. Instead we were in a small French town called Tarascon, ruged up in a friendly pub with a good crowd of Frenchies who were as passionate as they come. Even though we were going for New Zealand, we felt welcome and even though France ended up loosing, the crowd was pleasant. This was the Pyrenees, not Paris.
Many people go to Paris to visit the famous art museum, 'The Louve'. Well we had the opportunity to view reproductions of pre historic cave art and even got to visit the Niaux cave, where pre historic art can be found. It was amazing to hike deep into a cave to finally reach the art of the Magdalenians. Yeah, you can go to the Louve and see the Mona Lisa, but pre historic art in a cave, only in the Pyrenees, not Paris.
So as we crossed into Andorra, we were so happy that we had chosen the Pyrenees as our first destination in France. Don't get me wrong, I am sure Paris is fabulous, but for this part of our world adventure, the Pyrenees was just what the doctor ordered. Beautiful scenary, self drive adventure, friendly Frenchies, pre historic art, what more can you ask for. But of course, this was the Pyrenees, not Paris.
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