Sunday, 20 May 2007

Whistle-stop journey through France!

The journey through the Pyrenees took us through many passes and gorges and tunnels through mountains and we passed by the road to Andorra after deciding we wouldn’t or couldn’t go to visit there. Something to do with not having the correct papers as Andorra is not in E.U. The border between Spain and France is actually in the middle of a town or appears to be. It may actually be between two towns – Puigcerda and Bourg-Madam - the first being in Spain and the second in France - but the border is just on a street with shops etc with nothing really separating the two!

Views of French Pyrenees.

We were heading for a camperstop up there in the mountains! The town of Bolquere was obviously part of the 2000 Winter Olympics as the place where we stopped was a ski resort called Pyrenees 2000! We went up to the bowling alley next to the camperstop hoping to have something to eat and a beer. We got the beer - an ice-cold Kronenberg (aah!!) but the cheeseburger was of the instant micro-waved variety (oh!) We were able to watch telly though - and caught the televised aftermath of the French presidential elections. We had spoken about this with Lolo and the others in Eguzon. They feared that the right-wing Nicholas Sarkozy was likely to be elected - and although we could not fully understand the rapid-fire French on the telly – we suspected that their fears had been realised.

Coming down the mountains towards Perpignan was a bit hairy at times also…especially for me - being left-hand drive and driving on the right put me in the passenger seat on the side with vertigo-inducing views down into the gorges!!

We stopped in the village of Olette to pick up a man and his son (and dog!) who were hitch-hiking to the next town of Villefranche de Conflant. They confirmed – and also lamented- that Sarkozy had indeed been elected as President. The young boy told us that there had hardly been any snow on his mountain this year. I remembered that we had a mild winter in Scotland also. Global warming?

We passed the’Pic du Canigou’ a mountain sacred to the Catalan people, and then whizzed along the road from Perpignan via Narbonne and Beziers, and headed for the Camperstop in Remoulins. Unfortunately it was full up, so after consulting the map for somewhere out of town to wild-camp, we stopped at this lovely spot on the wine route of the Cotes de Rhone area.

We spent the morning walking around and trying to get photos of elusive butterflies !! like this ‘scarce swallowtail’

and this beastie that we can’t identify – we sent an e-mail to the bugman of to see if he can provide an identification!

And this Southern White Admiral…

The roadsides were covered in wild flowers including this weird orchid-like plant

and this greater mullein.

We stopped briefly at a roadside shop selling local Provencal products made mostly of olive oil and lavender. We don’t often do ‘touristy’ stuff but there were some nice (but very expensive) soaps, cheese, olive oil moisturisers and shower gels that we bought along with a bottle of local Pastis that we have developed a fondness for! We passed on the Absinthe though!!

On the way to the Alps we passed through the town of Tallard where, as this sign shows, the Tour de France will start. (One for Russell!!)

We stopped at one of the last villages in France before the Alps and Italy, Barcelonnette. The following day we stopped at the camperstop in Jausiers along from Barcelonnette as there were no services in Barcelonnette and we needed to dump waste water and top up the fresh water before crossing the Alps. On the way to posting some postcards I spotted this doorway with wonderful carving!

The camperstop in Jausiers is featured on the next post I’ve done giving more info on the wonderful camperstops in France and Italy.

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