Into the Pyrenees
17.12.2012 - 18.12.2012 9 °C
In the morning we had breakfast with Marete (Jean-Jacques was out shopping for the nights feast), she makes her own yoghurt which was beautifual and she also made her own honey bread. With fresh coffee and juice, croissants and toast this was a lovely way to start the day and once we had finished we packed up and headed off to drive into the mountains.
Just a quick but winding 20 minute drive from Lourdes you find yourself passing under cable cars and driving through some of the very pretty towns I had only previously glimpsed through Tour de France coverage. We considered driving the col du tourmalet but I was the only one who has any interest in the tour de france so I was voted down and Erin and Allanah wanted to go to Pont d'Espagne where Marete had said there were waterfalls.
We drove up through Cauterets and up as far as we could go at Pont d'Espagne. We quickly found out however that with the ice and snow we wouldn't be able to walk the extra kilometre or so to see the waterfalls. We walked across to one of the vacant carparks which hadn't been cleared of snow and as I prepared to throw a snowball at Allanah I noticed that on the other side of the carpark there was an izard (kind of wild deerfound in the Pyrenees), we then saw another, larger one so probably a male and female. Allanah tried to sneak closer to get a photo on the iPhone but they walked deeper into the trees.
Allanah and I got back to the task of having a snowball fight with the large but soft chunks of snow that were resting on the car park fence. Erin and Allanah then decided to walk a little of the way back down to explore some of the small waterfalls we had seen on the drive up. I drove down and waited for them at each bend where I was able to stop and eventually all the way back down to Cauterets.
Allanah hadn't had enough of the snow but we wanted to get going to see if we could find one of the mineral spas to soak in for an hour or 2. We found a big thermal spa at Argeles-Gazost but they were closed for 2 weeks for renovations so we couldn't go in. We drove back to Lourdes to find a supermarket where we could buy some fresh supplies for our road trip back to Portugal the next day.
As dinner neared I was getting worried. I was still feeling very full and a bit off after the heavy meal the day before and I think the cheese we munched on in the mountains (a foul smelling variety of Brie) had turned my stomach. Jean-jacques had a 6 course menu he was preparing, how would I manage?
We arrived in to Marete's to find 3 kindsof pate waiting for us. We found out they kill their own animals to make produce like bacon, pate, etc. and Jean-Jacques had prepared pig, duck and rabbit pate which he brought out as the first course. The rabbit I didn't like much as it had bits of aspic-like fat in it and the pig and duck were a little overseasoned but still nice. They were heavy though and what little room my liver had been able to clear was once again full and was I was not looking forward to the rest of the meal.
The pate was followed by oysters (he said oysters but I think they may have been scallops as they had the orange tongue) on toast with cheese covering and then prunes wrapped in bacon (just what I needed). we adjourned to the table and were served a yummy creamy pumpkin soup, then fish served in a special sauce from Brittany which Marete said Jean-Jacques did better than the restaurants up there. This again was very nice but I knew I was in trouble and was facing serious liver damage if I didn't start saying 'non'. You will notice that fresh veges still haven't featured in this besides the pumpkin soup which Erin specifically requested.
We finished it off with a banana tart (done in the style of tarte de tatin) and whilst we were offered coffee and aperitifs we declined as politely as we could. I needed to get to bed. I was really feeling the effects of the heavy food we had eaten over the past few days and to cut a long story short, spent the night up and down to the bathroom and then next 24 hours without food and barely able to stomach water.
Jean-Jacques was mortified thinking he had poisoned me or something and I wasn't sure what I could do to reasssure him that I was feeling that way before his meal and that I really shouldn't have eaten at all. In trying not to be rude (by eating the meal) I had actually made him feel worse. There is a lesson in there to be ignored I'm sure.
One of the interesting things to come out of this was that Erin got to experience driving in Europe. Leaving around 10am the next day, Erin drove from Lourdes to Bayonne and I took over once I felt a little better but having not gotten a lot of sleep I couldn't make it all the way to Portugal so Erin had to take the wheel about an hour from the border, driving with rain, fog, trucks and then darkness to get us not just to the town of Chaves but actually to the hotel we had booked with no maps as the wi-fi connection wasn't strong enough for google maps to work properly.
After a little trouble with the room booking (only 2 beds) we hunkered down with two rooms for the price of one. We had a quick meal at a restaurant round the corner although the salad of tomato, lettuce and shredded carrot was as close as we got to fresh veges. I slept for close to 12 hours and felt much better for it. We had breakfast in the hotel and got going. We had to make Porto by nightfall and had some stops we wanted to make on the way.