Friday, 27 November 2009

France, part five

WHAT a fantastic morning we had for the walk today.
We drove up to this plateau, called Planis, parked the car,
and set off up what Brenda said was; 'one long climb, all the way'.

We were going to walk up to Roc de Trepassats, 1,600 metres.
The path was quite good and clear, as it was used frequently by shepherds.
They take the sheep to graze on high ground in the Summer, then
bring them back down in the Winter. The shepherd can spend days at
a time up here with his sheep, and will think nothing of walking all the way
down to meet up with his wife, who will bring him food and supplies.
It's a hard and lonely life.

We could see the pipe store across the valley.
We were already at the same height as the plateau, and could see the lorry
winding its way up and down, and the helicopter flying back
and forth with the pipes.

The pipes.

Sunglasses - how cool am I??? (don't answer that).

Brenda was spot on with the description.
It was a long, stiff climb but we were relishing every moment.
Often we could see scratchings in the earth by the path, signs of
'songlierre', or wild boars. They are hunted in this region to cull the numbers.
They can be very dangerous if surprised, but that doesn't happen often,
as theyare shy creatures that avoid human contact, if possible.

We were high enough now to see over the ridges on the other side
of the gorge, and could plainly see the sea.

The winding road the lorry had to ply day in, day out.

Mannes has one of those watches that also tells the height, and checked it regularly.
Brenda has one too, and this often ensues in 'play argument's, as each one told a different height!
It was only a few feet, but Mannes is very pedantic (in a nice way), and HAS to be precise.

Ahhh, nice place, and we were very happy.

Not very plain, I know, but that IS the helicopter DOWN there!
We were at sufficient height now to be looking down on him.
Click on the picture for a larger version.

This is a 'cabane' - a very simple stone shelter that the
shepherd uses to spend the night in.

Rather HIM than ME!

Tremendous views, on a perfectly clear day.
THIS is what the Pyrenees are all about.

The final part of the climb to the top, where we would have lunch.

Here, we saw the second, even SMALLER than the first, cabane.

Top of the Roc de Trepassants - 1,600 metres.
Time for lunch.

(The view's not bad either)

The fabulous sky and clouds were constantly changing.
These are my favourite skies, and I LOVE pictures of them.

You can keep your fancy restaurants - today,
we were having lunch in the best place on earth!

Did someone say lunch............

After lunch, we made our was back to the car, noticing that the car park had got REALLY busy
while we were away - there was ANOTHER CAR!!

Brenda & Mannes knew who's the car was though, it belonged to the young shepherd,
and we soon saw him and his flock as we made our way down.

He looks a very serious (and hard) character, doesn't he?

So ended a really great walk. It had been a very special day, and Brenda was to match it
with a very special meal tonight -an 'oceane de mare' - a seafood soup (of sorts). Another of Brenda's super gadgets, This one, you put a selection of seafood into the boiling vegetable soup,
and it cooks to perfection!
 The rice steams steadily in the top to complete a delicious meal.
The best thing is, at the end you are left with this wonderful fishy soup, which we saved
and served up the following night as a scrumptious starter.

(Better get the last drop out of this - can't waste any - it's far too nice!).


Day five - done!

Tomorrow, we were off to the SEASIDE.
(And I'd forgotten my bucket and spade).

Thursday, 26 November 2009

France, part four

Another lovely morning, as we looked out over Nyer.

The chill air was quickly being warmed by the rising sun.
Today, we were going to go over the top of the En ridge to the Tet valley.

Me, Mannes & the dogs, ready to go.

The spotted one (Dalmatian) is Mannes' dog, called robi.
Evol valley & Mount Madres, as you can see, a lovely day.

Sue & I just LOVE the way the shadows of the scudding clouds 'run' across the hillsides.

Some serious 'up & down' followed through lovely woodland paths.
The fallen leaves carpeted the ground, and we had to take care of hidden loose rocks underneath.

View over to Canavelles village. Lots of little, quite remote, villages like this abound in France.

This one has had the same mayor for over fifty years! He must be a popular guy.

En & La Serre. You can just make out the bell tower on En chapel.

Here we go - more serious stuff!

When we emerged onto plateaus, the views were stunning.
Here, Brenda & I take it all in

I'm sure some climbers would have a good day out on these limestone buttresses.

Looking down the Tet valley to the road. Brenda won't take the dogs along the path that runs down the left of this road. It's above a railway line (the little yellow train), and once, Brenda slipped off the path on the loose surface, slip down the bank and she fell ON TO the road. She landed in a heap, stunned and winded, right in the middle! Goodness knows how she didn't sustain a break, as the drop is about ten feet or more, and how lucky was she that nothing was coming? The road is used by up to forty fuel tankers a day, coming and going to Andorra for the cheap fuel, plus other traffic. She could easily have been killed.

No wonder she won't walk it these days.

Looking north up the Tet valley.

Someone had drawn this sign on a rock. It's the mark of the 'St Jacques de Compostille' walk (a pilgrimage), but I was surprised to see it here, as the walk doesn't come through here? I once asked Brenda to buy us some scallops to cook for dinner. It's the FIRST time I've known her to be stumped in French! She didn't know what they were called. We've since learned that it's 'coquille ST Jaques' (of COURSE!).

Here's something we didn't notice at first, but once we'd seen one bunch, we saw HUNDREDS!
It must be a good place for mistletoe, as there was no end of it, hanging in great big bunches.

We DID 'christen' this bunch, but couldn't get a steady perch for the camera to record the moment - and Brenda & Mannes were some way ahead of us.
Soon, we were back at the car, and could again see En chapel, with Olette village below.

This weekend would see Olette 'carnival of the animals', and there was something very special we wanted to buy there, but more of that later in a later posting.
On the drive back down to Nyer, we disturbed a flock of Partridges on the track.

Tomorrow we have a big climb day promised by Mannes & Brenda to the top of
Roc de Trepassats 1600 metres. We should be looking DOWN on the helicopter!

Watch this space.

Monday, 23 November 2009

France, part three.

Today, day three, would have been Chris' birthday. Chris was Brenda's husband who died in a tragic accident a year after they moved to France. Each year now, Brenda & a few friends walk up to the little church at En village and ring the bell for Chris. This year, Sue & I were privileged to be here at the right time, and would join the walk with everyone else. The numbers were slightly down this year, due to some illness and family commitments, so we were glad to be able to bolster things a bit.

As usual, the day started with these two, Starry & Sky, tussling and play fighting. These two Samoyeds are mother (Starry) and daughter, and get on really well.

RIGHT! That's enough of that - we're ready to go now.
Come ON - get your boots on, and bring the lead.

Unfortunately, today was going to be the only day we had rain.
Well, not much really, just a bit of drizzle but Mannes was ready for it.

Our 'motley crew' assembled in Nyer as the weather cleared a bit.

Oh dear, it started again, but there were lots of umbrellas in the offing.

Soon we had done the climb up to the church, and here it is.

This is the new bell, which Brenda paid to have fitted, in Chris' memory.

Each of us had a go at ringing it.
No mean feat, as there's a special 'knack' to doing it
(which Brenda imparted to Sue & I).

Our picnic with, of course, a glass of good red wine.
The inside of the church was once very ornate, but years previously, some incomers had taken over it, and defaced the walls and murals, painting over them. Nyer got a special grant to have them restored as much as was possible, and an expert came from Paris, and returned many of them to fairly good condition.

After a picnic and a glass of wine (cheers Chris), we all set off back down to Nyer.
The jangle of the cow bells could be heard as we walked.

As you can see, the day improved a lot, and the walk back was very pleasant.

A last look back to the church, now locked and secure again.

We arrived back at 'Les Samoyedes' & started to get dinner ready.
However, Brenda noticed that the water was running VERY slowly. The house, like most in the mountains, was not on mains water. Now and then, a small problem such as this arises. They rely on water 'sources', which are springs that seldom dry up, especially not at this time of the year, so a possible blockage was suspected..
Time for action!

Right Mannes, lets find out what's wrong!

"What do you think?"
"Hmm, not sure mate - shall we take a look?"

"Right, if I push this down here, and you pull, maybe we can........."

"See, it's EASY when you know how - oh yes, I've done a bit of plumbing in my time........"

And the day ended as usual, a lovely, sociable evening with laughing, joking and stories.
We talked about Chris and lots of Memories of him from Brenda and Mannes.
Today was a bit of a rest day - tomorrow we had a more ambitious walk planned, and the forecast was good!