Sunday, 21 October 2012

Adventures in the Pyrenees

Yet again the forecast for Saturday was for rain but as usual we chose to ignore it and go on a road trip anyway.  We decided that the kids had probably had enough of quaint French villages so instead thought we'd go and have a drive through the Pyrenees with the aim of having a look in some caves near Foix.  James found the idea of going to the mountains without his mountain bike a bit upsetting and despite doing some last minute research into buying a new bike just decided to wait for his bike from home to arrive in two weeks.  He also thought this would be a good opportunity to have a look at potential mountain bike tracks and places to stay for the future!


It was raining when we left Toulouse but heading south the weather cleared and we could even see some blue sky.  We arrived at Foix at about 11.10am and found a park then walked to the town centre.  We were quite surprised by the amount of homeless people around as we hadn't really struck that so far.  Foix was lovely but certainly alot more rustic than some of the other more touristy places we had been.  We found a playground that was right beside the toilets, bank and tourist office!  We asked at the tourist office about the caves and we were told that there was an underground river close by, where you went on a boat and looked at the caves.  Being France where lunch is taken very seriously and everything closes from 12-2pm the next boat trip was at 2pm.  We decided to walk up to the castle and have a look around (even though it closed for lunch).  We didn't go in but got a great view and were able to marvel at the feat of building such an impressive building several hundred years ago.
 Climbing the road to the castle
 The view from Foix castle

Houses carved out of the hillside
We then walked back to the village and found a nice cheap cafe where the kids and James all got steak hache (meat patty) and chips and I got duck and chips.  We finished it off with icecream for the kids and espresso for James and I (yes James is now drinking coffee!!)

We managed to navigate ourselves around the village by using Ken the GPS and road signs.  Ken tried to take us down some one way and closed roads and we learned that fortified towns designed to protect themselves from outside enemies are not that easy to get from one side to the other!!  We headed towards the caves and got there nice and early as even though the tourism lady told us to get there at 1.30pm the office was closed and no one turned up till 1.45pm.  We got our tickets and walked down to the entrance to the cave then got into the boat.  The caves were amazing and took 75 minutes to go through.  James and I were both surprised at how commercialised the caves were with concrete steps having being built for access, the use of metal boats, a cable bolted to the wall of the whole cave for the guide to hold onto as he took the boat down the river, dams set up, cables bolted to rocks and wound round stalactite formations.  In NZ it would be access by absailing then you'd be given a hard hat with a light on it and a rubber tube and be wished well!!  Even though it did go against our NZ conservation ideals it did enable us to see something amazing and gave us access to another part of the world.
The merry go round outside the caves - yes truly!
As it was only 3.15pm we decided to go on a bit of an adventure and go across the Pyrenees.  It was a very long drive and we didn't end up seeing the waterfalls we were heading too but did find another one instead.  The road was very narrow, windy and hilly - great for the tour de France but not so good for upset tummies!  It was amazing countryside and at one point we were quite high and it looked a bit like home.  By this point it was getting late so we decided to stop and get dinner.  We eventually made it back down to flat ground and spotted the golden arches - so meat patty and chips again!!
 Waterfall in the Pyrenees

Driving down through the cloud.
We got home about 8pm after a great day.

We are enjoying our quiet Sundays and love the concept of shops being closed on Sundays.  It does amuse us though that every Saturday evening there is a huge last minute rush as everyone suddenly remembers that the shops are going to be closed the next day.  We went to the Toulouse International church this morning which was really lovely.  There were quite a few families from school which was really nice for the kids, as they recognised a few faces.  So we will probably continue going there.

It's the last week of school this week before half term, the last seven weeks have gone so fast.  Hopefully Hannah will be able to go to school for Thursday and Friday which will be great as I need to go and get some winter clothes for the kids before we head to Paris in a fortnight.

1 comment:

  1. Love the photos Rachel, the waterfall does have a look of alpine NZ. amazing to think it will be half term soon...later than the UK. I think Janet was off a few weeks ago. Happy clothes shopping.