Sunday, September 05, 2010

Hautes-Pyrénées

2010-09-05 Tarbes - Bagneres - Arreau

For the last few weeks I’ve mainly stared at the Pyrénées as I’ve criss-crossed the local area, with the exception of one level incursion into Spain through the Val d’Aran. After a few days around home, I thought it would be nice to take Munson out for some random touring.

We went to Tarbes first, which is one of the larger centres at this end of the Midi-Pyrénées. Being a Sunday it was pretty closed up aside from cafes and some street markets. There were plenty of fountains around for Munson to play in, both for wading, or – as above – running through jets of water.

I looked at my road atlas and saw a scenic route south through Bagnères-de-Bigorre and Bagnères-de-Luchon straddling the edge of the National Park of the Pyrénées which would fill the afternoon. We stopped at the first of these, which has a pretty town centre, a central boulevard enclosing several cafes’ tables, and a little island in the river Adoure from which I wanted to let Munson have a swim, but thought he might be a bit too brave in its rushing waters.

Bagneres-de-Bigorre

Route through Hauté-Pyrénées Col d'Aspin

Picking up the route south, we soon began a rapid ascent of one of the Tour de France’s most arduous peaks, the Col d’Aspin.  In the midst of this ascent I realised this was going to be one of those roads with an abundance of ascent and a surfeit of barriers around the exposed edges. At about the point where I realised I couldn’t turn around anywhere, we reached the highest point where dozens of cars, bikes and buses were parked for tourers to enjoy the admittedly stupendous views.

Col d'Aspin view over Arreau

What I really wasn’t prepared for was the descent towards the town of Arreau, which appeared like a distant toy-town. My vertigo made this a white-knuckled half hour in low gears, trying to stay in the middle of the road and not look at the terrain plunging to my right, except when oncoming traffic forced me to edge a little bit in that direction.

Col d'Aspin view over Arreau

The prize at the bottom was Arreau which contains a few squat castles and gothic wooden houses.

Arreau

I drove a bit beyond this town along the same mountain route – which once was the main road connecting the Atlantic to the Mediterranean in these parts – but discovered that between Arreau and Bagnères-de-Luchon was another vertiginous roller-coaster: the Col de Peyresourde. Having two “thrills” like that in one  year day was too much, so I circled back to Arreau and exited the mountains by a gentle northward road through to Lannemezan.

Arreau

1 comment:

  1. Promise me you'll visit Llívia, the Spainish exclave near the French border (east of Andorra). I love the concept of a small Spanish town completely surrounded by French territory. Do they eat Paella or do they prefer consommé?

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