A Stay in The French Pyrenees

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Travelling into France

We left Vic at around 11am on Tuesday 10 August driving through the Spanish Pyrenees into France. We stopped off at Ripoll to pick up provisions, both for lunch and for our self catering stay. Then we went around the old monestery sited there. Just the church, closers and crypt remain. The main attraction, especially to tour guides seems to be the archway into the church. Certainly it is especially striking; with hundreds of carved figures and scenes set into the stone. The church and cloisters were also pleasant and interesting. In the crypt, excavation work had uncovered graves from before the existing church was built.

Archway
Carvings
Cloister

Ruined church

The town itself looked a pleasant place, but sadly we didn’t have time for much of a look around. Next we went on to St Joan de les Abadesses (terrible grammar for French people but this was in Spain). This was a small town a few km along the road. The monastery there was closed for lunch but we found a few interesting buildings including a ruined church. Next we found a picnic spot which was actually on a housing estate, but it was a quiet, green, shady area under a tree.

I drove us into the Pyrenees proper towards France. We were at about 1200 metres as we crossed the border but had been as high as 1500. The road wiggled round and round, but luckily wasn’t too busy traffic wise. The views, when I dared look were spectacular. Once in France we grove through a number of towns I’d like to return to, through Ceret which was very busy and onto St Genis.

St Génis des Fontaines

Our little house was at the end of our host’s Garden. A little orange building with a tiny kitchen, living room and bathroom. The bedroom is a mezzanine. The lean-to extension allows a bit of extra space, but being able to sit outside at a table under shade made the whole thing possible. I do love outside space in summer, even if inevitably it led to insect bites! We used that space for breakfast coffee, dinner and wine late into the evening. We also had use of the pool which proved a massive plus after a day out in the mountains where we got hot and sweaty.

Once we had settled in we walked into town and to the local bar for a drink. Back home we cooked dinner – a simple chicken and vegetables with a kind of Chinese sauce. In the morning, after a restless and hot sleep we enjoyed coffee in the garden before setting out on for our first outing in France.

Our little house
Our garden retreat

Argelès Sur Mer

I was keen that we sorted out washing and picked up more provisions before we went off doing tourist stuff on Weds 11th. We decided therefore to go to Argelès for lunch and have a shorter day out.

I stayed there for a few days 14 years ago with my ex, son and nephew and was keen to see how it had changed. It’s a bigger place than I remember and think it has been developed, but can’t be entirely sure as we were only there a few nights. However there are definitely more restaurants etc. The Hotel des Pins where we stayed was still there and looked pretty good, I definitely have taste. We walked a long way before we found a place for lunch, partly because it was so busy that we parked way out at the edge of the resort.

However it was a flat and reasonably easy walk, some of it under shade. We ate in a restaurant offering great tapas (after all we were only a stones throw from Spain). I had some lovely crevettes and then shared some very good iberico ham and a goats cheese salad accompanied by some white wine that was almost top drinkable!

prawns and ham
Ice creams

We strolled further into the harbour and then sat down outside a bar for ice creams. At both of these venues we used the Pass Sanitaire for the first time. This has become a part of post covid life for all in France. The ice cream sundae was huge and we needed the walk back for digestive purposes!

Back in St Genis we unloaded our laundry before heading into town to find the bar from yesterday is closed on Wednesday. This is proper rural France. But as we were about to walk back having strolled down most of the streets in St Genis town centre we discovered a bar in a square and had a drink there before going back to cook dinner and sit in the mosquito infested shade of our airbnb.

The following two days were busy as we went to monasteries, forts and priories further up in the pyrenees. I’ll write about them in my next post.

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