High Hopes in the French Alps

Holiday and Month End..


La Porte Vallette, dressed for Halloween in the rain


It was good waking up in Entraygues this morning, completely hassle free and at a Sunday morning pace. Bernice had an enjoyable day and we spent it mainly indoors as the rain and weather moved in.

We had a stay at home meal with birthday candles and all, making the simple and important pleasures in life valuable, as well as granting a wish to the recipient! As it is Halloween, La Porte de Vallette is sporting a lantern with sweeties and apples for the trick or treaters this evening, but not many takers so far as it’s pouring down.

We’ve come full circle now and where we began so we finish. In a very warm and cosy room. We enjoyed the day milling about the town that in it’s compactness has everything, as well as some unexpected and intriguing art to boot!


October 31, 2010 Posted by | Holiday | Leave a comment

North to France

We were happy to wake up this morning knowing we were heading north back to France. Spain is interesting enough although lacks greenary in the landscape, and the towns are mostly concreted with very little in the way of flora. From a dogs perspective, I’d much rather live in France where they are highly respected especially given the search and rescue these vital animals perform in the mountains, as well as the fire service, finding survivors of earthquakes, tsunamis, bomb squads etc. the list goes on and on, and all that I felt in Spain was they were worried about scooping up poop!  I think the Hotel Plaza in Castejon de Sos appreciated this aspect and happily offered us any room we wanted in the whole hotel, instead of being shoved into an attic room like in Sort.  Apart from this, the hotel did offer a substantial breakfast more than expected which turned out to be very good indeed. So we left after a good feed.

On leaving we noticed quite a long queue of people outside the Lotto place and later discovered that Sort actually means ‘luck’ and they’ve been known to have quite a few lottery winners from there. If we’d known we would’ve bought a eurolottery ticket.

We were in for a long drive back to Entraygues sur Truyère as it’s Bernice’s birthday on Sunday (halloween) we thought it’d be nice to be there.  A very pleasurable route back going through mountain roads and villages through some ski areas, the main area being a place caled Baqueira and an interesting  mountain town called Vielha. (Got that mixed up with Viella earlier). It was quite a medium sized sort of ski area with only one cable car so one could imagine a lot of traffic going up at the beginning of the day and coming down at the end of the day! The lifts were a bit limited but maybe they were tucked away out of sight.

It was great to see the snow on the mountains though and thoughts of skiing were being revived as we drove on. Finally we arrived at Entraygues and that evening went to a local restaurant with Tizzy, where they never even batted an eyelid as we walked in found a table sat down, allowed Tizzy to settle under the table with barely a murmer, where we enjoyed an exquisite most welcome freshly cooked meal!

October 30, 2010 Posted by | Holiday | Leave a comment

Castajon to Ager

Hotel Plaza - Wonderwall!

The sky was changing rapidly this morning. We went down for breakfast to find that this little hotel is full of surprises! It feels like you’ve walked into ‘Wonderland‘  with a mild Tim Burton influence.  I was expecting the white rabbit to come scurrying through the breakfast area wittering on about how late he was! There were tea cups on the wall and it was all just animatedly lovely. Couldn’t resist taking a few more pictures before we stepped out into the reality that was an out of season small Spanish town. We were hoping against hope that at least one of the Paragliding establishments were open but no such luck, all closed for the season. So we were left with the co-operation of the lady on reception, and a tourist map to attempt to find the launch.

It didn’t look flyable, but we really wanted to find it,  just to have a look. There was no one around to ask and no one flying, so we were between us the blind leading the blind. After a couple of wrong turns  we caught sight of a stricken Paragliding sign, so we followed it, where it forked into two different tracks. We walked up the higher one, but to no avail, so headed back down. I couldn’t leave without trying  the lower track, we’d passed on the way up, it had to lead somewhere. ‘Curiouser and curiouser,’ so ’round a couple of ‘next bends’  I finally found what looked like a training hill, certainly not the higher one that we’ve seen on the YouTube vids but there it was, with the tell tale  sign of a windsock  gently wafting in a slight face breeze, and not the Mad Hatter’s tea party we were expecting! Not long after Dennis arrived, having caught a glimpse of the ‘Cheshire Cat’ er… windsock from a different viewpoint.

It would have been possible to fly down, the sky was looking a bit dark to do anything more than that, there wern’t any thermals to speak of, not this time of year, so we enjoyed the view, and satisfaction of finding the place.

Stricken Sign

We tried to decipher what we thought looked like a landing field, but again couldn’t be certain. It wasn’t a particularly high launch probably no more than 300 mts above. We drove down and checked it out. It was not obvious, and if either of us had decided to fly and land in the wrong field, some wire fence cutters would have been an asset!  even though I did consider a fly down I wasn’t convinced… of when it would start raining and how long it’d take Dennis to find me etc.  all too much hassle for what would have been nothing more than a 5 minute top to bottom.

Castejon de Sos is a lovely place and am sure great flying in season, there is a lot of potential everywhere you look.  The Hotel Plaza made it all worth while, and am glad we came just for that experience. It’s certainly somewhere we’d like to return and fly, preferably in season and from the higher launch area, with the added help of a local guide.

*          *          *

dark tumbling skies rolling in... en route to Ager

We chatted about what to do next considering the weather wasn’t getting any better, and came to the conclusion that as we were in Spain we may as well continue on to Ager.  A bendy road eventually led us on to a main road that brought us into Ager about 2½ hours later.

Again it was all closed for the season, but I wanted to see what I’d missed earlier in the year with the Women’s Open.  According to my friend Caroline who attended the competition, she said the ambience was really great but didn’t feel there were enough competitiors. Just got me thinking that maybe I ought to try and get some time off next year and contribute to the numbers.

Ager Ridge

It’s a very impressive long running ridge and I should imagine excellent flying. There were two levels of launch but unfortunately it was blown well out on both. When we arrived we met a group of  fellow countrymen at the lower launch, who incidentally found Tizzy a delight to play with, she wasn’t shunned like she had been since we arrived in Spain. It’s taken us three attempts before finding a dog-friendly establishment. Hotel Plaza exempt. One of the group had launched as wind dummy on a Mantra R10 and spent the whole flight gale hanging!  that was enough for the other pilots to wisely leave their gliders in their bags.  The forecast wind had arrived and if correct was set to stay and worsen. There was really no point in hanging around so we took a drive back down popping into the Observatory, which was due to open at 6pm,  all things considered due to the cloudy sky we wouldn’t have had  a decent view it’d have been like glimpsing stars through a partially threadbare blindfold so wasn’t worth it.

Ager, flying looks excellent, the road to take off is great, the parking more than ample, the launch area fabulous but the town lets it down a touch.  It appears like  a one horse deal and some free rolling tumbleweed would’nt have looked out of place!  Maybe I didn’t get to see it in its’s best light, there do seem to be some new builds about and I expect it’s a different place in season. The views from the top of the ridge were fantastic with possible flying routes leading off in various directions.

That was the extent of our Spanish Parasighting, so we headed back Northwards. Having been on the road with daylight rapidly diminishing we spent our last night in Spain in a town called Sort, which means ‘Luck’ apparently. We’d tried a couple of hotels but got the usual ‘No Dogs Allowed’ reaction until we were semi-successful in Sort. We got an ok room, in the 3* Hotel Pressets but felt shoved out of sight on the top floor in an attic room. We left Tizzy in the bus for a while, and went for a walk into the town where we had a beer in a Harley-Davidson bar, bit of a nice surprise.  Back at the Hotel we all settled down for a disturbed noisy nights sleep attempts.

October 29, 2010 Posted by | Holiday | Leave a comment

Spanish Stroll




We did a rain check this morning before making our decision. The decision was to stick to plan ‘A’ and head for Castejon de Sos.


Viella Vanashing Point


We were far to close to the Spanish border not to. If we didn’t come here we’d only have regretted missing the chance, if not to fly at least see the place.  The only way we knew we were in Spain was a very understated sign saying Espana, and that was it. Maybe it’s not such a popular entry into Spain from France at this end?

Around 4½ hours later we rolled into Castejon de Sos. It was a good road the whole way, with the only bendy bits in and around the town. The Pyrenees along the way looked like friendly Alps with very light snow speckled about. It was a good drive through the Viella Tunnel, and these days I wonder why we bother with passports as it was a simple continuation of road into Spain.

We arrived in Castejon de Sos at siesta time, so the place was fast asleep, only to be awakened by the kiss of a true prince! sorry got distracted for a minute! The next thing was to find somewhere to sleep for the night and after two refusals to take Tizzy we were almost resigned to the fact we were going to squeeze in the bus for the night. The next hotel we tried we didn’t hold out much hope given the appearance, but this charming hotel, the Hotel Plaza, with it’s delightful decor, if you ever get the chance to stay here you’ll understand the ‘fairytale’ theme, was happy to have Tizzy to stay. Bingo!


The Delightfully Charming Hotel Plaza
excuse the bus and dog bowl… er herm!

Settled in and figuring out how to operate the plush flat screen telly, I found myself watching Wuthering Heights in Spanish, it was a very flambouyant version! whilst Dennis took Tizzy out for a stroll. We have found a lot of Paragliding shops and quite a grand All Flying shop type thing… but we will have to investigate more tomorrow. Castejon de Sos is a very small town with banks, hotels, a few bars and restaurants and that’s about it.  We went for a bite to eat in a restaurant/bar down the road which unfortunately was dreadful. Dennis had Lasagne, straight out of the microwave, and I had Fetuccini, which was about nine days old! Well you can’t have it all I suppose. Nice wine though…

The weather isn’t looking good maybe tomorrow will be ok but there’s some tough looking fronts on the way. We’re hoping to maybe get some info or something from the Paragliding shops ’round here tomorrow… the main one may be this one Parapente Pirineos, we’re not holding our breath mind, after all it is out of season.

Castejon de Sos


October 28, 2010 Posted by | Holiday | Leave a comment

Surf and Snakes!

Biarritz Surfing

Woke up to catch the odd sailing mast cruise past the window. It’s so unreal here, where normally you’d expect  to see a truck or cars passing, yacht masts silently glide past the window! It’s delightful. We checked the webcam this morning just to see what was going on back home and they’ve had some snow. It’s melting a bit now although it’s still sticking to Mt. Jolie.

What to do today? Hmm.. well we decided to go to the Aquarium Museum here in Capbreton but it was closed unfortunately.  So we headed off further south into Biarritz. It’s a sizable town and buzzing. We found our way to the Grande Plage a major surf zone. All I can say is for the first time in years I wished I’d bought my wetsuit. The water looked so inviting as well as managable waves… Both Dennis and me have got a bit of a surfing background so it rekindled a smouldering fire so to speak. The most we could do was roll our trousers up and go in as far as we could, needless to say my trousers got wetter than intended. What a fantastic surf beach, perfect for beginners and an absolute dream in the fact that it was clean the whole beach was clean, clean and uncrowded!

It’s a far cry from what I was used to in Watergate Bay, Fistral, Llangenith in the Gower. I was such a wimp, didn’t like not being able to dry properly, catching colds and bugs, cut feet on shells, seaweed getting wrapped around my ankles, cold, with effluent suds and jellyfish strewn on the beach. Sad I know, maybe I never went at the right time, but that was my experience, so my surfing commitment didn’t last that long. On the other hand here, well it’s a different world. Clean sand, no crap around anywhere not crowded (but that’s probably the time of year) the water, blue! and the ambience relaxed…. it felt altogether ‘easy’…

We got as close as we could to the surf and decided there and then that we were going to reawaken our surf slumber. It just looked so much fun, and the guys with the paddles well that was another thing, they’d control their boards with the paddles so much so that they could turn round and paddle back out, incredible. Funnily enough we were only watching those guys in competition on the World Sports channel, or 4 Sports or something recently.  Anyway, it was the first time we’d seen it for real. Impressive!

Back at the bus we had lunch then headed back to Capbreton. We drove back via the Reptilarium and saw some amazing creatures, which included Iguanas, Lizards, Snakes of all sizes, Tortoises, Alligators, Crocodiles, Terrapins all sorts of creatures, very interesting. Dennis struck up a conversation with a Lady Iguana, she was rather fetching with her amazing technicoloured coat I must say!

Python, called Monty?

Back at the Hotel-Café we got cleaned up and went for a meal in the restaurant. What an excellent meal. In this part of France they certainly  know how to cook, the whole meal was spot on. We both had a dlicately balanced fish dish…. no pomme frites this time… absolutely not!

Not sure what we’re going to do tomorrow. The weather is definately set to change with stronger winds. Our plan was to originally continue on to Spain possibly visiting Castejon de Sos and Ager, but the weather is not looking too good so we may decide to stay here…. what to do????

Have got plenty more pics, it’s getting late so will try and upload more tomorrow…

October 27, 2010 Posted by | Holiday | Leave a comment

Dunefounded, and Donned a Cap or two.


found the place, bet it's great in season..


Woke up in the Hotel Vagues after having the best nights sleep. We had the window slightly open to listen to the very rare sound of the waves, it was so soothing, and had us drifting off to sleep in no time.


the other end of the Dune


After breakfast, and attempting to update the blog, very sporadic reception, we decided to go up to the Dune de Pyla again to find where the paragliding was.

We did find the place, all closed for the season as was partially expected, but we had a walk up to check. It really is fantastic and some beautiful soaring could be maintained for hours, if the wind was in the right direction. Unfortunately for us it wasn’t, we had a lovely walk and made the most of where we were.

Resigned to the fact that the wind wasn’t going to change and the weather was due to deteriorate we got back in the bus and headed further south towards Biarritz. We took the coastal route for the most part, and found a great little surf spot to have a mini picnic, Cap Ferret. The waves were flat, so not much action although there were the odd short lived rides. This is a very popular surf area and the beach is just fabulous, certainly beats Watergate Bay, and Fistral, although those places do have their appeal. A previous existence on my part although Dennis’s surfing experience being just that bit more exotic than mine, Surfers Paradise Down Under no less! Anyway, enough of that, at least I’ve still got my wetsuit, gathering dust in the attic!


sole surfer in Cap Ferret


We got back on the road heading further south stopping in a place called Capbreton. Gorgeous little harbour port and fishing village. Found ourselves some very reasonable accommodation where Tizzy was again happily accommodated at the Hotel-Café Bellevue.


busy marina, Capbreton


Nice position again right on a delta route that leads into the sea one way and into the marina on the other. Good atmosphere, not too much but enough going on to keep us interested. We were getting a bit desperate for a cup of tea so went in search of a kettle and found a 1.5l perfect jobbie so armed with our own tea provisions we booked in for a couple of nights.

Settled and after a couple of cups of refreshing tea, we went for an evening walk along the walkway and yielded to the temptation of the many seafood restaurants dotted along the road. Dennis had the inevitable fish ‘n’ chips, and I plumbed for mussels and chips (yes, we both had chips) they were delicious.  Tizzy was welcomed  in the restaurant and she settled down under the table for a couple of hours snooze.


alive, alive o!


Back at the hotel, the bonus is the private parking as well as a good comfortable bed, we are considering staying for maybe a day or two longer but we’ll have to do a rain/weather check. I could certainly get used to this holidaying lark!


evening in Capbreton


October 26, 2010 Posted by | Holiday | Leave a comment

Black-‘Dune’ Pleasure Beach


cloud streets flank the road


Windy this morning. The sun was shining, the sky was cold blue, so we thought it looked like a good day to get back on the road. We left just after midday and headed toward Arcachon and Dune de Pyla the drive was easy enough with main roads for most of the  way.

The sky was looking fantastic with two cloud streets freely flanking the road all going in the same direction! We arrived at Arcachon and carried on to the Dune de Pyla. I’ve never been there before and was looking forward to seeing it…. it was not what I expected. All the pictures


first view of the rear stairs of the Dune de Pyla


I’ve ever seen are of paragliders soaring, and sandwriting, but I didn’t expect the size of the thing. It was massive! A proper soaring ridge wow! and the sea!!! I haven’t seen the sea in what seems like years what a treat…  Bit of a problem though it being very windy, cold and crowded. It is a French Holiday this week so it was more busy than expected for the time of year.

We climbed up to the top had a walk around, watched the young ‘uns flinging themselves down or running completely out of control like they were chasing some strange cheese in Gloucestershire or somewhere, enjoyed the views then walked around the stands looking at the trinkets, keyrings, hats and whatnot. A plesant but busy walk, something like Blackpool on a Bank Holiday.

Next stop was the southern end of the Dune, in a place called Biscarrosse where we parked up and had a lovely walk along the beach watching some kite surferers, it was windy and flipping cold, but I did take my shoes and socks off and had a paddle, it just had to be done!  After an early evening stroll the next job was to find somewhere to stay. After a bit of searching, almost all the hotels etc. were boarded up and closed for the season… we finally found a lovely place back in Arachon, the Hotel Vagues we had a room almost perched on the beach, and they happily allowed Tizzy in our room and free wifi, which was just great..  another eventful day.

October 25, 2010 Posted by | Holiday | Leave a comment

Dainty Dish Dinner

We awoke to more rain, as it started late last night. The whole day was basically a washout. The one thing to do around here would have been a visit to the local market in, yes you’ve guessed it yet another medievil village this time in Issigeac but neither of us fancied trudging around in the wet. So we spent the day indoors. Messing about with the laptop after having picked up a virus, pesky thing. Hence the delay in posting. It took up virtually the whole day, but finally we cleared it.

A meal in the nearly local restaurant, well within 15 minutes driving distance on a bit of a windy evening ended the day. Very nice meal with lots of interesting dainty little dishes!! No king or singing blackbirds though more’s the pity, would have made the evening just that bit more entertaining!

October 24, 2010 Posted by | Holiday | Leave a comment

Neanderthal Non?


The nearest we got to the 60,000 year Old Man!


We re-loaded and made our way onto our next destination that being Monsaguel deeper into Aquataine in the Dordogne. We thought we’d  try to get to see ‘The Old Man’  but upon arrival at the museum, and ringing the bell that did say ‘The Museum is Open – Please Ring the Bell!’ No-one arrived, we kept ringing it for a reasonable time, but still no one appeared. We ended up climbing up the walls to get a peak through the windows and caught a glimpse of the 60,000 year old man, but that was the extent of it. Bit of a shame really.

It really is so flat here, maybe that’s because we are so used to the mountains it really does look flat. Having said that, the landscape in places is undulating and does resemble England, I can certainly see the attraction for the ex-pats. We popped into Rocmadour again on our exit and continued  through more medieval towns with castles built in what look like the most incredibly precarious positions, but they’ve been standng there for centuries! It was an interesting drive with the country roads going on and on, eventually we’d meet a main road then back on the bendy little roads again. Finally on our travels through  Beynac which did look lovely and bright. Crossing the Dordogne river a few times! Driving through Beaumont and many more towns and villages.

We eventually arrived at our destination that being Monsaguel, a quiet little hamlet where if you blink you’ll miss it! We’ve decided to stay for a few days before moving further West. The story goes that Claude Monet painted his Water Lilies from flowers that grew around this area… apparently rumour has it that he had these lilies sent to him, whereupon they were re-established in his own garden.

Well I have to say everywhere you turn around here this area is absolutely steeped in history, I never realised there was so much.

October 23, 2010 Posted by | Holiday | Leave a comment

The Bowels of the Earth


Looking up to the entrance to the Padirac Caves - fancy an abseil?!


We left Entraygues late morning saying our farewells to Bernice and Norman knowing full well we’d be popping back on our return in a couple of weeks or so and headed off towards our friend Chris and his partner Jany who live in the little hamlet of La Champelle-aux-Saints, in the heart of the Dordogne in the South-Western region. En route towards Aurillac we noticed the local airstrip quite clearly from the road. Can’t help it, noticing airstrips if thery’re around.


Rocmadour, Monastic Town


We found the place easily enough with the SatNav in full cooperative mood and waited for a few minutes before Chris showed up. We were given a lovely little cottage/gite all to ourselves for as long as we wanted. Our plans were only to stay for one night though.

As we arrived quite early in the day we had plenty of time to do a couple of few touristy things like visit the Gouffre de Padiracs. Chris was happy to take Tizzy for a walk whilst Dennis and me visited the bowels of the Earth, being punted through the amazing pre-historic caves by somewhat recent decendant of the Neanderthal! it is meant to be a compliment he was rather rugged with a monobrow, thick long hair and a swaggering gait!!  Unfortuantely, we couldnt take any photos so feel free to click on the above link if you’d ike to see the place. It was spectacular and incredible, there’s so much beneath the surface of the Earth it’s so alien as well as beautiful. Really worth the visit.

Our next stop was Rocmadour a fascinating Monastic town carved out of the rock face with a rough climbing route that invites those inclined to crawl on their knees in willlingness to share in the sufferings of Christ, of the 14 Stations of the Cross. Rocmadour is  a beautifully chiseled town, and has had an impressive list of historic pilgrims.


Red Turrets in Collonges La Rouge


We then had a chance to visit Turenne which has quite a colourful history. Dating from the 13th to 16th Century although it does boast a tower from the 12th Century. The story goes that Turenne was once a principality a country within itself with a vast area of rule. The ruler being the Viscount of Turenne from the family of Hugenot. Don’t quote me on this but apparenty the story goes that the Viscount was a bit of a gambler and gambled away all his wealth including his castle and ended up having to relinquish his Viscouncy to the people in payment upon which, and when the deeds were verified and all was signed away, the people dismantled the castle brick by brick and built the village of Turenne out of the stones, so all that remains of the original castle is just one small window amoungst the ruins. I think somewhere within all this there was a Napoleonic connection but not completely sure without doing a bit of research.

And finally we took in a last minute visit to Collonges la Rouge before the sun finally set. Another fairytale village which included another ‘Shell, St Jacque de Campostelle’ pilgrim route. I think there are around three different routes, but these two that we’ve seen so far take in the most incredibly beautiful places. The perfect resting places for the weary pilgrim traveller.

As the main rock here is limestone the village was built with limestone and included an iron element it is this mix that gives the brick it’s red colouring. Apparently, in the evening when the sun sets, it looks like it’s been through a nuclear attack it’s so red! That’s just what we heard from the locals!

Another historically interesting day.

October 22, 2010 Posted by | Holiday | Leave a comment