Summer holidaze – The Pyrennes

I have discovered a kind of holiday that I really like, homemade ones! My trip to see Scott in Barcelona turned into a memorable road trip and a very relaxing time.

I firstly have to say that my friend Rob’s TomTom was a great, great gadget and for travel in places you don’t know I would recommend one, this trip would have been a navigators nightmare (well, knowing who my navigator was it would have been my nightmare).

Expedia provided a great flight and car deal to Barcelona airport, where Scott was staying with friends. A lovely wee Citeron C2 was waiting on me (air con was a must :o) and we headed off on what turned out to be too short an adventure.

It took me a couple of hours to get used to the car and the wrong side of everything. It was one of these automatic manual gizmoes, with steering wheel paddles to boot! It also didnt help that we initally programmed Ken (the Aussie TomTom man) to not take us on motorways. I think I have seen more than I would ever want to see of Barcelona’s industrial burbs.

Once I had got the jists of the car and the wrong side of everything, we were on the main road and heading towards Monserrat to have a wee look. It was then that I really started to relax and breathe. It was 34 degrees C consitently everyday, the air con was great in the car and the heat was great when out of it.

Monserrat was just going to a short stop to have a look at the monestry, a walk around the odd shaped hills and a bite to eat. However when we got to the cable car we noticed that there was a hotel up there, so we packed small ruck sacks for the night with the hope of a room being available… and it was.

The mountain set monestry is beautiful, the cable car ride up the hill gives you some stunning views but seeing this impressive complex clinging to the mountain side is just incredible. The hotel was right beside the monastery and once 5pm came along and all the tourists (!) left the mountain, the place became serene and yet imposing.

The time there was amazing, wandering around the mountains that were scattered with small chapels and the sunset turning the red hills a deeper and darker shade.

The beds, I have to say, were uncomfortable! I think the monks like a little bit more ‘rustic’ in their sleep than me, but waking up, opening the shutters and getting the most amazing view across the monestry and down the mountainside was incredible.

After a morning of further investigations of the monestry, a service was underway so we didn’t get in that far, we were back in the cable car and heading down the mountainside to the air conditioned car and off to Andorra. 

The spanish road were a real treat for me, I love driving and thanks to Ken on the TomTom it was so much fun. Taking the back roads to Andorra, stopping off at a couple of small towns to collect something for lunch, munching it by a river and then again to get some car snack food.

Arriving in Andorra was a little odd, we just drove through the check point and I think that was just because we were in a spanish car, other nationals were being stopped and checked.  First aspects of Andorra, and especially Andorra-la-Vella, were just crazy. It seemed to be a mix of petrol stations (cheaper than the spanish equivalent), hotels and car showrooms. I never even noticed arriving in the capital, it was just a blend from the border of rather cheap looking, kinda tacky things. I had wanted to stop in Andorra-la-Vella but quickly changed my mind and was glad once we were through it.

Andorra was our only night of camping decided to stay in a village called Canillo, it had a handy campsite which was nice a quiet. The only problem was that the stiff back that the monk’s bed had given me the night before was going to thwart my attempts at sleeping……

The scenery of Andorra was amazing, it felt being on the roof of the world

Canillo was a nice wee village, the next morning it provided us with a much needed coffee and pastry that made me human. That day was the best driving I have done in ages. Up to the top of the Pyrennes, over the mountains not through the tunnels, was stunning.

 Stopping at La Hospitalet-pres-l’Andorre, a place my mate had been before for a wee rest and some lovely hand made sarnies with local produce and the most excellent bread. We had a wander round and it is a really pretty french pyrennes village and appeared to be the start and end place for a load of mountain walks. Folks even started asking us for directions…. at least my mate was reasonably proficent with the language (spanish and french) so could save the day.

As the day was getting on it was back into the car and Ken directing us over the French Pyrennes to Carcassonne. With the Tom Tom on the 3D map setting the twisting roads were amazing and so cool, it was at that stage I wished I had my Mini with me!

Luck was really on our side when we reached Carcassonne, we got a good hotel just outside the castle and therefore had a load of time to explore around this magnificent structure. Even though it is not all “original” it was still one of the most impressive castle/citadel that I have ever been to. The castle was huge by any standard, during the dark evening we walked around the walls as the full(ish) moon was over head. It was really something to experience, to wander around the mediveal looking place as it was being used as near as it could to the designed purpose, lots of people in shops, restaurants and bars. I was so glad to see that it was not some stuff museum, it was a place that event the locals came to for concerts and the such. I was really tempted to buy a nice big cloak, but wimped out of it at the last minute, I do wish I had.

Second last day was trip to the coast and Collioure for the night. This was, again, another fantastic find for a place to stay. Due to our extended adventures around Carcassonne it was rather late that we arrived and were finding it a tad difficult to get a hotel. Our last hope was a hotel at the very end of the harbour. The place was full, however the kind woman behind the desk asked us how long we were going to be staying and on hearing “one night” her eyes were full of a plan. A cash in hand deal, no paperwork or taxes paid for a small pension bolted on to the side of the hotel. The place was great, small but great. Bedroom, kitchen/dinning area and a wee bathroom. Best of all was the balcony over looking the harbour and across to the castle. It was a bit of true blissful relaxation, being able to sit out of the sun and watch people swimming in the harbour and then making our own dinner at our own pace. Enjoying my last evening on holiday.

It was over all to soon, the coast road from France in to Spain were twisty and busy, part of me wished I had taken the toll motorway, but still the views of the mediterranean sea were beautiful. Once in Spain we did take the toll, time was getting on and I had a plane to catch. The tolls were not that bad and the roads only started to get crazy when we were on the Barcelona ring road and they suddenly stopped sign posting the airport and Ken didn’t know where he was going either. It was a pure bluff that we got there in one go. All too soon the car was returned, the bag checked in and it was time to say bubbye to Scott (he was staying on with his Catalonian mates) and get on a plane home.

A great, agenda free holiday…….

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