Tuesday 30th August 2011 Weather:-A beautiful 27 degrees
The object of today’s travels was to drive over ‘The Pyrenees’---235km driven in 4 ½ hours and that should tell you something about the driving conditions. We have of late watched the ‘Tour de France’ riders charge up these mountain sides and swish back down to the valleys again so we thought that it would be a picturesque trip. “It was a nice little drive” was Herman’s comment at the end of it but I must admit that we had some hairy moments;-like turning a corner and seeing cows grazing on the sides of the road but as Herman rationalized “cows are more predictable than kangaroos”. My problem as always was the Kamikaze drivers coming from the opposite direction who straddle the middle of the road. I have resolved that after today’s super effort on Herman’s part that when we drive over the French Alps (also Tour de France territory) I will not suggest any deviations from the recommended route in order to see more spectacular scenery. Herman has also had a relapse of the bronchitis that he had in Australia so we are skipping the stop in Bergerac tomorrow (219km in 4 ¾ hours) and driving straight to Peter’s place (468km in 5 ¼ hour) better roads and easier driving for him.
Leaving Zaragoza this morning we struck a lot of mist in the distance but once we turned northwards the country side around us became increasingly greener and soon the majestic mountains started to close in around us. I must have blinked because I missed the border crossing from Spain into France, Herman’s comment “we just passed into France—all the roadside barriers on the narrow roads are gone”—I had noticed that the rooftops had changed from terra cotta tiles to the black slate that is common in France and could see ski lodges and ski lifts all over the place. It must be especially beautiful when it snows but I am glad to not be there at that time. We also drove through some very pretty little villages where the main road to Pau narrowed to one way traffic. The people living there must get crazy with all these cars coming through.
We are back in an Ibis here in the centre of Pau and to get anywhere near this hotel you drive to the bollards at the end of the street, push on a button on the intercom at the side of the road, identify yourself and someone from afar lowers bollards so that their clients can enter the street, very ingenious but it was lucky that Herman spotted the problem on ‘Google Earth’ last night so in order to gain some insight he trawled through this hotels’ reviews where he read the answer.
Pau, France has been witness to a rather turbulent past due mainly to its hardy Protestant ruler Jeanne d'Albret who provoked the Wars of Religion with Catholic Spain. Later, Jeanne gave birth to King Henry IV who had to switch faiths in order to take up the throne. Today, Pau is the capital of the Bearn region and the Pyrenees-Atlantiques department. We found it a delightful place, a place that seems to be overlooked by tourists, it sports a castle, a very lively main street, a casino and lots of quaint little corners and nooks but after a light lunch and a little nosy around it was time to take Herman back to the hotel so that he can relax and hopefully shake his illness.