Everywhere there are signs of the warmer weather to come, with blossom on some trees, buds appearing, daffodils and the striking yellow mimosa. However, for just a few more days it is still winter, but nonetheless there is a beauty in it, a certain clarity, the kind of thinking that lets me notice small details like how the trees that are still bare, have the promise of spring within them. It’s quite different to the gentle sunshine of the coming months, yet it is a part of life that I want to enjoy just the same. All of this I notice from the car as we speed south to the mountains.
Having driven for hours the twisting road finally takes us away from the foothills and into the Pyrenees themselves.
Round and round we go, spiralling up into a completely different world.
Close your eyes for a second and pretend you are breathing in great big lungfuls of pure fresh mountain air; your nose is freezing cold but at the same time the sun has enough power to warm you through. It’s hot and cold at the same time, like sweet and sour, the opposites go hand in hand, inside warm gloves designed for the snow.
High in the mountains the snow is a permanent resident for months on end, but slightly lower down it comes and goes. One day we’re basking in incredibly hot sun, and the ground is clear and dry….
….and the next we’re plunged into a world of white, as giant flakes fall silently to the ground, transforming everything they touch. The snow brings with it a purity that elevates the spirit and cleanses the soul, it whistles in my mind with a keen coolness.
The Pyrenees, like many mountainous regions, are an area of extreme contrasts; the landscape is harsh but when the snow comes down and wraps everything in a soft fluffy blanket it changes again.
The buildings are designed to withstand the tough brutalities of winter, they are neither fancy nor pretentious
but the insides are cosy and warm offering a perfect respite from freezing conditions. With a crackling fire the winter weather seems less severe and more like a pristine wonderland when peered at through frosted windows. In the warmer summer weather the buildings’ metre-thick stone walls keep everyone cool, as well.
Trees are thin and bare, twisting up from the cold ground. Snow gathers on their branches, wrapping some in a thick white scarf, while on others it hangs in small clumps like baubles. Bushes become lumps of frosted icing.
The snow quietens the usual sounds that go hand in hand with everyday life. A certain peace falls over the villages, a silence punctuated by the avalanche cannon as the mountain community ensures little is left to chance.
On the slopes the most common sound is the swoosh of skis against the powder with occasionally a more grating noise as an edge cuts through an icy patch. Restaurants are only accessible to those with skis or snowboards, and they’re bustling hives of activity; at one is my old time favourite Citroën 2CV van, boldly advertising its presence (although how it got up there remains another mystery we have yet to solve; most likely it was towed by one of the enormous piste bashers for even in the summer there are no roads up here).
In the valley, the rushing flow of water over rocks and boulders breaks the silence, some are gentle mountain streams
others are urgent torrents, flowing fast down the mountain.
Whether you are waiting for the imminent arrival of spring or autumn, I hope you are having – or have had – a lovely weekend xx