Mountain Life, French Style

P7360143Our children have just enjoyed their two week winter break and as in the past few years we headed to the mountains for a week of skiing. Back to the Pyrénées and even though it is said that familiarity can sometimes breed contempt, it seems, certainly in our case, that it breeds appreciation and liking.

We were back in the same area once more, Barèges/La Mongie, but we were staying in a different village, negotiating new hairpin bends on impossibly narrow roads, never knowing what was around the next corner or whether we would be met by another breath taking view or a local driver in a 4×4 in a very great hurry with no desire to pull over for a tourist!

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Before we left home last year Roddy and Millie did a dry run with the snow chains in the safety of our own drive, making sure they were familiar with the slightly complicated routine of  how to fit them. Fast forward a year and Roddy asked me if we shouldn’t have a practice the day before we left to refresh the memory. I was in a rush and replied on the run over my shoulder that there was no need, “we’ve never had to use them before, they always clear the main roads, even when we had a foot of snow dumped on us last year, we didn’t have to use them” I said and with that, the chains were carefully stowed in the boot of the car and the conversation was forgotten.

That was until we were nearly at our destination. Our blissfully easy four hour drive came to a grinding halt when we were greeted by two gendarmes, indicating for all cars without special winter tyres to stop and fit their chains before they could go any further. By now the snow was falling quite heavily and the temperature was well below freezing. Roddy got out muttering a few swear words under his breath, I tried to smile, knowing I was not going to be popular. Millie, gallantly volunteered to help, the perfect assistant. In bitter conditions they scrabbled with frozen metal nuts and bolts, trying to make some sense of the instructions once more, it was quite impossible to turn the tiny screws whilst wearing gloves and bare wet hands turned icy cold in the blink of an eye.

The car next to us was having similar problems and for over half an hour they fumbled with the frozen links, struggling to get them correctly into place, clapping their hands every few seconds trying desperately to keep the circulation going. Eventually Millie solved the problem becoming the heroine of the hour and gingerly we backed out into the road and with some trepidation continued winding our way up the mountain feeling the crunch of the chains as they gripped the snow underneath us.

IMG_6975But whilst speeding down a mountain was the main object of our holiday it wasn’t the be all and end all. There is always just so much more to experience and enjoy. No two places are ever the same. Yes, the buildings are all of a similar style, with their trademark slate roofs and walls of local stone, but each and every neighbourhood has its own unique features. We were staying in the tiny village of Viscos and we wasted no time in exploring the steep alleyways in the evenings. There is a small hotel with an excellent restaurant

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and incredible views but what struck us the most was how the locals quite obviously take great pride in their homes.

That doesn’t mean everything was new or perfect, but everywhere had the air of being loved and cared for.P7360649

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IMG_6942The ancient communal laundry was well preservedP7360130

and many old doors had a splash of new paint.P7360137

What I love the most though is the use of stone without cement or mortar, each and every one having been very carefully selected and placed by hand as if piecing together a giant jigsaw puzzle.

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We skied the same slopes as in previous years but with the addition of a few steeper, more daring runs to keep us on our toes. We ate lunch in the same restaurants, the menu reassuringly French, although for the first time I noted that there was a special vegetarian plate on offer. Lunch is always served between 12 and 2.30pm and just about everyone comes to a standstill, the queues are enormous, this is where our Englishness comes to the fore and we stubbornly ignore our pangs of hunger. By skiing through the lunch hour we have pistes virtually to ourselves and the most perfect two hours imaginable. Then we stop at just gone 2, whereby we can find a table easily, and we don’t have to wait!

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Don’t be fooled by those blue skies, after two days of blizzard conditions the sun came out to play but the cold still seeped through even the toughest of clothing. We covered up every inch of skin at all times and whilst we got super sportyIMG_7021

some people found a more sedate way to enjoy the mountains!IMG_7126

A couple of times a week Barèges hosts an evening market.

IMG_7041IMG_7035IMG_7029IMG_7032IMG_7023There is the wonderful familiarity of stalls bursting with local produce, but there is also the thrill of something different. As in just about any French market we came across happy, smiling vendors, one senses they are always so proud of what they have on offer. The market concept might be the same throughout the country but there are certainly regional differences. Some of the cheeses were quite uncommon to us and the variety of saucissons had us drooling. Four for 10 euros, and before the money had even left our wallet we were already mentally savouring a slice around around the fire accompanied by a robust red wine.

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We bought homemade organic macarons for dessert, the children having eaten several samples choosing the flavours they liked the best!

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Our home for the week was the beautifully restored house below, restored by the French owner, Céline, it enveloped us in a wonderful mixture of modern and vintage luxury. Each night as darkness fell we braved the cold for a few seconds to jump into the  fabulous hot tub, soothing aching muscles and looking up at the stars in the dark inky sky above. Then we gathered around the fire, telling stories of the day, embellishing the truth a little, recounting what we perceived as brilliant skiing and laughing until the tears fell as we remembered a hilariously embarrassing fall.

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We couldn’t leave without finding the time to take a look inside the charming little church, the église Saint-Pierre. What is perhaps a little unusual is that it has two bells rather than one and they strike every hour during daylight.

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The exterior is not grand but the tiny interior is full of wonderful statues and oil paintings. There is only room for a very small congregation, but as always on our travels, we found the doors were unlocked and we were instantly seduced by a feeling of great peace and calm as we stepped inside.

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A simple plaque remembers those who died during the First World War. Reading the few names from this tiny village, we instantly noticed that four were from the same family and I felt tears well up in my eyes, so so sad. I glanced across at my own children and whilst we enjoy the present and look forward to the future I know we must never let them forget.

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And what a beautiful place to be laid to rest if you come from the village and the mountains.

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I have never seen this type of headstone before, there were several, all very similar, wrought iron crosses, presumably locally forged and also tombstones of the heavy local slate.IMG_7117IMG_7123

Now we are back home, the children are back at school and we have snow, the first time in eight years, but that’s another story. We may have stayed in France, but a change is as good as a rest, we love the familiarity of the French way of life, we feel very comfortable with it, it’s like a second skin, we know how things work. But at the same time it is great fun to explore a different place, same routine but different surroundings, it certainly works for us!

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If you would like a wonderful Pyrénées experience and are looking for somewhere to stay you can find details of the house we rented through Airbnb here. This week I am also adding a new section to the website www.ourfrenchlifestyle.com with links to a few very select hotels, Chambres d’hôtes  and houses to rent throughout France which we would highly recommend from personal experience, and this house in Viscos will certainly be one of them. It is just an idea to help you with any future travel plans, because I would always far rather stay somewhere that a friend has raved about. Where we rest our head for the night really does make or break a holiday.

114 thoughts on “Mountain Life, French Style

  • Oh how I loved every word and every photo, you took me there to those wonderful majestic snowy mountains. Thank you

    • Thanks so much Varsha, it is always such fun to share a totally different area and no matter how many times we visit the Pyrenees we are always intrigued and captivated by them. Xx

  • Just look at those markets, are they really the same throughout France, they certainly seem to be. They make me green with envy every time I see them.

    • They are not the same but they certainly have similarities. We have found that everywhere the stall holders are always so friendly and so proud of what they sell. There is never any rush, time is taken to appreciate things, to taste and sample and to choose just what is right for each person. That never seems to change, it is the produce that changes which is a good thing, it means it is fresh and local. Another reason why we love our French markets and frequent them wherever we go! Xx

  • Just found the house on Airbnb, I shall be looking at this next year when we finally make it to France, and also to other places you recommend. It is a very good idea and one many of us will find very useful. It can often be very hard to find the right place to stay, it is often the most expensive part of any vacation and when we get it wrong it is really horrible.

    • I totally agree with you Jane, I would happily sleep in a tent if I knew I had a comfortable mattress and a good pillow and a great location, it is indeed the little things that make all the difference and nothing beats personal recommendation, which is why I really want to add a few places that we think are really worth visiting and offer great value for money xx

  • Why is it your snow looks so much better than our snow. Here in the UK we are knee deep in the stuff, it was fabulous for a day and now it is just a tremendous bore making life so hard. Sigh, I think I will make myself a chocolat chaud and pretend I am in the Pyrenees instead!

    • I think it is because the Pyrennes and other mountainous areas are all geared up for the snow and so for the most part everything runs like clockwork. Snow ploughs clear and salt the roads, they do a fabulous job and there is very little disruption because it is the norm. Poor Britain just gets far too little snow to have these sorts of resources and so it all falls apart, as we all know too well! Best to sit back and enjoy as you say, hope the Chocolat Chaud was nice and now hope you are enjoying a nice glass of red! Xx

  • Those photos….. oh oh oh, those photos! As a Swiss I had tears in my eyes – all the more as I’ve had two very long phone calls with Switzerland this morning, over one hour each – and it’s snowing, snowing, snowing in my home country! Mind you it has snowed again here too and it’s freezing cold, so give me some mountains and a few frozen lakes and I’d feel right at home 🙂
    This is a winter post par excellence. It has all the ingredients one wishes to see – breathtakingly beautiful landscapes, beautiful houses, great restos, burning fires, even market stalls with local produce in the snow, comfy beds, sunshine and all the snow one can handle (or not, as the snow chain assembly line taught you)…. I had to leave my hearth to say all that – now I go back to my cooking: heavy thick soup, and tuna salad as well as a mixed – hold on to your chairs – iceberg/tomato salad…. I bought it’s hard to believe and even harder to see how that’s possible ‘organic tomatos with a taste’ – coming from Spain …. I couldn’t NOT buy them. Add to that a good wine (we’ve opened a Chianti, si, siamo molto internationale!) and crusty bread and the world is a good place.

    • Thank you Kiki! It was snowing here yesterday, our whole village became a white winter wonderland, it even lasted overnight, and then today everything changed, it was 14 degrees, it felt warm, it was too strange for words, snow still lingered beside the road and the temperature was in double figures! Those tomatoes with flavour, wow I am impressed, because normally they are quite tasteless as you know, so I hope you savoured them. Beautiful glass of red tonight with crispy skinned jacket potatoes, another of our favourites of English origins! You must be getting ready to leave on your travels, so so so exciting and counting the days. Xxx

      • It snowed yesterday here and with a very strong and biting wind, this morning we had snow right up to the outside of our window frames – had to carefully wipe the snow towards the outside for airing….. Sadly, all the tête—à-tête mini-daffs as well as all the other potted spring plants in heavy clay planters were so frozen, they hung dead over the rim of the jardinières. Yesterday, in a moment of inspiration, I cut off about 30 of them and put them bunched together in a small tight glass vase – stunning! But what a waste of all the others…. I also chopped off another camellia bloom from our plant in the veranda, covered in white and black goo because it’s far too damp, cold and not very healthy for an outdoor shrub, but hey, who am I to complain – for weeks now I’m enjoying hundreds of heavily filled red blooms and when ‘this’ is over, I shall give the poor camellia a one-off ‘poison treatment’ – the only one I’ll ever allow and only because it needs it. Other than that, I am strictly an organic gardener. (Promise!!!)
        The meal got subtly changed (as it so often does! – artistic creativity – AND emptying the fridge!) Therefore, the tomato salad became a tom/tuna/rocket/2 different parsleys/echalottes salad, tiny toasted bread slices (leftovers from an organic salmon feast), and they were also going well with the winter warmer soup, out of the freshly defrosted freezer. Aaaah, we tasted an ‘imported Malbec from Argentina, bought in CH’ – terrific taste, earthy, full bodied – it was a cheap, warming, homely and welcome meal. We’re also heavily into Italian wines, as we can have (and mostly have) French wines every single day….. Aren’t we spoilt?!
        Looking forward to our ‘get to know each other’ soon!

        • We were so warm yesterday and today is the same, but very windy, we have obviously caught the edge of storm Emma which is causing the blizzards in the west country (UK), Devon being the worst place right now! Our daffodils were all lying flat and I was mourning the fact that we had lost them all and I was about to go out and cut them and bring several bunches inside, then yesterday, the sun came out the temperatures climbed to double figures and I looked across at them in the chicken garden in the afternoon and was utterly shocked, they were all standing proud and upright once more. Gigi was with me, we were so so happy! Your meal sounds right up my street, and I too am happy with wines from around the world, because yes aren’t we lucky, life is so good. Off to cut back some trees leaning heavily against walls, dare I mention the word wall, but your scenario has scared me. xxx

          • I know, I’m still scared daily about this scenario too. And of course right now we can’t even do anything about that wall …. There will be much to be talked about! And glad to read that your daffs stood up to the bad weather – you obviously were under a ‘warmer cold spell’ than us. One of the two sturdy bird feeding houses lies dismantled and wildly strewn about….. But hey ho, that’s nature!

          • It think it was the fact that we warmed up so quickly, one minute it was -7 and the next 15, this weekend has been 14 both days, so everywhere is looking positively spring like, but my poor lemon trees have suffered and I am sure they will lose all of their leaves, which means no lemons this year as they will spend the summer recuperating and getting new leaves no doubt. Oh well such is life. xx

  • Lovely post Susan..I laughed about the snow chains because we are snowed in here…for 2 days we haven’t been able to get the car out and have walked to the coffee shop with nearly every bit of skin covered…my cowl up over my nose because of the wind chill! I totally agree with not queuing…we don’t do it either. I also love your macarons..M&S do them in a box but they are never as good as the real French ones…looking forward to sampling them again.

    • Your weather has been amazing, either good or bad depending on how much you like snow! We see the stories on the news each evening and also Izzi has said she has so much snow in London and we chat with live video all the time. The wind chill makes it absolutely bitter I agree. Last night the village was a total white out, it looked so pretty, it even lasted until this morning when the chickens had no idea what to make of it! Then by mid afternoon we were at 14 degrees and a warm southerly wind. This has been such a strange winter. Xx

  • Susan, I can’t really comment on one specific bit of the post I liked because I’d be talking about the entire post! I love the mountains and I love winter, although I’m ready for spring now, so all the photos made my heart happy. I do know what you mean about going to the same place. I’ve gone to the same place in Wyoming every year since I was in college (with only a few years missed) and it’s just like going home in the very best way. The market looks fabulous (as does everything else.) I like the idea of a recommendation page for places to stay. That’s a big help for people visiting these areas.

    Off to run some errands, but sending you much love, and thanks for the lovely post.

    janet

    • Thanks so much Janet, you have hit the nail on the head, it really is like going home in the very best way. It is wonderful to discover new things but also to see what has changed, to visit the same shops, the same places, to see the same stall holders at the market, there is something terribly comforting in doing this. Each year we all ask should we go to the same place or try somewhere new and each year we all say, we’ll go back to Bareges! The market was lovely, made all the more perfect by the wonderful backdrop of snow, but gosh it was so so cold, we didn’t linger long! Much love from a finally fairly warm Charente Maritime, like you we are ready for spring now! Xx

        • I know, and here am I complaining, they stand there for hours on end with big smiles on their faces, always jolly and chatting and joking. It takes a special kind of person to do that each day, I take my hat off to them. xx

  • I’m sure I was born in the wrong place – sure I should have been born in this lovely area where people know how to live simply and value what is really important.

    • Then you know just what it is like. I don’t think I have ever seen him quite so close to tears from pain, after nearly 40 minutes his hands were raw and frozen. The worst thing was we then had to take them off again and then put them on again etc., each day and so it continued, at least after the first time it was relatively quick and painless! Xx

    • Enfin, somebody who’s commiserating with poor Roddy AND of course the heroine of the day….. I remember vividly our various chain-mounting-unmounting efforts many times when going for skiing hols in Switzerland. No longer, no more – I now only do après-ski! 🙂

      • I still shiver when I think of it now and no doubt he will recount the story all over again. Despite spending every winter as a child and teenager in Switzerland in the mountains he never had to fit snow chains. His hands are still suffering now a week later with huge cracks caused by the cold. It really was not fun! xx

  • Wonderful photos! Love the texture of the stone and the wood and the age of the structures.

    Having been raised in northwest Florida snow was a very rare treat – at most it would lightly dust the ground and maybe last part of a second day. Those in more northern climes wouldn’t have given it a second thought. For us, as children, it was magical.

    My wife and I have raised our family in Atlanta. Just the mention of snow means all of the grocery shelves are cleared within half an afternoon and schools put parents on alert that they may (probably will) be closed – sometimes for several days. We actually get more ice than snow – even more dangerous in this hilly area. Twice this year we have had several days of real honest to goodness snow. That’s very unusual. We live on a hill (‘Killer Hill’ as it is known in the neighborhood) – it is great fun to watch from our front porch as the neighbor children slide on anything with a smooth bottom down the hill. Hearing them squeal and shout and laugh brings a smile. In summer the braver daredevils whiz down it on skateboards. Too dangerous for my taste.

    We have a get-away near Asheville, NC. We try to spend the week between Christmas and New Year there – Biltmore is particularly beautiful when dressed for the holiday, even better covered in snow. This year we arrived on a clear afternoon but by evening the snow was falling in thick soft clumps. It soon covered everything. It snowed for several days straight – to the point that those of us with ‘thin blood’ stayed inside, bundled up and bored. My wife wanted to participate in a Christmas showhouse in Birmingham, Alabama on the Saturday before New Year. Rather than drive back through Atlanta we took the top route through the mountains – Knoxville down to Chattanooga and on into the ‘ham. It snowed the entire six hour journey – and it was one of the most magical experiences we have had. Neither of us had ever experienced snow in that way. We stopped several times along the way just to take it all in……exquisite…..and listen…………to the stillness. There is something special about sound in snow – a lush quiet.

    Thanks for sharing your lovely adventure!

    • Snow really does depict the sound of silence, I agree, I love it, it falls without a sound and changes everything so utterly. Yesterday our village was blanketed in a thick carpet of snow, the first time since 2010, of course we were out there walking as quickly as we could. Your drive to Birmingham sounds absolutely magical, we would have stopped to enjoy it too. Here we so rarely get snow, rather like your NW Florida childhood, and to this day snow is still utterly magical to me. The tiny amount we had yesterday brought the village to a standstill whereas in the mountains it would not have even raised an eyebrow! Xx

  • OMG those photos are just fabulous, the way you have captured the light and the moodiness of the mountains is magnificent, once senses one is there.

  • So happy to get Our French Oasis in my inbox this morning. How I have missed your posts these past two weeks. I felt as if an old friend had gone away and now you are back, and I am sure I speak for a great many of us when I say you were missed and now we are all happy again 😀😀

    • Thanks so very much Shari, I really missed you all too, but sometimes there just isn’t enough time and a little break always does us good. But now I am back with a vengeance and loving it again already! Xx

  • wow what a beautiful vacation…though we don’t ski, would love to go here…you write so beautifully and your pix are exquisite…many thanks, as always, for sharing such joy and beauty! ❤

    • It really is a lovely place to visit and don’t worry if you don’t ski. If you get the opportunity there are so many other things to do in the mountains, we also love to hike with snow shoes as well, there really is something for everyone. Xx

    • Thank you so much, but you know it’s easy when the scenery is so stunning, I just have to point and press! Wish you were here with us, wouldn’t that have been fantastic! Xxx

  • I loved hearing about yet another part of France, so similar it seems in customs and yet a world away from your normal posts, fascinating stuff thank you.

    • So much is indeed much the same, the lunchtime routines, the markets, the lifestyle, but then so much is so so different, it makes for a very relaxing easy holiday that is comforting because it is so familiar and also enriching because it is so different! Xx

  • Beautiful setting for a market, I would have bought far too much cheese, hams and saucissons and certainly washed it down with more than one glass of red in that lovely house. Great post.

    • It was tempting! I think the bitterly cold weather really did stop us from buying more than was absolutely necessary, there was no lingering or hanging around, it was around -12C and with the wind even colder. All fine until one had to take off ones gloves to mess around with money! Xx

    • I can’t remember the last time I visited a market in Spain, several years ago I think but I am surprised as I would have thought they would be incredible and with warmer weather with so much more choice all year round. It just goes to show that each country does things differently, hopefully one day you will stumble across the perfect market there! We have markets, but you have tapas, one of my all time favourites!! xx

    • I am guessing you had a vast amount of snow in January as well, they say it is the best for over 30 years. I forget where were you again, I know you told me? We often go to Irati, close to the Spanish border on the Atlantic side in the summer, it is the most wonderful place to hike and spend a day, they are as magical in July as they are in the winter in my opinion. xx

  • The photos are gorgeous. We were close to that area the last week of October last year. It is an incredibly stunning area. I would have difficult time choosing which is my favourite part of France.
    Your weather has been somewhat unusual this year – an understatement – ours has been similar. Today it’s 10°. Tomorrow who knows. We are finally starting to plan this years adventure. Our life has been somewhat chaotic the last few months.
    Spring is coming, so everything feels better….

    Ali Xx

    • There are so many stunning areas to choose from, it really is difficult, I have several favourites. Our weather is more than bizarre, snow here, the first time since 2010, is almost unknown and then yesterday 14 degrees and really warm. Last night a howling gale once more but at least we are due to get to double figures again today and spring is officially according to the meteorological calendar here! Although I have a feeling we are not out of the woods yet, I think mother nature has another surprise up her sleeve before we are done with this winter.!! xx

  • I have been like a greedy child looking at tis post – the photos of an indecently beautiful area being so perfect and the story alongside so much fun: well, it is if one is sitting comfortably in an armchair at about 23C 🙂 ! No ‘Beast from the East’ or ‘Siberian Bear’ for us . . . just perfect autumn weather of a little Camelot rain and temps in their 20s! OH! The painting from your shop finally arrived: please keep on wrapping your sales as well as you do, as my parcel came thru’ unscathed from what looked like a rather turbulent trip!! Now to find the closest framer as my usual one has shut up shop . . . not so easy when you practically live in a National Park . . . .

    • Finally you have some cooler weather, mid 20’s sounds absolutely delightful. We were actually here in the mid teens yesterday, it was delightful and so so nice to actually feel warm! Still very windy and I have a feeling mother nature probably has another surprise for us before she is done with winter! At least we are warmer than in the UK, they have so much snow, the country has virtually ground to a halt! So happy the painting arrived safe and sound, Roddy is the one who gets the credit for the packing! xx

  • Oh how I enjoy your posts. Those markets look amazing and I could nearly taste the cheese in my mouth. Such an amazing week you all had. I was giggling as I could picture the cold/snow and trying to get those chains on.

    • The markets are fabulous, no matter how many years I live here I never ever get bored of them, they still enchant me as if it was the first time I had ever visited. Plus one can taste and sample and ask for advice, it is a great way to really get to know what one is eating. The snow chain episode will be discussed and remembered for a very long time! Next year I shall be saying we must refresh our memories and try them at home!! have a lovely weekend. xx

    • Thanks so much, it is such fun being able to share these trips with everyone, there are always so many funny stories to tell and there is always so much to photograph, it was hard narrowing it down to as many as I did, I had hundreds of fabulous photos, wish I could have included them all!! xx

  • Great photos, Susan, and a wonderful tour through the mountains. Between you and Roddy last week you have almost persuaded us to pay them a visit. But we’ll do the summer, though – the story of the snow chains makes me nervous, and winter sports are no longer an option, so a long walk sounds a better bet…..

    • You must pay a visit if you like mountains! We love them just as much in the summer as in the winter, both are equally magical in their own different ways. Snow chains are easy once you get the hang of them, it was my fault for saying we didn’t need to practice!!! xx

    • Thanks so much, the mountains are stunning and so is the village life in the foothills, there is so much history and the people are always so friendly, we thoroughly enjoy our annual trip there. Have a lovely weekend xx

  • Bonjour Susan ! Extraordinaire post avec des photos si belles que l’ on dirait une publicité pour le tourisme dans les Pyrénées ! Que de neige cette année, on se croirait au Canada. J’ imagine le plaisir de skier ou de se promener dans ce paradis blanc. J’ avoue ne pas connaître les Pyrénées comme je suis près des Alpes ( j’ habite à Lyon ) et votre post est parfait pour découvrir cette région si rude mais si belle. A noter que le vendredi 27 juillet 2018 l’ étape du Tour de France passera par le col du Tourmalet et bien sûr par La Mongie /Barèges ; un grand moment à vivre devant la télévision ou mieux encore au bord de la route.// Hello Susan! Extraordinary post with such beautiful pictures that it look likes a Tourism advertising for Pyrénées mountains! So much snow this year! It’s just like in Canada. We can well imagine the pleasure to ski,or to walk in this white wonderland.I admit not to know Pyrénées mountains as I am near the Alps ( City of Lyon ) and your post is perfect to discover this part of France so rough but so beautiful as well..Note that friday july 27th , 2018, a stage of Tour de France will take place by the col du Tourmalet and so by the village of Barèges/La Mongie ( location of the hardest slope = 15%! ); a great sport event to be lived on TV or even better along the road! Have a good week-end with the Giboulées in forecast.

    • Thanks Philippe, we are lucky as both Roddy and I know the Alps from our youth and now we are discovering the Pyrenees. We did know that the Tour de France is coming to Barèges! One of the new runs this year is named the Tour de France and we skied it, because it is a road in the summer and will be the actual route (or part of it) that is taken during the race. It was so exciting to think that we skied a run to be used in the Tour de France. I meant to add that into the blog but there was so much to remember I had completely forgotten about it until you mentioned it!! Thanks for reminding me. Hope you are not snowed in and if you are enjoy it. Our snow lasted for all of 24 hours but it was lovely and very rare here whilst it was on the ground. Now we have mild sunshine which is even better! Have a lovely weekend xx

  • This is the our common of the time of this weeks our class.

    On Thu, Mar 1, 2018 at 8:31 AM, Our French Oasis wrote:

    > ourfrenchoasis posted: “Our children have just enjoyed their two week > winter break and as in the past few years we headed to the mountains for a > week of skiing. Back to the Pyrénées and even though it is said that > familiarity can sometimes breed contempt, it seems, certainly in ” >

  • Such a lovely post, so pleased you had such a wonderful time. The photos are gorgeous, the air looks so clear & fresh. I’ve been in bed for a week with flu, but need to try & get to the shops today as I’m running out of food! For the first time in many years I woke this week with ice on the inside of my bedroom windows, it really is bitterly cold with an evil east wind. Spring feels a long way off! xxx

    • I am so sorry you have had the flu Janet, I really hope you are feeling better this weekend. Roddy’s brother is near Sterling and he said how incredibly cold it is. We have seen the news nightly with all the stories of the snow, we even had some here for 24 hours and temps of -7C which for us is quite unheard of. Then the next day it was 14C. Hopefully spring is just around the corner for you and please take things slowly, the flu can take a while to shake off. Big hugs from France xx

  • I always love following along on your adventures. Your photos are stunning and I enjoyed hearing the details of the trip. I like your idea of skiing through the normal lunchtime so you have the place to yourselves. We spend many winter weekends skiing in Vermont and we are always aware of the more crowded times. Recently, my kids were off from school the Friday before President’s Day weekend but most schools only seemed to have off on that Monday. We drove up to Vermont Thursday night and basically had the mountain to ourselves all day Friday. It was wonderful! The rest of the weekend was crowded though! Thanks for linking up to this month’s Take Me Away party! It’s always a pleasure to have you join!
    Shelley

    • Hi Shelley, it is absolute heaven when the mountains are almost empty isn’t it. I can imagine your Friday was perfect. We are stuck to school holidays like you, but with some forethought it is possible to avoid the queues at the lifts, like skiing through lunch and also if we arrive at one lift and there is a long queue we will choose another nearby (if there are two) even if it means we alter where we wanted to go, but there are always different runs to ski and it makes for a great adventure! Much better than wasting a lot of time queuing! xx

  • I have always felt a very close tie with the mountains , I find their enormous presence somehow so soothing. But what I want to know are the Pyrenees a good place for hikers? My husband and I no longer ski but we do love to walk.

    • I totally agree, I love the mountains and the beach, the sea does the same for me. But to answer your question, yes the Pyrenees are fabulous for walking in both summer and winter. Kit yourself out with some snow shoes and you can go more or less anywhere in the snowy season. In the summer of course they are just glorious. There are a vast amount of excellent hiking trails all very well marked and the local tourist office will give you a map that you can follow. We actually rented some snow shoes on our last day and set off on a four hour hike, the children said it was one of the most magical days ever. We took a picnic, got suggestions from the tourist office and hiked and stopped and took photos and laughed and the best part Roddy was able to join us. Let me know if you have any further questions, we have walked a fair bit both summer and winter in the Pyrenees.xx

  • Thank you so much Susan, I wonder is there an area in Paris ocular that you would choose? The Pyrenees are so vast.

    • Hi Peggy, I am not entirely sure I understand your message, I am happy to give you as much info as I can on the Pyrenees, some parts of them I know quite well, but I am far from an expert on Paris, I spent a couple of months living there in between jobs many moons ago but apart from that I rarely visit. xx

      • Oh silly me, my eyesight is not so good when I use the phone keyboard and auto correct seems to have taken it upon itself to totally change what I had written. I never even mentioned Paris! I wonder where is got that from. Alas I wanted to know if there was any one area of the Pyrenees better for hiking than another?

        • Auto correct really can be a law unto itself! I guess it found the P and R and then did some guesswork, couldn’t have been two more opposite places!! As far as hiking is concerned. If you want winter and snow then where we were in the Barèges area is lovely, I am sure there are many other fabulous areas too but I just don’t know them. I would also recommend an area around La Pierre St Martin which is further west and closer to Biarritz in the Pyrenees Atlantique. It is stunning and it is possible to park at the resort and then walk over to Spain, which is always a fun thing to do. If you want summer hiking let me know. xx

          • I would prefer the summer, it is kinder to the old bones, but my husband loves the idea of snow shoes and even a little Nordic skiing.

          • Perhaps you should do both! I would certainly choose Bareges in the winter and I am told it is stunning in the summer too. I also love Iraty, not so high, and so not a winter resort, it is a small area, again in the Pyrenees Atlantique and we have spent many wonderful summers hiking on day trips there.

          • Ahhh now that’s the sort of thing I would do, and then if I didn’t like the outcome, I would say “let’s make it the best of three” and so it goes on!!!

  • What a fabulous time you must have all had, Susan! As you know, Amy and i ‘do’ the Pyrenees in summer quite regularly, but we’ve never been in winter. Neither of us ski, which does not help, but we might have to learn now!

    • You really should learn, especially if you know them in the summer months, they are so different and yet equally fabulous in the winter and if you don’t fancy skiing, why not try snow shoeing, it is so much fun and you really can get up high and go a long way, the downhill part is then fabulous all the way home!! xx

    • I totally agree with you, it is vital that we never forget and that our children don’t either. That is why I stop and read them with the children, so that we can talk about what I learnt about those times at school. xx

  • I love sharing your vacation. All the photos are beautiful. I love how the people in the region use what is available locally to build their homes. The markets look fabulous but living in Florida all I could think was how cold it was but I’m sure they are used to it. Definitely don’t need refrigeration for the meats and cheeses they are selling. Everything looks so cozy there. You are creating wonderful memories for your children that they will never forget. They are very fortunate to experience all this. As always I very much enjoy reading your blog. Thanks for sharing a taste of life in France.

    Sue in Florida.

    • Thanks Sue, yes it is bitterly cold for the stall holders at the market, we are there for just a very short while and cannot wait to get back into a heated car, they stand there for hours on end and yet they are always cheerful, always smiling. It takes a certain person to be able to do that I think. Now we are dreaming of spring as I am sure they are too! xx

  • What beautiful pictures…the mountains, the snow, and that stonework! We recently had our first experience with snow chains while visiting Yosemite National Park. Thankfully, we didn’t need to use them. It would have been quite a learning curve for these Texans!

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