Saturday 30 July 2022

Apartment in Cauterets

We rented the same apartment in Cauterets that we had last year, and it strangely felt like returning to a second home. We knew where stuff was, we knew how it worked, and we knew which boulangerie was best for breakfast.

Jean-Louis and Celine are great hosts, and no-one knows the mountains quite like Jean-Louis - he even has a French Wikipedia page. He says that being in the mountains is about walking and experiencing the wild - not just climbing, and Susan reckons he was quite impressed by the walks we did. We didn't go canyoning, mountain climbing, or on overnight hiking trips with him - we're flatland people, and we do most of our exercise at low altitude. Plus we are embarrasingly unfit compared to our host.

Although the apartment is right in the centre of town, and surrounded by restaurants (our apartment is the balcony immediately above the green umbrella), it's surprisingly quiet at night. All the windows are double glazed and have roll down shutters, and most of the action in the streets is over before midnight.

There's no parking (the bottom photo is our car, but being packed early in the morning for departure) but there is plenty of free long term parking within 5 minutes walk.

It sounds slightly un-ambitious, but we're already thinking of returning next year.

Friday 29 July 2022

Home Again

We arrived home at about 17:30 yesterday, having driven 1560km, walked further than we have ever walked on holiday before, and taken 1725 photos. We have also had 5 picnics, and eaten in 5 different restaurants and two mountain refuges. All in ten days away.

Preuilly was looking good - but slightly dry - when we arrived home.

Thursday 28 July 2022

Mind Officially Blown

Yesterday we saw this

we saw this

 and we saw this

Font de Gaume Cave Painting
CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

Wednesday 27 July 2022


We left Cauterets yesterday, and drove to Les Eyzies along the N21. We had bought some stuff in the Carrefour at Cauterets and had a vey nice picnic here.

If we did spectacular every day you would get the wrong idea...

Tuesday 26 July 2022

Gavarnie: Mist Again

Last year when we were in the Pyrenees we went to Gavarnie, thought it was too crowded, and moved on.

This year we decided to try again, but once again it was crowded. The town's population was 114 in 2019, yet it has three car-parks the size of Mars, all of which were "complet" when we arrived.  An out of season (whenever that is) visit may be in order.

Instead, we went up Col des Tentes, as we did last year. The cloud was rising up the valley so it was less condusive for walking and we settled on a little stroll and some light gawking. We only saw one vulture, and the marmots were less in evidence.

It was still a win, though.

Monday 25 July 2022

A Drive in the Mountains

Yesterday was a warm day - even at 1800 metres it was in the mid-thirties. It;s just as well that we drove rather than walked. And what a drive!

Tour de France followers will be excited by the names: Col de Pourtalet, Col de Soulor (in all three directions) and Col de Aubisque. Lots of hills and switchbacks, and amazing views the whole time.

The route to Pourtalet:

and the route back:

and a couple of views:

Top of the Col de Soulor (also the first photo taken with my new phone)

Col de Pourtalet looking into Spain

The town of Gourette, from the restaurant "les Cretes Blanches", half way up the Col de Aubisque

 An excellent - if hot - day, with plenty to catch the eye

Sunday 24 July 2022

An easy day - up a big mountain

Yesterday we were going to do a light reprise of a walk we did last year - that is, doing the first 350 metres of a long walk we did last year, but turning right instead of left and walking another 500 metres before returning to the start.

Instead, we had lunch half way up a mountain after riding the cable car, then caught the chairlift to the start of the walk before deciding it was all too much effort and returning by the same means.

When we left the apartment Cauterests was misty and damp and dull, but half way up in the cable car we emerged through the cloud into bright sunshine. In this photo you can see where Cauterets is, even if you can't see it.

By the time we arrived back four hours later the cloud was gone and Cauterets was warm and sunny. This photo shows the cloud breaking up. The restaurant we ate at is the buiding seemingly on the edge of the precipice, and in the middle of the horizon the Pic de Midi.

Saturday 23 July 2022

Walking to Estom

So tired.....

It took us three hours up, and about the same back. Mind you - the views were OK.

It was sunny on the way up, but during lunch we could see clouds coming up the valley. The last 3 km we descended into thick cloud, visibilty about 25 metres. The path wasn't as rough as Wednesday, but it was still challenging

I have no doubt that at some stage Susan will write about it.

Friday 22 July 2022

Lunch at the Cataracts

After Wednesday's excitement, yesterday we took it easy, with a 2.8km walk to lunch (and a 2.8km walk back, of course. It was hotter than Wednesday.

We had the 18€ menu at the Abri du Benques, and very nice it was, too. We both had Garbure (fridge soup) followed by trout in hollandaise sauce and ending with a myrtilles (blueberry) melba. The view is fine, and service is excellent - it's a very classy restaurant.

The setting is impressive, as you reach the restaurant by a bridge over a raging torrent. There is a terrace from where you can see two cataracts, and a very cooling breeze.

Thursday 21 July 2022

Just a Little Walk

Last year we lunched at Lac de Gaube, and I remember thinking at the time that it's a pity we couldn't walk up to the foot of the glacier.

When we were at home planning this trip I discovered that you could, in fact, walk to a refuge near the base of the glacier, and what's more it's only two and a half hours up. And two hours back. Plus, it's an easy walk.


The view from the refuge is spectacular,


the view as you walk up to the refuge (hidden to the right of the waterfall) is spectacular,

and the path is... that jumble of rocks in the foreground.

We started at about 11am, we were up at the refuge by 3pm (where we scored lunch), and we were back at the start by 9pm, having missed the last chairlift down the last bit of hill by only two hours and having to walk an extra 4km. In all we covered about 18km, much of it rock hopping. On the way up we gained 425 metres in altitude, and on the way down we dropped 692 metres.

There will be a more comprehensive report at some stage, no doubt, but I'm off to bed. (This was written last night, on the grounds that I may not ever be able to stand up again.)

Wednesday 20 July 2022

Driving to Cauterets

Well! We're on holiday and the drive down was trouble free, despite my worries of excessive heat, smoke, fires, and traffic.

The smoke was noticeable when we left home, and by the time we were south of Poitiers we could smell it as well as see it. Around Bordeaux it was quite thick and everything had a red tinge and a vague look. Luckily (!) the smoke was stopping the sun heating the air, and the temperature was mid 20s Celcius most of the day.

The view from our lunch spot on the quai at Langon, on the Garonne

We arrived in Cauterets an hour earlier than we had allowed for, as our lunch stop was perfunctory rather than luxurious - it was warm, sweaty and smokey.

Tuesday 19 July 2022


For those of our readers not in Europe at the moment, I can report it's been warm of late, and today is anticipated to be even warmer. (This screenshot is from La Meteo Agricole - Meteo France is overloaded at the moment). Updated forecast is here.

There is an alert out for Canicule for all of France.

Today we drive to Cauterets. This entails passing by Bordeaux, which means our trip passes through seven of the red alert areas, and may be interrupted by wildfires. I have a Plan B (and C). This map (screenshot from 1am today) shows where the fires are, and an updated version can be found here.

We are hoping that the additional altitude means that Cauterets will be less burny.

Monday 18 July 2022

Our Trip to Lyon -- an overview

We spent 10-13 July in Lyon with Simon's brother and sister in law and had a great time. It was everybody's first time in the city.

Visiting Lyon, Rhone, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Me, Rosy, Jon, Simon, on the foot bridge over the Saone. Photo courtesy of Rosy.

Lyon is France's second (or third, depending on how you measure it) city, situated in the south-east of the country on the confluence of the Saone and the Rhone Rivers. It is divided into several distinct districts -- Vieux Lyon (the old town), the Presqu'ile (the peninsula between the two rivers), the Croix Rousse (where many silk weavers lived), and La Part-Dieu (the new town).  

Looking up the Saone from the Basilica roof, Lyon, Rhone, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Looking up the Saone. Photo courtesy of Rosy, taken from the Basilica roof.

Traboules: These are alleyways which link the three streets in Vieux-Lyon. They are to maximise the use of space in an area that is constricted by cliffs on one side and the river on the other, allowing residences to be built over and around them and include small internal courtyards. They are quite hidden unless you know about them as they have entry doors which in most cases look like private entrances. I recommend hiring a guide to show you the best ones, as they are often architecturally rather brilliant (14C to 17C). Once you are inside you need to be very quiet as sound reverberates in them, and people live and work in the buildings they serve. There are also traboules in La Croix-rousse.

16C traboule designed by Philibert Delorme, Lyon, Rhone, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
16th century traboule designed by Philibert Delorme, who also designed the gallery over the river at Chenonceau for Catherine de Medici.
Food: Lyon has a reputation for being the great foodie capital of France. It has a remarkable number of Michelin starred restaurants, none of which we tried, although I did chat briefly with one of the chefs. It also has restaurants known as 'bouchons', which were traditionally run by formidible women. There are plenty of good restaurants doing French classic dishes and quite a few places that the locals consider to be tourist traps, especially in Vieux-Lyon. Most of the best bouchons are on the Presqu'ile, not in Vieux-Lyon. The chef Paul Bocuse is (even now he's dead...) a big presence and influence in the city. Probably the most famous dish is quenelles (fish dumplings).

Rue de boeuf, Vieux-Lyon, Rhone, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Rue de boeuf in Vieux-Lyon is full of restaurants.

To be honest, based on what I had read, I expected Lyonnaise food to be stodgy. I was delighted to be proved wrong on that one, although it is generous and hearty. However, despite having a number of excellent meals, I didn't really get what it was about Lyonnaise cuisine that gives it a reputation as a cut above other regional French cuisine. We live in the Touraine, and the food is excellent here too, but somehow the Tourist Office hasn't managed to get the message out internationally in the way Lyon has.

Quenelle, Lyon, Rhone, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

The big difference that was very noticeable was that Lyonnaise restaurant staff are lively and happy to engage, in whatever language you can muster, with diners. Eating in a restaurant in Lyon is a joyous experience, quite loud and boisterous, with lots of smiling and healthy enjoyment of lots of food and drink. 

Aperitif, Lyon, Rhone, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Aperitif on the Fourviere. Photo courtesy of Rosy.

Where We Ate:
The Phamily, 7 rue du boeuf, Vieux-Lyon. Vietnamese. Dinner.

Les Adrets, 30 rue du boeuf, Vieux-Lyon. French. Lunch. Recommended by our guide.

Les Adrets restaurant, Lyon, Rhone, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Les Adrets restaurant.

Café des Fédérations, 9 rue Major Martin, Presqu'ile. Bouchon. Dinner. Recommended by our guide as one of the authentic bouchons that was not a tourist trap. Nevertheless, by far the majority of diners were American. The restaurant occupies three premises (two adjoining and one across the street). First time diners, including us, struggle to work out how to get in, so don't hesitate to stand in the street and wave madly to attract the barman's attention. He will come and let you in.

La Salle a manger, 52 cour Charlemagne, Fourvievre (next to the Basilica). This is a restaurant run by a famous institution called the Apprentis d'Auteuil, which takes disadvantaged young people and trains them for various trades and professions.

Brasserie l'Espace Carnot, 4 place Carnot.

Note that many restaurants are closed on Mondays.

What We Ate:
Phamily - mixed starters of dumplings and spring rolls; pho, Saigon salad, chicken with satay sauce, coconut milk and chopped vegetables, sauteed beef, boiled rice.  

Les Adrets - Duo of mackerel; confit de canard (slow cooked duck) with polenta; a sort of deconstructed strawberry shortcake.

Café des Fédérations - oeufs meurette (poached egg in red wine, mushroom and shallot sauce); salad Lyonnaise, lentil salad, saucisson aux pistache brioché (pork sausages studded with pistachios and wrapped in brioche); quenelles (pike fish dumplings) with langoustine bisque sauce, civet de joue de porc (slow cooked pork cheeks in red wine sauce), tablier de sapeur (crumbed pork escalope with macaroni cheese); demi Saint Marcelin truffé (half a Saint Marcelin cheese with a layer of truffles and garlic), cervelle des canuts (cottage cheese with garlic); Crème glacée aux raisins, coulis de fruits rouge au marc de Bourgogne (house made vanilla ice cream with red fruit sauce and sultanas soaked in a local spirit).

Saucisson aux pistache brioché (pistachio studded pork sausage in brioche), Lyon, Rhone, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Saucisson aux pistache brioché (pistachio studded pork sausage in brioche).

La Salle a manger - cold carrot soup, lentils with a poached egg, rabbit terrine; pork sausages studded with pistachios; peach tart.

Espace Carnot - rougail (sausages in a spicy tomato sauce) with lentils and rice; pistachio sabayon with a shortbread biscuit.

All our restaurant experiences were good and we noticed that lentils and pistachios featured in nearly every meal.

Silk: We visited Brochier Soieries, 16 rue de boeuf, Vieux-Lyon for a history of the silk industry and the family run Brochier company in particular. They now concentrate on silk screen printing scarves for museum shops. I got to paint some silk and we were shown silk worms in various stages of growth. This was a real highlight.

Brochier Soieries, Lyon, Rhone, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Inside Brochier Soieries shop in Vieux-Lyon.

Churches: We visited the cathedral, in Vieux-Lyon, which has wonderfully detailed medieval carvings on the front, and a splendid 14th century clock (!!) inside, as well as stained glass from most centuries from the 12th to the 20th.

15C Lovers on the front of Lyon Cathedral, Rhone, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The 15th century lovers on the front of the Cathedral.

We also visited the Basilica, on the Fourviere hill, which, much to our surprise, turned out to be a tremendous highlight. The exterior and interior is a megafest of 19C high Catholic taste, but by chance we were invited onto a tour of the roof, which was great fun and very informative. Needless to say, there are the best views in Lyon from the roof of the basilica. The tour is only in French, but there were several non-French speakers doing it and they seemed to enjoy it.

Guide: We used New Generation Guide who at under 300 euros for a private group of 4 for 3 hours of exploring Vieux-Lyon, including the silk workshop, cathedral and many traboules, was very good value. The guide was extremely knowledgeable and very well networked so we got to see things we would not otherwise have done.

Guided tour in Vieux-Lyon, Rhone, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Our guide Alex, on the right, engaging in that time honoured guiding technique, herding cats.

Also recommended to us was but we did not actually use them.

Museums: We visited the Musée de Beaux Arts and were impressed by the Egyptian collections, some of the medieval artefacts, and the 17th century paintings.

What we did not have time for but would have liked to do: The Museum of the Resistance and Deportation, the Institut Lumiere and the Botanical Gardens The Textile Museum, which has long been on my list, is closed for renovations. Note that many museums are closed on Mondays and/or Tuesdays.

Where we stayed: A 2 bedroom apartment in rue Johannes Drevet on the Presqu'ile. It was spacious, clean, well equipped except for a few minor niggles and perfectly located for getting to all the places we wanted to see.

What I did not like about Lyon: The noise! There was a lot of street noise, day and night.

How we got there: We caught the Intercity train from Saint Pierre des Corps to Lyon Perrache, a trip of about five and a half hours, and returned the same way. In Lyon we mostly walked, but on one day bought a 24 hour multi-trip public transport pass and used the funicular railway to get up to Fourviere and back.

Friday 15 July 2022

Off the Tracks

No pictures of the Fete Nationale celebrations this year, we didn't go because we arrived back from Lyon at about 10:30pm and were hot and tired. The celebrartions were curtailed this year, having no fireworks because of a request from the Prefecture to try stop wildfires.

So instead an artuflly edited photo of the obsolete dockside railway tracks in Lyon.

Thursday 14 July 2022

The Basilica at night

We arrived home from Lyon at about 22:30 last night. We're too hot and tired to write a blog, so here's a photo of the Basilica of Notre Dame, Lyon, at night.

Wednesday 13 July 2022

Fom Here to There

...and from there to here. The Lyon edition.

This is the view of Basilique Notre Dame from in front of our apartment. The basilica is the white building atop the hill

This is the view from the top of the basilica to our apartment (just behind the trees near the bridge, behind the tall steeple).

Yesterday we did a tour of the basilica which involved climbing as far as you can go - in this case the top of the right hand tower. The above photo was taken from about the position I have circled in red.

It was about 300 steps up (and down) but well worth the effort and the 14€ ticket.

Tuesday 12 July 2022

Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Lyon

The Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Lyon is a late medieval church built on a very early medieval site. If you stand in the right place at the right time you can get photos like this.

It's hot in Lyon at the moment, and due to get hotter. Everyone in Lyon is wearing shorts and looking pink, us more than most. A full report will follow in due time, but needless to say we have walked miles and eaten too much.

Monday 11 July 2022

On The Tracks

Susan and I are in Lyon for a couple of days, spending time with my brother who is over from Australia. He is the first family member we have seen since the pestilance hit.

We left tours at 07:33 and caught the InterCitie train to Lyon Perrache, arriving at about 13:30. The train was modern and air-conditioned and very smooth, if not the fastest. The tickets were inexpensive and the whole thing was less stressful than driving. It's territory we haven't really seen before, so it was a pleasant meander through central France

This is the Loire River at Nevers, taken through the train window.

Friday 8 July 2022

Little Adventures with "The Vicar"

The nickname for my new bike is "The Vicar" - as in "more tea, Vicar?" - to celebrate it's upright and conservative form.

Yesterday the Vicar and I went to the pool via Chaumussay. Here are some pics:

Thursday 7 July 2022

Earlier this week: Montdomaine

On Monday we visited the winery of Montdomaine at Nazelle-Negron, owned and run by our friends Louisa and Fred. It's a great visit, the wines are excellent, and Louisa is a knowledgable and charming host.

The view on the drive in is OK, as well.