Mont Gaillard, February 10th 2008

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February 21st 2008
Published: February 21st 2008
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View from the walkView from the walkView from the walk

Looking across to Mont Gaillard, near Foix
Yesterday was Mal’s birthday, so we celebrated by joining our walking group in a healthy walk. It should have been walking with raquettes in the snow, and a new experience for us-, but …… no snow. So an alternative meant driving over to nearby Foix and taking it from there.

The Walking Club is a fun group. About 25 or so regularly turn up for the Sunday walks - not always the same people, but you can count on Roger the President, a likeable and jolly retired fireman: Nicolas, who likes to yodel and whoop on mountain walks in such a way that his voice echoes and reverberates round the surrounding slopes - we met him in Lavelanet market last Friday as he is one of the council road sweepers: Andrée is a retired teacher, with a daughter working in Bangalore, and Jeanine will be in the thick of the walk, keeping up our pace. The walk this week was organised by Alain, former President, who likes to stick to the rules and runs a tight ship, but has great ideas for interesting walks.

The upward slog was relentless, but always worth the effort, with views of neighbouring mountainsides,
Lazy picnicLazy picnicLazy picnic

SO steep! We were practically clinging to the hillside.....
strange craggy rock formations reminiscent of menhirs, and Foix in the distance with the snow-topped Pyrenees beyond that. There are violets and wood anemones emerging all over the place. The sky was a clear brilliant blue. It became hot enough to shed most of our layers and walk in T shirts. We paused for lunch on quite a hillside- we practically had to hang on to protruding rocks and branches to avoid plummeting down to the valley. We don’t measure up to French picnics. We’d made sandwiches - nice ones, with lots of fillings- but no one does that. Maybe a few did bring a whole baguette generously loaded with several kinds of sausage and salad, but most had hearty salads in Tupperware boxes, plates of charcuterie, thermoses of soup and coffee, and even ‘aperos’. We relished our hour’s break sunbathing before beginning a very steep descent, with even more crazy rocks precariously balanced above us. Please don’t be unimpressed that we walked only 6 ½ km. all day. We spent the first 3 or so km. climbing more than 1000 feet, and the second 3 descending.

As usual, everyone made plans as we said our ‘goodbyes’ at the end to meet in a while at a bar in Mirepoix to exchange notes on the day. We made our excuses - in truth because we’d forgotten to bring money. General horror: we HAD to come. I gathered they really meant it, so we agreed to pop home then join them.

And then…when we arrived at the bar, it was clear why. A big pile of boxes from the local patisserie meant that there were cakes all round….to celebrate Mal’s birthday! They all sang ‘’appy bursday to you’, and he had to make a speech. Impressive, non? It was such fun, and made his day, because we’d not planned anything else.

Instead, I took him out for lunch today to a restaurant we’d not yet tried, and it was as good as we’ve come to expect from French lunchtime meals. Enough calories anyway to prepare us for an exhausting afternoon on the potager wrenching out tree roots and generally disposing of unwanted greenery. By the way, though the days are gorgeously hot and sunny, the evenings, nights and early morning are frighteningly cold. When we look out of the window in the morning, we see cars with thick
Birthday cake for Mal!Birthday cake for Mal!Birthday cake for Mal!

Not the best photo of lots of people having a great time toasting Mal's birthday with all kinds of drinks, and lots of cakes from the local patissier
white fur coats of frost. Brrr!


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