Andorra and the Midi-Pyranees

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June 28th 2012
Published: June 28th 2012
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24th – 27th June 2012

Sunday 24th June went exactly as planned! Took the road up over the pass (there was the option of a tunnel and peage) – stopped at the top for photos and then down the horseshoe bends to Pas de la Casa, a shoppers haven! There were loads of bargains in the drink and cigarette department, a few perfumeries, lots of soap powder and toiletries, but not so many electrical shops. Tried a couple and they didn’t have the model camera I wanted and the prices seemed to be similar to UK anyway. Had one last try and they had a Canon Powershot SX220HS for 179.00 Euros. As they are £200.00 in UK and still £180.00 on Amazon it seemed to be a good bargain! Wasn’t until later I realised that the instruction booklet was all in Spanish and the charger is also Spanish!!

Chris bought a Samsung Galaxy S 2 for 360.00 euros which he says was a good price – but hasn’t managed to get the back of it yet!! That also has a Spanish Charger!

Anyway, back down more horseshoe bends for about 25km until we reached Ax-les-Therms. A charming little French village, very pretty with old medieval streets and a wonderful hot pool in its centre, where everyone sits around and bathes their feet in the sulphur and sodium waters.

Camped at Camping Le Malazeou (18.50 ) on the edge of the town that also had pet rabbits running around! (36 miles)

The next day we wanted to visit Foix, another medieval town with a castle, that was a flourishing fiefdom in the 11th C, owned by the rich noblemen of France since the 10th C. Stopped on the way to have a walk down to the river and to look at Pont de Diable. It was obviously an old fortified medieval bridge and still quite impressive with its stone arches. Onto Foix where we parked in the centre and then walked up to the castle and up one of the towers! Beautiful views all around with the mountains of Andorra still in the distance. Had a peer in the 9thC Abbey and then drove on towards Carcassonne with a planned stop at the Bastide town of Mirepoix for shopping.

The majority of bastide towns have a grid layout ]of intersecting streets, with wide thoroughfares that divide the town plan into blocks, through which a narrow lane often runs, and a central market square surrounded by arcades. Mirepoix actually has the longest arcade in France! I find it quite incredible and amazing that all these planned towns were done in the 11th – 13th C – way before their time!

Decided to have a look at the centre and wow!! It was a whole square of timber medieval buildings with wooden arches underneath, with shops and cafes and a huge Cathedral in the centre, as well as an 1855 metal market place! Spent quite a long time just admiring the houses and architecture and decided to camp at the campsite (13.40 euros) just out of the town.

Had a very pleasant walk in the evening, along the stream at the back of the campsite back into town, to have another wander ( I do so like this place!!) and a drink in one of the cafes before back to the campsite. (50 miles)

Awoke to another hot day and meandered slowly along the picturesque D119, with its sunflowers (unfortunately still only in bud!) vineyards and wheat and barley fields. A slightly twisty road but with avenues of plane trees and views of the Pyranees on one side and Montagne Noire on the other.

Didn’t stop at Carcassonne as we had been there before, but still managed to get lost and end up driving past the walled La Cite.

Picked up the road to Castres but dived off on a minor road to Villardonnel as we wanted to visit the four castles at Lastours – in the Aude district. A pretty twisty road, up and down, through Salsigne until we got to the pretty village of Lastours where we parked and climbed up the helter skelter pathway around a craggy rock to the castles.Not quite sure why there are four castles, but they were all built in the the 11thC by the lords of the Cabaret family but then destroyed by the Crusade in 1227. They were then re-built on the crest of the hills. Evidence has been found of the original location of one of the castles and archaeologists have found evidence of a whole Medeival village on the north face of the hill.

We decided to take another minor road to Mazamet which wound its way over a hill and down through small villages for 25kms – it didn’t help that even when we eventually reached the main road, we were detoured back off via Labrespy and Hautpoul.

Had a quick wander around Mazamet, located the Tourist Information and decided to either stay in their Aire or the campsite. For some unknown reason, the campsite was shut and the Aire was just a large carpark, so we drove on and found Camping Vallee du Thore at St Amans-Soult (10.90 euros) (89 miles)

Another hot and sunny day and carried on along the road, diving off on the road to Angles and Lacaune over the Monts de Laucaune. Meandered along the twisty wooded road, for about 50km until we reached Lacaune where we had a wander around and found an Historic Monument dated 1559 – Fountaine des Pisseurs, which turned out to be exactly what it sounded like!! Chris wanted........... no – not going there!! There was also an old Chateau there but it was too hot to walk to it!

From Lacaune we took the road up to Belmont sur Rance and the countryside really opened out into beautiful rolling hills, covered in farmland and green woods and the verges full of wild flowers. Found a good place for lunch and then afterwards went to St-Affrique. Did the town walk to view the old cobbled stoned bridge and the church and the old narrow streets before driving on to St-Rome-de Tarn where we camped right on the edge of the River Tarn in Camping de la Cascade. (23.40 Euros) Wifi expensive at 2 euros for 1hr! And even then I couldn’t get it to work!!

Walked up into the village of St Rome to watch Spain v Portugal football match which turned out to be quite a dirty match in places with the best football played in the extra time! It went to penalties and Spain won.......the guy in the bar where we were was Portuguese so I wondered if that was why he charged us 19.50 Euros for 4 small beers, 3 x glasses water and 1 small glass house red wine! Grrrr! (74 miles)

Tomorrow we will start exploring Millau and the Gorges of Tarn.........

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