Friday, August 1, 2008

A Trip Through the Pyrenees

We came across from Spain via the Col d'Portalet. We passed into France not too far from a ski station and it seemed to me, during the winter you could ski back and forth from country to country. The old border crossing station sat unused by either country. Not too long ago, there would have certainly been Spanish border police there checking on persons entering Spain. If you enlarge the map and look at the lower right corner you can see our route across the Col d'Portlalet and then the Col d'Aubisque. Our overnight stop was at an amazing little town called Eaux-Bonnes or Good Waters. It was a spa tucked into a hanging valley and thermal waters fed a complex of indoor pools and outdoor fountains. You can see the village from above in the first photo. (It's approximate location on the map is next to Laruns, which is just Northeast of the "S" in PYRENEES.) The large building dominating the photo is a casino but we didn't bother to investigate it on this trip. At one time it must have been a bustling village, but now seems to have a large number of unused hotels and other buildings. One thing is for sure, winter in Eaux-Bonnes would be spent without any direct sunlight except for and hour in the late afternoon.
The next day we climbed out of Eaux-Bonnes and over the Col d'Aubisque and down into Lourdes. The road was narrow, winding, steep and rather crowded for a Wednesday morning. Probably, there were as many bicycles as cars (only in France).
From Wikipeda: The Pyrenees are a mountain range that form a natural border between France and Spain. They separate the Iberian Peninsula from the rest of continental Europe, and extend for about 430 km (267 mi) from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean Sea.
For the most part, the main crest forms a massive frontier, with the country Andorra sandwiched in between. Catalonia and the Basque country are the only two territories extending on both sides of the mountain range, with a northern and a southern part on each side.

By contrast, the Rocky Mountains, just in Colorado are nearly 300 miles in length and of a much greater width than the Pyrenees. The Rockies, of course stretch thousands of miles from Mexico to Alaska. The Rockies are much wilder with populations of bears, wolves, elk, deer and other large mammals. The Rockies have large parks and wilderness areas where roads don't exist. They Pyrenees have roads carved out almost everywhere you look and struggle to support a small bear population. Grazing takes place virtually everywhere, even on the highest passes. On the other hand, they support a delightful human culture thousands of years old. And they are incredibly beautiful, cloaked with deciduous trees instead of the conifers we're used to in the US, and steeper too. Glaciation is evident everywhere you look. They rise to heights of 11,000 feet beginning from sea level, unlike the Rockies which have a base of 4,000 or 5,000 feet.

Photos by North of Andorra staff photographer, Nancy Procter.


Anonymous said...

Beautful pix!

Anonymous said...

I can see the appeal of your corner of France, especially for the two of you. Doug, when you were in seventh grade, we were talking about what we wanted to do with out lives. You told me you told me you wanted to live in a cabin in the mountains and send your cartoon in to the New Yorker once a month. In so many ways you have accomplished your dream. Congratulations. Leslie

Anonymous said...

I agree, Leslie. Doug (and Nancy) have developed quite a following of fans waiting for the next post. And what about that staff photographer?! Beautiful pictures. The light is so clear and bright like it is in the Rockies....Peggy

Anonymous said...

Dear Staff Photographer,
What kind of camera are you using for your photography? Do you have a new digital? Bigger than our little ones? Thank you in advance for your help, A Fan on Vashon Island.

North of Andorra said...

Dear Fan on Vashon Island,
The Staff Photographer uses a Panasonic DMC-LZ3 5.0 megapizels
6X Optical Zoom (for whatever all that means) camera. I just point and shoot. But it's got some cool settings that I'm just finding out about, and if I don't use them regularly, I forget. Thanks for the the interst.

Anonymous said...

The pictures are absolutely lovely, Madame Photographer!

Luke always knew you would turn out well! HA!