Nine to five class days and weekend trips hiking in the Pyrenees and wandering the streets of Barcelona don’t leave much time for blogging or updating, so I’m sorry the newest updates are so late! Also distracting me this week was news that my study tour of wineries for the next three weeks was changed from Spain and Portugal to Italy, Romania, and Greece… woah. So instead of posting pictures and detailed descriptions of breathtaking mountains, I’ve been googling Romanian wines.
In any case, two weekends ago now I was in the Pyrenees mountains. The Pyrenees are a range of mountains in the south of France, on the border with Spain. The Pyrenees are stunning. Stretching for somewhere around 300 miles, the range contains so many back door, hilly towns and interesting people; I could probably spend all seven months hiking there. The entire group from school went and we spent Sunday hiking to the Cirque de Gavarnie. This is a huge bowl in the side of the one of the mountains. Formed by glaciers, the cirque is at a high enough elevation to maintain snow all year and has amazing views of the surrounding valleys.
The hike was easy and flat until right at the end when you had a steep ascent to the bottom of the falls; ten minutes of taking one step forward and three backward finally got us up the rocky slope. If I had a week in the Pyrenees it would definitely be a great place to backpack and get in some serious climbing.
Sunday night we stayed at one of the Alpine Club’s (similar to the Adirondack 46ers Club) hostels in the mountains and enjoyed a three course, home cooked dinner. After, a few of us went for a short hike to the top of a nearby hill that overlooks the town of Gavernie. On the top of the hill you get a beautiful look at the town below and the peaks above. There is also a statue of Mary holding baby Jesus, keeping watch on the sleepy farms in the surrounding mountains. The sight from the top of that hill has been one of my favorites so far on this trip. So much so that I woke up at 5:30 the next morning and hiked back up to get pictures as the sun rose and cut colors across the valley.
Unfortunately, we did have to leave the Pyrenees and head back to reality. Before we got back to school, however, we stopped at a small dairy farm in the foothills. The farm is run by a man, Pierre (who speaks not a lick of English), and his wife who are regionally famous for the incredibly smooth and creamy yogurt made from their cows. Farms in France are much smaller than in the US and production is always done on a much smaller scale. Pierre has about 40 cows and 20 heifers; along with yogurt, he produces cheese and raw milk commercially. It was the first farm visit I’ve had in France so far and it was amazing to see how efficient and yet very natural the agriculture is here.
After my weekend of back door experiences in the Pyrenees, we had a week of intensive classes and a few more farm visits, including a trip to the Roquefort cheese caves. Roquefort is a famous blue cheese in France that has been produced for a few hundred years. Also, last weekend, we went to Barcelona and had free time to spend in the city. It was a relaxing three days and I am in love with Barcelona’s carefree attitude. More on those trips soon!