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diilio Jan 2nd, 2018 10:20 AM

Driving through Pyrenees for first time
 
We are planning to drive from Perpignan to Hondarribia. What stops would be advisable? We leave Perpignan on May 8 and want to get to Hondarribia on May 9. Can anyone suggest stops along the way? I have read about Lourdes, Foix, St Gaudens, St Bertrand de Comminges.... is May a good time to drive through these areas? Would appreciate any input ....

ira Jan 2nd, 2018 11:02 AM

Hi Dil,

Get off the main road and go by way of the National Parks.

We very much enjoyed our stopover at http://www.hotelbristol-pau.com/

They are very hospitable. Bring a phrasebook.

Enjoy your trip.

((I))

ira Jan 2nd, 2018 11:04 AM

PS:

Lourdes was mobbed.

St-Jean-Pied-de-Port is worth a stop.

StuDudley Jan 2nd, 2018 11:26 AM

I posted this previously

The stars (*,**,***) indicate the rating given to the site by the Michelin Green Guide - which I recommend you purchase. In some sections of the following, I did not look up the star ratings. You'll need the guide for the Atlantic Coast and Languedoc. You will also need Michelin maps # 342, 344, and 343

French Pays Basque.
Visit the La Rhune rack railway***. Plan on 2 ½ hrs – 45 mins up, & 1 hr on top. Do this on a clear sunny day, and get to the rack railway as early in the morning as possible (10:00) so the sun will not be in your face for the view of Bayonne, Biarritz, & St Jean de Luz. Don’t do this on a Sun or Mon morning when shops close.

Then take the D4 to Ainhoa* & visit. Then the D20 to Espelette* & visit. You really can't park in town, so look for parking lots at either end of town. Everything is well marked.

Deeper into the Pyrenees and on to your next location
Leave the Basque area and head east to St Jean Pied du Port* in France. St Jean is a major stop on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Campestela. You'll see lots of "shell" signs everywhere. St Jean is a tad touristy. It has one of our favorite restaurants in France - Les Pyrenees - which is also a hotel if you decide to spend the night. It's a quite an interesting village.

The following route is through "free grazing" areas - so watch out for cows & other animals on the road. They have the right-of-way - and know it!!

From St Jean Pied du Port, take the very pretty D18/D19 southeast over the Col Bagargui. Continue on the D19 then the D26. Continue on the D26 towards Tardets-Sorholus. When the D26 hits the D918 before Tardets, take the D918 east until it ends at the N134. Take the N134 south toward Lescun for a visit if there is enough time left in the day. Explore Lescun*, and take a walk if you encounter a dirt path (we found it). Then back on the N134 north and take the D294 heading east. This is a very scenic stretch of road. Perhaps visit Bielle* where the D294 hits the larger D934. Then head south on the D934 to the D918 where you head east. Now you're encountering serious Tour de France climbs. This is the famous Col d'Aubisque*** (pics in book). It's quite dramatic. We stayed on the "other" side of this Col in the village of Gaillagos for 2 weeks in '12. My wife enjoyed the "old" hotels in Eaux-Bonne at the west end of the Col.

Continue on to Argeles Gazost and stay overnight in the "Haute Pyrenees". This is your chance for the "stay in one of those lovely, picturesque little villages" . We dined at two very nice restaurants, which are also hotels in the Vercos mountain region in the Pyrenees. They are close to each other - both just south of Argeles Gazost. The first one is La Grange aux Marmottes in Viscos (population 44). www.grangeauxmarmottes.com . The second one is Les Viscos in St Savin (population 372). www.hotel-leviscos.com .

Visit the fantastic Pont d'Espagne*** don't miss . This is a remarkable site.

Donjon des Aigles birds of prey show around a crumbling castle. This was fabulous - we've seen several of these in Europe - and this was the best.

The most famous Col in the Pyrenees is the Col du Tourmalet**. Head west over the Col. After Tourmalet, head east over to the equally scenic Col d'Aspin***. At the east end of the Col d'Aspin, Arreau is a nice village to walk around & perhaps have lunch. Then take the D618 to Bagneres de Luchon. Don't stop in Bagneres de Luchon* - we found it to be a bit too touristy for our tastes. Head north on the D125/D44 to St Beat. Perhaps wander in St Beat if you have the time. Head east on the scenic D44 , then the D85 north, then the D618 to Audressein. The D618 to St Girons is ugly, so at Audressein take the D4 south to the D17 and then the D17 through the Vallee de Bethmale* to Seix, and then the D3 past Oust, and connect with the D618 again heading east toward (but short of) Massat. Prior to Massat, take the D18 northeast, and then the D72/D17 over the Sommet de Portal**, Col de Peguere, Col des Marrous - all on the famous Route Verte**. This is the route the TdF took past our gite - near St Pierre de Riviere. Continue on to Foix.

There are not any hotels that I would recommend in Foix. I think I would stay in Tarascon sur Ariege at the new Historic Hotel/Restaurant le Manoir d'Agnes (pics in book). We had a very nice meal there. www.manoiragnes.com .

Stuff to do & see around Foix
The first thing next morning, visit the Parc de la Prehistoric **. Open 10-8 Closed Monday???. The Parc Prehistoric is fantastic - we spent several hours there. don't miss. When you get to the ticket booth at the Parc, reserve an English tour (one English tour per day) for the Grotte de Niaux**. There is a discount for both the Parc Prehistoric and the Grotte.

Here are two interesting places to visit.
Underground river of Labouiche* 9:30-4:30 1 ¼ hr boat tour. This was a lot more interesting than I thought it would be.

Les Forges de Pyrene* 10-7 This has many medieval tools - quite interesting.

The fort in Foix is not worth a visit.

Take the D117 east to Quillan, Then continue on the scenic D117 to St Paul Fenouillet. At St Paul take the D7 north and the D14 east to the Cathars Castle of Peyrepertuse***. Read about the Cathars and their plight. We walked to & around the castle ruins, and found the footing to be difficult. I fell twice and I usually don't ever fall. Perhaps it is best just to view it from the road - especially after you pass it on the D14 heading for Chateau de Queribus (another Cathars castle ruin). Continue on the D117 east to the A9 Autoroute - and then into Spain.

Stu Dudley

HappyTrvlr Jan 2nd, 2018 11:34 AM

We took the route across France alongside of the Pyrenees. We stayed in Sauveterre -de-Comminges at Hostellerie des Sept Molles. Most of the guests had traveled there to dine at their incredible restaurant. Very pretty setting, nice pool.

Michael Jan 2nd, 2018 02:14 PM

Driving through the mountains is time consuming. If just driving at the base it will take 5.5 to 6.5 hours of straight driving. Use Google maps to figure out the actual time through the Pyrénées, or better yet, viamichelin.com which gives you a choice of options while planning the route. Keep in mind that the time given does not take into account various stops (pit, lunch, sightseeing).

If you driving a rental car and are not returning to France, drop off the car in Hendaye to avoid a cross-border drop-off fee.

diilio Jan 7th, 2018 08:01 PM

Thank you all for your most helpful suggestions. Special thanks to Stu
Dudley. You have been most informative and helpful!! I wrote down all your suggestions and will definitely try them on our trip !


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