Favorite stops on the French Pyrenees ?

Apr 6th, 2015, 07:35 PM
  #1  
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Favorite stops on the French Pyrenees ?

Hi all, We ( family of 6) are traveling from the Costa Brava to San Sebastián . With one overnight stop booked at the Parador in Hondarribia . We have decided it would be fun to make our way on the French side for a little change of pace. ( also my 13&17 year old niece / nephew like the idea of hitting as many countries as possible.)
What stops are favorites? We love history, scenery , good food, good wine, quaint towns, a good castle here and there...... I have only allocated 2 nights to make the journey. I am aware this could easily absorb many more days but alas we can't do it all
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Kim
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Apr 6th, 2015, 10:35 PM
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Places to see: Col du Tourmalet, Gavarnie.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca...717915043/show

Lourdes has a medieval castle which is a museum of regional life.
Michael is online now  
Apr 7th, 2015, 04:53 AM
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On my last trip to the Pyrénées, I discovered the gorges of Kakuetta, which also attracted quite a few Spanish tourists. Even though you have to drive "the long way around" to get to the entrance of the gorges, at the end of the hike you are only about 2 kilometers from the Spanish border (but then you have to walk all the way back to where you started of course).

http://tinyurl.com/kakuetta
kerouac is online now  
Apr 7th, 2015, 05:31 AM
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With your group, I would suggest Ax-les-Thermes, so everybody can have a hike and soak their feet in the Bassin des Ladres. After that, it is an easy ride up to Andorra, so you can tick off another country.

http://www.campingmalazeou.com/uk/ar...x-les-thermes/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ax-les-Thermes

I would strongly recommend against Lourdes as something even worse than a tourist trap, an exploitation of ill people's suffering and fears.
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Apr 7th, 2015, 06:38 AM
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You didn't mention anything about caves with pre-historic paintings. There are dozens of them in the Pyrenees. Also caves with underground rivers you can take a boat ride on.

We've spent 9 weeks vacationing in the Pyrenees. I'm kinda tied up now - I'll try to find time to post my ideas of stuff to do when I have more free time.

Stu Dudley
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Apr 7th, 2015, 06:48 AM
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I liked Pau, although the view was in the clouds when I was there. Also liked St. Jean Pied du Port - you'll see all the pilgrims setting off on the Camino.
thursdaysd is offline  
Apr 7th, 2015, 08:09 AM
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On the Basque side, there is a nice train ride to the top of a mountain right by the Spanish border – the tourists come up by train on the French side, the staff at the restaurant on top comes up on the Spanish side.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca...7627163616289/ and the next pictures.
Michael is online now  
Apr 7th, 2015, 08:29 AM
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I would strongly recommend against Lourdes as something even worse than a tourist trap, an exploitation of ill people's suffering and fears.

To get to the Tourmalet or Gavarnie one would probably pass by Lourdes. The chateau is worth a stop, no need to visit the religious site.
Michael is online now  
Apr 7th, 2015, 08:51 AM
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We've visited the Pyrenees on three different trips. Here is my wife's Shutterfly photo book from our trip in 2012. Click "view photo book" and then "full screen".
http://share.shutterfly.com/share/re...=1EYt2Llw1ZMok

Drive through the Pyrenees

The stars (*,**,***) indicate the rating given to the site by the Michelin Green Guide - which I recommend you purchase. You'll need the guide for the Atlantic Coast and Lauguedoc.

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.

Then take the D4 to Ainhoa* & visit. Then the D20 to Espelette* & visit. You really can't park in Espelette, 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 (pics in book).

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 . There are pictures in the book of both.

Visit the fantastic Pont d'Espagne*** don't miss (see pics in book). 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 through & 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 (see pics). 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
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Apr 7th, 2015, 12:14 PM
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The Northern Basque Country or Iparralde (Labourd, Basse-Navarre & Soule), extends from the Atlantic coast east to the Parque Natural Valles Occidentales, which is in northern Aragon and the Bearn Pyrenees. The area includes 158 villages, most of which are fairly small but are set is some of the most picturesque countryside in the Pyrenees.

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, the starting off place for many people on the Camino, is in the Basse-Navarre (Pays Basque) and was part of the original Kingdom of Navarra.
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Apr 7th, 2015, 12:47 PM
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Most of us seem to have been recommending places near the Atlantic coast while the OP is vacationing on the Mediterranean coast. It might be best to recommend some visits of Perpignan, Narbonne, etc. with a little side trip to Andorra.
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Apr 7th, 2015, 01:08 PM
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He is also vacationing in San Sebastian - Atlantic. However, I goofed on the itinerary I did. I have him/her going from San Sebastian to Perpignan - when he is actually traveling in the opposite direction.

Also, I've never thought of Perpignan and Narbonne as being IN the Pyrenees - although the department is Pyrenees-Orientales.

Stu Dudley
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Apr 7th, 2015, 01:16 PM
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One rarely spends all of one's mountain time at high altitudes unless it is a ski holiday.
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Apr 7th, 2015, 02:20 PM
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We left the Basque area of Spain and traveled via the French side of the Pyrenees east to the Mediterranean, Collioure, Costa Brava and down to Barcelona. We spent two nights, one each in Olaron-Ste-Marie and the other in Sauveterre-de-Comminges.We booked at the last minute but were pleased with our choices.
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Apr 7th, 2015, 03:06 PM
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Following the D-117 from the Pyrénées-Orientales, starting in Perpignan, will consume a bit of time, but you can stop at the Château de Puilaurens as well as the Château de Foix (which can be interesting). All this before finishing the day near Tarbes, in the Hautes-Pyrénées.

There are not that many roads that would take you through the Pyrénées, but you can take a look at following the D-618 from Tarascon-sur-Ariège to Biert and Saint-Girons (Ville de Saint-Girons), but that makes for a long day unless you spend the night in Saint-Girons. It is a beautiful area and there is a decent hotel for you to consider, Hotel Eychenne (www.hoteleychenne.com/index.php/en/)
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Apr 7th, 2015, 04:47 PM
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Wow is all I can say! Thank you all so much. @StuDudley I followed your route on my map. ( I need to order the corresponding ones from Michelin as mine is just France sud.) looks like there will be much to see and do. I reversed your path as we are coming from the other way. I took your recommendation and booked the Le Manoir d' Agnes for our first night out. Looks like about a 5 hour drive from where we will be. We can stop by the castles at Peyrepertuse and Queribus. We can do some of the things around the area the next day before heading out to our next stop....still working on that. I already had green guides for Pyrenees Roussillon, and Basque Rehion I am missing the one in the middle. Amazon here I come.
Thank you all again,
Kim
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Apr 7th, 2015, 06:44 PM
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Book one of the other two I recommended also. We had a gite in Sare (close to Hondarribia - dine at Alhambra there - see the restaurant in the photo book), and we checked out of our gite in Sare at 10am and into our gite near Argeles-Gazost at 4 pm - so that drive isn't too long. You may have to skip the railway - but you can go there from your Parador.

Stu Dudley
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