Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Heading into the Hills - the Ariege

We took the smooth and very fast TGV from Paris to Toulouse. Toulouse would simply be a place to pick up a car and head further south to Foix, in the foothills of the Pyrennes. We booked a gite outside Foix, further up some windy narrow roads in the Ariege to a village called La Mouline, Serres Sur Arget in nice wet, green and mossy hilly farm country dotted with those charming old stone buildings. Hens running around. A boulangerie within walking distance. Two rooms and a basic kitchen. A comfy bed. Very pleasant proprietors. Piles of wood to burn in the fire place. Not much else though. SJD likes to tend fires and walk briskly uphills. This location was just perfect. La Scierie Gite

Although Foix is in the foothills, it is still a decent drive to the snow capped peaks higher in the Pyrenees. We decided to explore the Foix farmers' market, picking up a few dried sausages, cheese, and local organic wine. Foix, like many of the towns in France, boasts a castle. This one is quite spectacular in that it is still mostly intact. It was regarded as being inpenetrable at the time. In fact, it was closed for the lunch hour when tried to visit, but at this point we were already kinda overloaded with castles and entry fees.

If we all had to draw a castle, I bet it would look something like Foix castle.

Next day we headed up to La Plateau de Beille to do some XC skiing. We had been snow-and mountain deprived for almost 12 months, and were looking forward to cold, crisp mountain air. Snow was a bit thin in some places, but the higher we went, the better the snow and the views across the valleys. SJD, as usual, packed snacks to keep me moving along the way.

SJD in her element.

Why do the words "...and the agony of defeat" come to mind. Why don't these skis turn left?

Me looking somewhat more competent. Probably best to stick to bikes though.

Despite not fully grasping how to actually steer or stop XC skies, it was fun. The tired muscles at the end of the day stewed up nicely over night into fully aching and mostly useless limbs by the next morning. Hmmm...oh well.

(TDF note - Plateau de Beille will once again be a 2007 mountain-top stage finish. Oh my. Yes, these climbs seem longer and steeper in person than on OLN. Will have to check our DVD stash to see who won the stage in past years.)

On the way home we stopped at a full size supermarket to stock the refrigerator for the week. I had almost forgotten what a fresh vegetable department looked like. An aisle dedicated pig parts. Another for cheese. Forgive me...

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