Saint-Lary-Soulan : France : July 2018
Driving into France we are greeted with goats…yes tons of goats just ambling on the road. Everyone has to brake and wait for them to walk across the road. Welcome to France!
It’s a quiet but windy road down the other side of the tunnel and we make our way slowly not really sure where are going. The temperature has dropped which worries me but the landscape is awesome. Beautiful high Pyrenees mountains and beautiful gorges and very very green.
We stopped at a roadside cafe. Very hippy very French. Love the music they play in France. Always retro. They love the 80 and 90’s. While we had a drink we made some plans. We decided on a town called Sant-Lary Soulan… and the campsite was in the hamlet of Vignec. We drove in and parked up. Not a very pretty camp but good views and neat and well laid out. Started with some lunch and then a siesta. Oh damn, we woke up at 7.30PM! What on earth is wrong with us. We decided a quick stroll into Vignec for a quick explore. It’s a charming village with a river running through it, the water comes off the mountain and runs quite fast in the stone culvert through the village next to the church and winds its way to join the bigger river. So you hear running water everywhere. The houses are lovely with beautifully tended gardens and stunning shows of flowers.
After a good explore we ended up at the village restaurant /pub called l’authentique Vignecois. Pretty waitress meant Chris said we could stay and order a drink… and watch the football. Long story short—- we watched the Japanese get beaten at the last minute by Belgium. We were secretly supporting Japan. ( I say secret cos there were Belgians in the pub) and then cos it looked nice we ordered an ‘a partager la planche’ €16 for delicious saucisson, Pate, Foie Graz, Jamon and cheese and fresh bread. What a winner!
Next day we wandered into the bigger town of Saint Lary-Soulan. As we walked I remarked to Chris that this town was lovely but a little isolated for me. Little did I know…. cos as we found out the way to the ‘high street’ I couldn’t believe how big it actually was. French towns are like that sometimes, you drive through you see nothing but come into town at the right time and it’s bustling and busy. So this town has a large ski population in winter. There is a ski lift or 2 taking you up to the slopes. It seems it popular in summer as a hiking spot as well. The shops were a little on the twee side with lots of alpine decorations and fluffy hats, socks and blankets. Not really suitable for the beautiful hot sunny weather we were having. But the cheese and meat shops are good. And they’re very willing to give you taste testers as you go past. The prices, however, are ski resort prices so not cheap you know!
We loved this bread dispensing machine outside the bakery ( which was closed).
Not sure if Chris is trying to make up to me but he suggested we try the menu du jour for lunch. It’s a little hard for us to adjust now to the higher prices. Even a round of drinks has gone from €4 to €7/8. What also interesting about the timing is that when we arrived in town at say 10am all the bars and creperies at open, but as the clock strikes 12 the shops close of course and so do the snack drink bars coffee shops. The restaurants are now all open for business. Of course, we must now change our eating patterns as the French eat 12-2pm and dinner is earlier at 6-8pm.
We chose a place that looked busy down a lovely alley. It was so hot so we sat outside. I must say the meal was amazing. For €13( not including drinks, and this is the big difference from Italy and Spain) I had brochette de gambas( 3 huge grilled prawn on a skewer) and Chris has brochette coeur de canard ( wait for it…..grilled duck hearts!) so delicious served with a lovely fresh salad and potatoes and rice for me and a slice of fresh watermelon. Of course we had to have dessert, a tarte citron to share. Really one of our best meals so far.
Chris: French food is my best!
Interesting we saw that Saint Lary-Soulan has another claim to fame. It’s part of the Tour De France 2018. In fact, it’s not just part, I read up and it’s a finish point. They will cycle here around 25th July and you can see the entire town is getting ready. I am no cycling fundi but I’ve seen the hills and gradient on these roads so I feel sorry for them!
That afternoon we had a lovely sleep followed by some work ( cos we do work as well as Travel). We made a simple but delicious salad for dinner and at 8pm we were ready! Off to watch the football at our favourite haunt down the road. Chris was secretly hoping to see the pretty waitress but bad luck she was off that evening. We had a supercharged tense evening watching England play Columbia. It was so tense and I’m really glad England won as we were keeping the Barmen up watching and drinking with us till the end.
The next day we are up and ready to go…. where you ask? Well, we don’t even know. We thought of this village in the Haute-Pyrenees called St Bertrand something something…