This year’s caravanning expedition was to the Spanish
Pyrenees, a longer journey but worth the extra drive. We’d visited the French
side (Col de Tourmalet / Luz St Sauveur)
a few years ago but, with the younger members of the family doing GCSE
Spanish, and the older ones trying to learn a bit of the language, we thought
we give it a try on the Spanish side.
The journey down was uneventful. We split it over several
days, allowing us late afternoon / evening each day to get out a bit. For
example, our second night in the Loire gave us the
chance to walk up the river to the chateau at Chenonceau.
Our base for the week in Spain
was Camping Pena Montanesa, just north of Ainsa. Of the choice of pitches
offered to us we picked one with a good view of the mountain. Ainsa is a
pleasant small town, particularly the old part which is set on the hill, with a
plethora of well priced places to eat. Whilst by no means the only Brits about,
the majority of holiday makers were Spanish or French; and unlike in France
where many conversations end up in English all our conversations were in
Spanish. One restaurant we went to had a menu in English and French to go with
their Spanish one; but since the waitress didn’t understand the English so we
swapped for the Spanish menu when it came to ordering food.
We cycled a bit; although the Spanish Pyrenees feels more
open than the French side this means the climbs are all long and demanding
rather than short and sharp. I went out from the campsite for a ride and was
surprised how hard I’d found it in the heat (and altitude) till I worked out
that I’d also climbed several hundred meters.
Walking is much easier, with well signposted routes and
details available from the Tourist Information; great views can be had for
relatively little effort (by which I mean an hour's walk). We drove along the
valle de Pineta and then walked the way marked walk up to Llanos de Lalarri.
Another day we drove to Revilla, parked and again walked out on a way marked
trail to the viewpoints overlooking the gorge.
Of the other towns and villages we visited, Graus is worth a
mention. A grotty looking place it’s central square is amazing. A few bars and
restaurants but with frescos painted on the buildings.
Our return journey north was more broken up. We spent
several days in the Lot valley. The cycling is easier
here and we cycled into Puy L’Eveque, visited Chateau Bonaguil (well worth a
visit) just north of Fumel and we also spent half a day canoeing on the river.
And then the return to Manchester.
Apart from a couple of evening thunderstorms we saw little rain (and our
waterproof jackets remained packed all holiday) but on the M6, just to the
north of Birmingham we drove back into the cloud that is characteristic of
North West England.
Maybe not next year, but we look forward to returning to northern Spain
in the future.