Monday, 2 August 2010

75. Step right this way for the green blobs..

29th July 2010. Give your 'O' Level French a free work-out (the things I do for you!) with this chart that shows which departments in France are the winners and which are the losers in terms of their residential values.. If you're feeling brave, try the source article. More here. If you can't manage the French, the colours in the link tells the story.. No surprises there.. the south and west coasts remain popular.

We've experienced the Fete de Bayonne a few times now so this year we've decided that we're going to escape from it by going east up into the mountains at the weekend. While there, we're planning on taking a trip on Le Petit Train d'Artouste. It's billed here as Europe's highest railway although this one seems to have the winning credentials.  Here's a video of it as it chugs up the mountains next to some vertiginous drops..
Fans of the bizarre Father Ted TV series will recognise this image that was used by Father Ted in a vain attempt to channel Father Dougal's thoughts upon more conventional lines.. I've found this useful myself on occasion! (The animation seems a bit 'iffy' - so if it doesn't work, just click on it..)

30th July 2010. I've just noticed that we've finally picked up a reader of this blog from the African continent - hello and thank you to Zambia..! What kept you?
2nd August 2010. Back home this morning after a really enjoyable few days away in the mountains. Madame had found the Hôtel les Bains de Secours (above), a delightful small country hotel (Logis 2*) with just 7 rooms at Sévignacq-Meyracq, just to the north of Laruns.

Set in idyllic surroundings, it was well situated for exploring the region. Stepping outside, the only sound came from the discordant tinkling of cow bells in the green pastures all about us. We set off for the Tourist Office at nearby Laruns to pick up information about the mountain train at Artouste.. With it being the start of the major French summer holidays, we booked an early train on Saturday morning.

While at the Tourist Office, I noticed that tuition was available for fly fishing. I've had a fly rod gathering dust for years but now I finally have the time to start learning the art of casting a fly. Madame - a city girl - asked me where I would get flies from. I replied from a fishing tackle shop.  She then asked me if they'd be dead or alive..! I'm still laughing at that as I type!

We first had to take a cable car up to the terminus station for the narrow gauge railway.
Lower cable car station at Artouste-Fabrèges
Billed as the highest railway in Europe, it started out life supporting the construction work in the '20s required to build a dam, one of a number in the area supplying hydro electric power stations. If any would-be traveller on the train is subject to vertigo, I wouldn't recommend sitting on the left hand side of the open carriage (as you face forward) on the outbound train or the right hand side on the returning train as the drop-off in most places is sheer - and there's no safety barrier or fence..
Arriving at the dam, we had a picnic in burning sunshine and drank in the stunning views before returning. This next clip of the Petit Train d'Artouste was filmed in exactly the same weather as we experienced:
Later we drove up several spectacular climbs that had recently been used in the Tour de France overlooked by mountains that loomed out of the blue haze:
This was the view from the summit of the Col d'Aubisque:
Finally, we returned to the hotel - both of us with an appetite you could photograph..!
The chef at the hotel is clearly an artist as every meal we had there was inventive, colourful, refined and - absolutely delicious! The waitress brought out a small dish of amuse-gueules with the aperos.. One of these was scallops and squid.. mmm. We'll definitely be returning there before long. Highly recommended. (the usual disclaimers apply)

Here's another tune that I've liked for a long time without knowing what it was - I finally googled the lyrics this morning and bingo.. a hit from 1988!  
Disappointed I haven't covered more of the Fetes de Bayonne..? Here's a story that hit the regional papers - a flashmob (don't ask!) turned up in the centre of Bayonne..


Jo said...

Nice to see so many green blobs down 'yur'. Knew there was a reason I lived here!

Pipérade said...

It's about sunshine and its relative absence in the north - not the positifs et negatifs listed here - innit!