[MAD] Mary Ann & Don

France Day 3: The Pyrenees and Cathar Castles

Posted by madkingblog on January 5, 2010

Tuesday morning we slept in a bit, had a late breakfast alone and then headed south into the Pyrenees.  The drive was amazing… inspiring beauty mile after mile. We stopped for an espresso in a Brasserie in some tiny little village and it was just awesome to be among and listen to the locals (not that we could understand a word they were saying).  As we drove, we couldn’t get over or stop talking about how wonderful of a drive it was… then… things got crazy.  =)  We were letting the GPS direct us and after a few hours of driving the road just got more and more narrow, then became one narrow lane barely wide enough for our small car, then we found ourselves in the Gorges of Galamus, a “terrifyingly sinuous” single-lane road, overhung with rock, cut into the cliff wall of a 500m gorge.  Harrowing is probably a good word to describe what this stretch of road felt like.  I was driving and we were both praying to not meet oncoming traffic, which we did twice.  We were not taking pictures at this point as we were scared for our lives, but this I found on the internet…

…see that cut out in the cliff wall where the people are standing on the left side of the picture, ya, THAT IS THE ROAD!

Once we made it through this area, I put my hand over my heart and started breathing again. Hahaha, I may be making it sound more dramatic than it was, but seriously, it was TENSE and GORGEOUS! And it left quite an impression on me! The nice side effect was that after that, the one-lane roads we had been driving seemed safe, seriously, for the rest of the trip I wasn’t the least bothered by the narrow oncoming traffic/brush with death roads of southern France.

We continued down into the Pyrenees through the sunshine and trees. We finally found the Cathar castles and amazing mountaintop views! The first castle we found was Puilaurens, but it was closed due to the late season, and we got really worried that all the castles may be closed because of the season.  We still got some great pics of the outside of Puilaurens.

That possibility that all the castles were closed was a real bummer, but we continued on and found Peyrepetuse open and almost devoid of people, which made touring it a great experience!  There were stretches of time we were completely alone in the ruins of this castle. I could say a lot about how amazing this place was and it’s mountain top vistas, but the pictures speak for themselves…

As you can see from the moon out in that last picture, it was almost nightfall by the time we were done with Peyrepertuse so we only got to tour one Cathar castle, but I would find it hard not to believe it was the BEST!  We headed home and had to spend a LOT of time programming the GPS to take as an alternate route… we were not trying to navigate the Gorges de Galamus at night! On the drive back we stopped in one of the small mountain villages at a bakery and got some treats to hold us over until dinner. YUM, French pastries are heaven in your mouth. We made it back to downtown Carcasonne and had dinner at Hotel Terminus.  The food was very French and very good.  It was our first traditional French dinner!  And we called it a day!

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2 Responses to “France Day 3: The Pyrenees and Cathar Castles”

  1. Michelle said

    HAHAHA those roads are definitely harrowing!!! Did you do the audio tour at Peyreperteuse? It was sooo cheesy. I’m so glad you had such a great time!!

    • Mary Ann said

      Nope, we didn’t do the audio tour, and you are making me glad, although that might have been entertaining! hahaha. The only place we did one was at the Louvre and it was waaay disappointing. I guess there is just too much stuff there because the audio tour only had info for maybe 1/4 of the exhibits. But ya this was one of my favorite days on the trip!

      OH YA, also, I forgot to say in the blog but that last shot was a timer shot with our camera and it was funny watching Don set it up and then trying to run around and up to where I was for the picture LOL!

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