For many people, the perfect holiday consists of as much sun, sea and sand as can possibly be crammed into two weeks. But if you'd rather see more of a country than the view from the beach, a walking holiday gives you the ideal opportunity. And if you've never been on one before, this trek around the Pyrenees, on the French/Spanish border, is a great introduction.
On the first evening we travelled to a small auberge a few kilometres away in Castelnau-Magnoac. La Ferme Auberge d Noust Temps specialises in the farm's own produce. Our meal included hors-d'oeuvres of toast de rillettes (toast with pat), goat's cheese salad, pork fresh from one of the farm's pigs, which had been slaughtered that day with deep-fried aubergine, and a fresh fruit dessert, all for around €20.
The next day we set out on a five-hour trek. It was meant to be a snowshoe trek, but the snow had failed to turn up. However, perhaps not entirely disappointed, we carried on regardless. We met our guide for the day at La Barthe de Neste in the Valle d'Aure. As most of us were first-time walkers, our guide, Julien, arranged a light 12km stroll, during which we stopped several times for sweetened teas. Our picnic lunch was taken on a beautiful mountaintop with spectacular views of the Louron valley and Lake Loudenvielle. And for wildlife watchers, there were eagles and marmots to spot.
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The next day saw another early start as we prepared for a walk up the Col d'Aspin, one of four peaks the Tour de France cyclists tackle in just one day. Climbing up the winding road to an altitude of 1,750m, you're rewarded with spectacular views of the mountains.
It also brings you to Bagnres de Bigorre, an idyllic spa town with a good selection of cafes and restaurants and what better way to round off two days of trekking and relieve aching muscles than with a spa treatment? The spring water at the town's Aquensis spa is rich in 'oligoelements', apparently good for women trying for babies or already pregnant. Those with no plans to have babies can swim in the music pool instead (the music can only be heard when your head is under the water) and take tea in the oriental-style hamman.
The Pyrenees walking tour was arranged with Rando Hike(00 33 56239 1392).
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