September 2019 – Visit to the Pyrenees with our friends from Parisot
This year we decided to try a different format for our annual get together: rather than visit our partners in Parisot we thought it would be fun to discover a different part of France together. We suggested the Pyrenees as a place easily reached by both groups- and for the stunning beauty of its mountains and the activities offered there. Our French friends put a lot of work into recceing the area for suitable group accommodation and came up with the Point Soleil hostel in the tiny hamlet of Ornolac- Ussat-les- Bains, just south of Foix and Tarascon in the Ariège. This was a friendly, quiet and comfortable place, offering plentiful food and advice on walks and the local area.
Our French friends had devised a super programme for us. We started with a delicious supper on the Friday evening which they’d brought from Parisot. Saturday morning saw us all on a local walk with stunning panoramic views- a little longer than some of us were expecting, but we all managed it! In the afternoon we visited Montségur with its magnificent Cathar castle perched precipitously on a mountain top. We had an evening meal in the Hostel and presented the Parisotains with our hampers of local produce from Great Hucklow and the Hope Valley, carefully put together and transported by Henry and Karen.
On the Sunday we drove a little way to the start of the walk up to the Chapelle St. Barthélémy, a charming walk with a range of iron crosses marking this as a chemin de croix route. After picknicking on hearty baguettes from the hostel we went on to the Grottes de Niaux, second only to Lascaux for the incredible cave paintings in the famous Salon Noir, well explained by the English speaking guide. A surprise treat in the evening was a concert in the hostel chapel by a local singing group called Les Ephemères, singing their own versions and harmonies of world music songs. Then a delicious meal including piperade to follow.
On the Monday we visited Foix, where we had lunch together in a pleasant riverside restaurant before going our separate ways, kindly driven by our French friends to the airport and station.
It was a super trip, really well and thoughtfully organised by our French friends and assisted by gorgeous sunny September weather. We are very grateful to them for the hard work they put in to making it a success and hope we can reciprocate by introducing them to a different part of the UK in the not too distant future!