Our morning began tentatively under gray skies. This seems to happen every time we begin a motorcycle trip. I sighed and thought – ‘it is…what it is…’ Novotel Toulouse presented a wonderful breakfast and we took our time to enjoy the food…but for my loving tour guide to repeatedly reassure me all would be well. I have not been on a motorcycle since 2011. Two years.
I’m feeling extremely anxious. My body is rejecting the idea of 8000 ft. elevations. It took me two hours and many WC visits before we called our taxi for the Harley Shop. It seemed the car door wasn’t closed and it already cost us six euros, but the ride was smooth and it bolstered my confidence somewhat.
Upon arrival at Harley – Toulouse, we were greeted warmly by Fabrice, the manager. His easy ‘Fran-Glais’ met with our passable French was flowing well. He filled us in on local ideas through the formidable mountains – won me over with a delicious coffee and his personal cell phone number. By the time My Beloved tour guide signed on the dotted line, I felt that this trip is possible – for now.
Over the next two hours we -re-packed our belongings for the ‘tour’ and leave behind our suitcases with unnecessary belongings securely stowed with Fabrice. We carefully addressed the many things that needed to be done to prepare the Ultra Classic Harley for traverse through Les Hautes Pyrenees to Spain and back again, prayerfully.
Under gloomy skies we fired up the bike and left Toulouse, navigating streets to the highway with the help of our ever present companion Garmin Nuvi (lovingly referred to as a Garm). I have an ongoing love/hate relationship with this particular technology, however My Beloved Tour Guide made a ground rule – not negotiable.
“No matter what – we are to follow what Garm says…”
I decided then and there I am in agreement. I am calling a truce with Garm until the end of the trip.
The most important thing you can do on the back of a motorcycle is to communicate. The driver must also do the same. After 34 years of marriage (and the promise of at least another 34 sealed on the Seine) – we are stilling this learning this important life skill.
The day was planned by My Beloved Tour Guide to perfection. He set aside (at least temporarily) his duties as paparazzo. My job, apart from reading signs and affirming Garm’s decision making was ‘drive by photographer’. The French countryside became more and more remarkable. Chateaus and gypsy settlements were intermingled in tiny towns. We passed through Lourdes and the mountains started to present themselves in their majestic beauty. Photograph upon photograph – I fulfilled my duty. It was hard to do anything but take it all in.
Higher and higher we climbed toward our resting place for the evening. Viscos is not on any map, BUT Garm found it! Completely surrounded by snow capped mountains – rushing waterfalls and emerald green – it was a sight to be hold. Another 2 km up the side of a mountain and we will arrive. My gracious tour guide decided to drive it first leaving me to wait at roadside while he completed his reconnaissance of the village for safe parking.
While waiting, a man and his young son pulled up on a motorcycle. They pulled out a camera and stood at roadside and behold – 200 motorcycles came roaring by – following which he engaged me in rapid French about the road closures in the mountains due to heavy snow and rain. What does this mean, I wondered? My faithful steed rolled up and we reviewed the map and realized the planned route for the next day will not work.
Thank you Lord for my guardian angel on a sport bike in the Pyrenees!
We said our goodbyes and climbed the mountain to one of the best kept secrets in the Midi-Pyrenees – La Grange aux Marmottes in Viscos (population 50). Feelings of Heidi are sweeping over me as goats roam freely between patches of grass among the shuttered stone cottages. Poppies splashed against the gray stones in the picturesque hamlet (part of a UNESCO world preserve and part of the Pyrenees National Park system). The hills are definitely alive with the sound of music – water rushing torrentially from the tops of the mountains.
A chic French lodge that is stowed cozily in the side of a mountain, La Grange warmly welcomes us. We took so many photos, we changed the memory card. At every turn there was an angle to be captured for our memory on those dreary work saturated days in the future.
We studied the posted menu closely to decide which ‘plate’ we would chose for our evening meal. I love this aspect of French restaurants – they post their menus outside their establishments before you enter. I had a most helpful dining guide to translate any food on the list. Once we made our reservations, we were off on a mini mountain hike – luxuriating in the mountain air and all of its splendor.
The village bells reminded us that it is the dinner hour – 7:30 and onward…we hiked back to the lodge to be rewarded by the chef in a small dining room stunningly decorated in antiques. I was absolutely enraptured. We both decided on trout with lemon butter – accompanied with red peppers stuffed with chevre and scallops with risotto. I can only say every bite was a celebration of all things wonderful in French cuisine. We finished with sabayon with blueberries and a robust coffee. We savoured every bite. Avec mes compliments, merci beaucoup…
Time to catch up on some necessary email, weather watch, route planning and blogging. It’s bedtime, while our loved ones are eating dinner so far away…
Today was well planned months ago by My Beloved, but the execution was perfection. I am relaxed this evening in my chalet room with the shutters open to greet the mountain sun.
As an aside – to you value hunters…taxi to Harley, Lunch and a little shopping, Gas, DELICIOUS dinner – ALL for $130! Memories…cannot count.