Day 2 of the ‘tour de France’ began with town bells ringing and the golden sun drenching the mountains. Freshly made brioche, blueberry jam and a selection of meat and cheese welcomed us to tuck in and enjoy to gather strength for the climb up col d’Aspin. Tourmalat was closed with 6 metres (yes you read it correctly) of snow – in June! Our alternate route to get over the mountain to our next stop was Aspin. There is no way to the other side except over the top.
The morning was very peaceful in Viscos, but deep in my heart was the dreaded alpine adventure for the day. I’m so thankful for my iPod. While My Beloved was preparing the final details and I enjoyed some beautiful worship music while gazing at the snow-capped mountains in the glorious sun. I decided my iPod would be my tool for focus for the climb and descent.
With music in one ear (you need one ear in case something is said) and gripping my map as my comfort, I steeled myself to hairpin 18 kilometres up to the summit of col d’Aspin. I determined in my heart I would not be any distraction to my skillful driver. It took intense concentration. I photographed when I had a confident moment. I breathed heavily when I wasn’t confident. Darlene Zeitch was singing ‘your love is taking me higher again’…I was unable to pull it from my ear. As traffic slowed near the top of the summit, I felt panic. Slowing down on a hill on a motorcycle can mean we might topple. As we inched forward – we can see why – a herd of cows at 1900 metres is ambling across the road, evidently unaware of my predicament. Where do these cows live, really? They are everywhere – without evidence of a nearby barn. However, you can’t see from the top unless you are there. It IS spectacular. The panorama was breathtaking.
While we are parked and enjoying the view, the Harley draws attention and we practice more French as we explain our trip and that we are from Canada and how we rent a motorcycle in France. However, the inevitable descent is upon us. You can look below and the road looks like a pile of spaghetti and you can see your fate before you. I am determined to (a) not scream and (b) to fulfil my photo duties as assigned by my paparrazo.
The hot sun is pressing upon us and we decided to stop in mid-day for some food. Guess what the French do during naptime on Sunday? They go out for Chinese! So we joined them. We enjoyed our lunch, and a little air conditioning and the piece de resistance were fresh beignets and coconut ice cream – delish! With sugar courage we continued on to the best – or worst of the trip for that day.
As we continued on, we reached our rest spot for the day – Bagniere du Luchon, a picturesque ski resort. Hotel Majestic is our destination. The exterior is breathtaking. Grand mansion – completely re-done on the inside a la Motel 6! Exhausted from heat and tension, I collapsed for a short nap. Eventually we feel it necessary to translate more menus so we can have our evening meal.
As we made our choice, we were followed by an elderly couple who sat at the table next to us. They were open, friendly and wanted to chat. After ordering our ‘menu complet’ (salad, steak and dessert), we enjoyed lively conversation with them. It felt like a comfortable evening of rapartie with our parents. They were retired teachers, who have spent their 50 + years of married life in ‘the Republic’ of Paris – our neighbourhood! We were able to share our musings and experiences as visitors just ‘up the street’, near the Metro stop so well known to them. It was amazing how 3 hours flew by over a simple meal. They shared wonderful vignettes of their life – for Roderick, how he is freed from the ‘social game’ of working as an English teacher in Paris; for Nicole, her story about growing up as a little French girl during WW II in Toulouse – le capital des violettes. Such a pleasant evening. However, dining outside means we have received a lifetime of second hand smoke in one week. We reluctantly said our goodbyes and strolled through the quiet ski resort streets back to our bed.
A value day – exquisite vistas, exceptional dinner company – Happy Father’s Day for $82.00!