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Off the bikes and into a car.

Sofia and Fonsi rest up for a few days while we drive around the countryside.


Tuesday 15th October 13 (day 45)

I booked a hire car over the internet (using the hotel computer) as this worked out much cheaper than the price we were given at the Avis office across the canal from the hotel. Only problem was that we had to pick up the car from the airport.

I had asked the receptionist at our hotel if it would be possible for us to leave our bikes here in the hotel garage for 3 days while we hired a car and that we would be coming back to stay the night again on Friday. This was not a problem, so we locked them up and had our bags ready to catch a taxi out to the airport.

I said to Lyn just go over to the city office and see if they will give us a car from here, you never know, just play dumb about having to go to the airport to collect it, which would save us about 10 euro in taxi fare. She had success and after about 30 minutes (Lyn had a bit of a problem finding her way back to the hotel in the car due to the one way streets) we were loading up our bags and we were motorised for the next few days.

The day was not as bright as yesterday, but we cared very little as we were in a covered transport and would be sleeping indoors tonight.

Driving through the countryside was similar to the view we could see from the canal. Obviously all fields were ploughed ready for the lull of winter so not much in the way of colour except the colour of the soil. I guess when things are in full bloom here the rolling hills must look pretty lush.

It was fairly easy to find the small village of Limbrassac where Noelle lived but to find her exact location was a little more difficult. And having a language barrier it's a little difficult to stop and ask directions. We were keeping a keen eye out for a yurt and a white van. Funnily enough I spotted a yurt behind a building and there was also a white van parked nearby. Thinking we found it we stopped and I got out of the car to investigate. Obviously the people there were not the friend I was looking for so I tried to ask if they knew a Noelle who lived in a yurt. I thought surely there could not be too many locals with that description. I said to this man - 'I am looking for Noelle who lives in a yurt' and he replied ' yes, I am Noelle and I live in a yurt!' What are the chances of meeting a person with the same name and house description - funny. But alas this was not the Noelle we were searching for and we were given broken English directions which we managed not to understand and ended up back in the village to ask directions again.

The second lot of directions were much easier for us to understand as we knew the road well now as we had travelled up and down it a few times already. Up the road on the right, first path on right and we spied the blue mail boxes, now we were at the correct place.

Found the yurt and inside my friend Noelle. It was great to see her, we had not seen each other since living in Morocco and I had been following the progress of the yurt building and living on FB. Now you may think yurt and primitive, but not so this is a flash yurt with all the mod cons. Very comfortable.

We went for a short walk in the late afternoon to the top of a hill which offered the most amazing views of the Pyrenees Mountains. We managed to time it well when there were no clouds to hide the view. So quiet and peaceful here.

Noelle cooked us a great meal that with just the description I gained 2 kilos. ALIGOT. Creamy mashed potatoes blended with butter, cream, crushed garlic and melted TOME cheese - loaded with cheese. Lots of cheese - just the way I like it. It was delicious!

We watched a movie before going to bed. It was warm in the yurt with 3 breathing bodies and I even kicked off the sleeping bag during the night it was so warm.

Wednesday 16th October 13 (day 46)

It was still dark when I woke to the sound of rain on the tent. Sleep soon returned when I realized where I was - inside a nice warm yurt.

We had a lazy morning while Noelle was supposed to be starting to pack up her things. She did a bit but I think maybe we are a distraction she does not need. She is hoping to have the all her worldly possessions and the yurt packed up and stored by the end of the month. Like I said we are a distraction and have slowed down this process for a few days which means Noelle will be very busy next week after we are out of her hair.

Most of the morning the weather remained grey and drizzling rain. It started to clear towards the afternoon so we had a short outing.

After lunch, in the late afternoon, we took a drive to Castle Montsegur. It is a ruin that we had to climb up a mountain path to view. It was not a too strenuous hike up and once up there we were rewarded with an amazing view was of the surrounding mountains and countryside. The ruins themselves were not that impressive except for their position. How the hell did anyone ever build anything on this small mountain top so long ago. Apparently 500 people lived up there in it hey day. Bloody incredible really. Of course nearly every mountain top around here has a castle or ruins of one. Very beautiful area.

The weather played nice for us and gave us a blue sky for our visit, but there were dark rain clouds lingering in the distance and when the wind started to pick up we started our decent.

We had another wonderful dinner thanks to our personal French cook Noelle. TARTFLETTE Another potato, bacon, cream and lots of cheese masterpiece - a bit like an overcheesed potato bake. Finished off with an assortment of cheeses and then an apple pie (which Noelle just whipped up) with ice cream. These French dishes all have names which go straight over my head but the taste lingers, and that is the most important bit.

We finished the night laughing while watching a couple of episodes of 'How I Met Your Mother'.

Thursday 17th October 13 (day 47)

We set the alarm for 8 this morning as we have a big drive planned. Quick bucket showers outside the yurt - back to nature here - breakfast and then we were off.

Today we went to Andorra!! About a 2 hour drive though small towns and villages and wonderful mountainous scenery. Wow - it was so cool.

Andorra is a tax free country so the town that we visited which was just over the border was not much as it was just streets of shops selling very cheap alcohol, cigarettes and just about everything else. However the drive to get there was spectacular.

Border control waved us through on both our entry and exit. They do have controls here which limit the amount of duty free goods you can purchase, but they seemed pretty lax and waved most cars by just stopping the odd one and asking a few questions.

We purchased lunch supplies from a supermarket and drove higher up the mountain out of the town to have a picnic in a grassy clearing surrounded by horses roaming free. Fat, stocky looking animals that were tame enough to allow Noelle to pet them.

We were surrounded by chair lifts and ski fields and although there was not much happening on this Thursday afternoon I can imagine when it's all covered in snow that this is a very popular and crowded destination. It was nice to be able to enjoy it without all the snow and although the sun was out the wind enough to put quite a chill in the air. I guess we still were at quite an altitude so the cold was to be expected.

We took a scenic drive back, amazed at how good the back roads are in the middle of nowhere.

I am really happy that we hired a car for a few days as we would definitely not have seen any of this mountain region. Definitely not a terrain that we would even contemplate attempting on the bike. And although we could see the mountains in the far distance when we were on the canal it was really nice to be able to see it up close. And of course many thanks to Noelle, because if she was not here we would not have deviated from the canal path.

Dinner tonight was a real treat. RACLETTE which of course involved more cheese. This time the cheese is melted under a grill in individual little pans and when the cheese is hot, gooey and molten you pour it over vegetables, meat, well just about what ever you want.
It's probably a good thing we are off tomorrow as all this excessive rich food eating would soon counteract any and all of the exercise we have done up until now. However I have totally enjoyed the experience, as have my taste buddies.

Friday 18th October 13 (day 48)

We hugged Noelle goodbye and were back on the road just after 10 am. We didn't leave empty handed as we were given little packages of goodies to enjoy later. I wonder where we will be next time we meet up the my French friend as I am sure there will be a next time.

The road back to Carcassonne was easy to find as it was well sign posted. We took a slightly different route back to the one we came on a few days ago and actually drove along the stretch of road that we had cycled on days before when we were heading into Carcassonne for the first time. Clocking the distance I was surprised it was 7km.

Once in the city limits it was not too much trouble to find our way back to the hotel. All we had to do was follow the signs directing traffic to the train station. Stopping outside the hotel we unloaded our luggage and then Lyn drove around the block and over the bridge to the AVIS drop off office. As it was the middle of the day so of course the office was closed, but we had been advised of this and were told we could drop the car keys off at the information desk at the train station.

The rest of the day seemed to fly by without us doing anything. We did wander out at about 5pm for a late lunch at the restaurant next door for some mussels but were told to come back after 7pm. So a baguette and some cheese was good for now.

Around 9pm we did go out again and this time were successful in being invited to sit at a table and order a pot of 5 euro mussels. This was such a bargain! And served with a plate of chips what could be better? We ordered a carafe of house rose and were as happy as. The waiter was a little surprised when we passed on dessert, but he did not know that we had Noelle's chocolate cake and apple tart waiting for us back at the hotel.

Having a TV with only one English Channel - BBC World - we were kept up to date all day with the terrible fires that are currently burning in NSW.

It's almost with a little bit of dread that we have to return to the bikes tomorrow. We didn't even go down to the garage to make sure they were still there!

Posted by Cindy Bruin 09:10 Archived in France Tagged aligot Comments (2)

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