The Pyrenees

Santazi, or Santa Grazi, is the Basque name of the village Sainte-Engrâce, in the French Pyrenees.

That was then…
Twenty-seven years ago, I set off from my home in California and paid a visit to my friends Mindy and John, who were living near Paris at the time. Part of the vacation involved Mindy and me taking a road trip, with our first stop landing us in Saint-Émilion. Wine and hilarity ensued, but that’s a story for another day. We continued south, passing through Auch long enough for each of us to air-kiss a giant statue of D’Artagnan, and then we continued toward the towering Pyrenees, where we explored towns and hiked and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

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Road Trip, Day 6

A soggy cow came over to say hello, and began using the barbed wire to scratch an itch on her throat. She was very curious about me.

This morning we awoke to a grey and drizzly day. After breakfast, we checked out of our chambres-d’hotes (B&B), and bid each other goodbye. Maryse and Claude were headed west to visit friends, and I was headed east to higher—and it turns out, even wetter—ground. An hour later I arrived in Le Mont Dore, in the Puy-de-Dôme. With the wet weather and low clouds, I really have no idea what the surrounding country looks like. Except that it’s green.

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Road Trip, Day 5

Château de Val

This weekend is Heritage Days in Europe (Journées du Patrimoine in French), when an astounding list of places are either open when they usually are not, or are free of charge, or include guided tours. It’s a great time to visit Europe, because it’s a time to see things you otherwise might not be able to visit.

The Château de Val is generally open, so I don’t think much was different. But the Patrimoine people were there, handing out all kinds of information, and the local fishermen were doing some kind of event on the lake.

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Road Trip, Day 4

Earlier this summer, I posted a photograph of sparkling water bubbles on a lemon wedge. Here’s its cousin, a photograph of a teaspoon paved with diamonds, er, sparkling water bubbles.

We could tell that night was becoming day because the grey was a slightly lighter tone. There was little drama: the rain that fell was soft, barely making a sound; the dampness seemed to wash out colors before our eyes; all was quiet.

We got our raincoats and umbrellas, and drove into Égletons to see if the visitors center had any suggestions for rainy-day things to do in the area. Not much, it turns out, so three somewhat soggier souls piled back into the car for the one-hour drive toward Collonges-la-Rouge. We drove through low, thick fog and occasional rain, but by the time we arrived, the grey was lighter and the rain had stopped.

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Road Trip, Day 3

A very intriguing flight of stone steps in Le Trou de Bozouls (The Hole of Bozouls).

Today was a transition day. We made a couple of visits in the area near Saint Geniez, and then drove three hours to get to our home for the next three days. To arrive in the town of Égletons, we drove through the Aveyron, then through the Cantal, and then into the Corrèze. As you’ll see, the landscape became even greener as we made our way north.

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Road Trip, Day 2

Trying to catch some of the sunlight streaming through a contemporary stained glass window in the Église Saint-Côme-et-Saint-Damien in the village of Saint-Côme.

We awoke to cloudy skies and signs that it had rained during the night; the forecast called for heavy rains in the afternoon, so we wanted to get a good start for the day’s adventures. This was a day for visiting several of the picturesque villages near Saint-Geniez-d’Olt, where we’re staying. Our first stop of the morning was the lovely Sainte-Eulalie-d’Olt, a town of ancient stone buildings, flower baskets bursting with color, art galleries, and a church that dates to 920 AD.

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