Half term in beautiful Cauterets, Hautes Pyrenees

img_2464Set off Friday February 9th stayed in Rouen, then arrived in Cauterets about 6pm. We stayed in the Hotel du Lion d’Or which is located in the center of Cauterets and much closer to the gondola than we were last year.  Cauterets is a lovely little spa town spread along the narrow valley of the Gave mountain stream and surrounded by the Pyrenees. The town is well known throughout France for its health giving thermal springs.  They are still used in the treatment of respiratory and skin diseases, rheumatism and many other ailments. We’ve not yet sampled the thermal baths and spa but it’s something I think is a must in the future.  The Hotel du Lion d’Or was a real gem. Family owned since 1913 and now run by the fourth generation of the Lasserre family. The hotel was built in 1840 and is full of authentic memorabilia in every nook and cranny.  The chap (I forget his name) who was the family member that we had most to do with was so helpful and welcoming to us.  Nothing was too much trouble and we felt at home immediately.

Lovely bedrooms, so homely in a French style, clean and fresh with a fantastic shower.  Breakfast was a buffet with an array of homemade pastries, marmalade (the best that grandma has EVER tasted) and yoghurts.  There was a huge fresh orange juice machine which involved crates of oranges being delivered to the hotel daily.  There were fresh meats, eggs, together with the usual tea, coffee and hot chocolate.  Yummy!

We’re a fairly fussy party of eaters (OK I’m a fussy eater – vegetarian and so is my son) so we decided to eat out in the town throughout the week.  The first evening we ate at the Bar L’Aragon, where we’d eaten last year and were happy with the food and service. Back again later in the week for another meal.

Sunday – Day 1 skiing

Left the hotel about 11. Lovely nights sleep and Lovely breakfast, taking full advantage of the fresh orange juice, boiled egg and homemade cakes and preserves.  My first time up the mountain and I began by falling off the chair lift, then proceeded to fall 4 times on the way down. Always being dragged to my feet like the proverbial sack of potatoes. I really should have done those thigh exercises. When we finally made it back to the café I had to sit on the floor hyper ventilating #oldladyonamountain glad I did it though and at this stage thought I might be able to concur the mountain. So proud of Callum who really takes advantage of the resort carving up the snow on his board🏂.  And hubby too, who has much more confidence than me.

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In the evening we ate at Le Bistrot du Boulevard, Cal had crepes, hubby had duck and grandma and I had pizzas.

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Monday – Day 2 skiing

First stop one of the many ski shops so that Cal could purchase some mittens because his hands had been so cold and wet the first day.  As a snow boarder, every time you come to a stop it means putting your arms down in the snow and it was so deep that the gloves he had were filling up with snow and making his hands freezing.  Got up the slopes about 10.30. The visibility was awful you couldn’t see in front of your nose. Cal went straight up the top of the mountain but hubby and I are stayed doing the lower slopes. It was really difficult to see and snow blind most of the time. Big snow drifts on either side of runs making them much narrower for novices like me. In the evening we ate at La Créperie du Moulleau.  Staff very friendly and all enjoyed their food but my cheese crepe was just so bland and boring.

Tuesday – Day 3 skiing

Now having been to the top of the mountain I really thought that this day would be my day to conquer it. I was wrong. Started the day with an egg as usual.  Had a practice run and then up the mountain with the boys. Unfortunately fell off the chair lift again as I was getting off and then off down the mountain which started off well but then it all went Pete Tong as the weather suddenly came in awful. Fell over in what was effectively a blizzard, hubby struggling to get me up and me struggling to get up. Then fell again. Once down didn’t feel like going up again. Saved by the fact that they closed the chair lifts because of the winds and visibility. Came back early to the hotel for a well deserved rest. Once we’d recovered it was into the town to eat.  First it was into my favourite spot for a vin chaud, La Cheeserie.  This is a tiny little place with only two rows of bar style seating and serving only cheese and meats.  Last year we ate here but grandma wasn’t a fan and even I can only have so much cheese.  Mind you we were very tempted with their warm Mont d’Or cheese dip which some other customers were delighting in.

Back to the hotel for an early night, this was definitely not a relaxing holiday. I’m jiggered already but the scenery is just stunning.

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Wednesday – Day 4 skiing

Felt like I’d lost my nerve the weather conditions were very bad. You couldn’t see anything. Just white snow blindness. I couldn’t face going up the mountain but hubby and Cal both did. Visibility so poor. I had a rest in the café, should say that everyday up the mountain we had drinks and snacks in the Station de Ski.  You did need to be in before 12 or after 2 to be able to get a seat.  Somehow none of the queuing bothered us as when you’re skiing you do get so used to queuing.  Aaarrrrrrgghhh!!!!

While I was waiting for the boys I thought do a bit of investigation into a possible trip to Lourdes.  Always fancied going there and did think about when were in Cauterets last year.  But, having done some research it appeared to be full of tacky religious souvenir shops so decided not to bother. Left the slopes about 3.30 again as the weather was so bad.  In the evening had another vin chaud at the Cheeserie. Then another meal at Bar L’Aragon.

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Thursday – Day 5 skiing

Arrived up the slopes to a helicopter, camera crews and many mountain rescuers together with their dogs.  What we didn’t know as we headed up the chair lift was that there was going to be some very sad news – 3 French skiers had been found dead in the morning.  Missing on Wednesday evening.  It appears that they had been skiing in an off-piste area and had been buried by an avalanche.

Once again I thought that this was going to be my day to conquer the mountain ⛰ And once again, that was not going to be the case.  Went up and got down without a fall and then went straight up again, bad idea. Disaster, fell and then became terrified and had to take my skis off and walk a long way down the mountain before I had the nerve to put them on again. What a mega wimp I am. So lost my nerve and had to recover in the café with a hot chocolate. In the evening we ate at a small restaurant that we’d had to book.  I can’t remember its name but once we’d been served the food I did realise that we’d eaten there last year.  Nothing special and I wasn’t over keen on the very lime green spaghetti pasta that they served with a very average arrabiata sauce.

Friday – Day 6 skiing

Up earlyish and on the slopes. I couldn’t face going up the mountain as it was icy and slushy. Did the lower blue runs. Tired legs and knees was part of my problem I think. Also different conditions again. Sunny and snow melting and icy underneath in parts. So very difficult to ski on.  But this didn’t stop Cal and hubby enjoying their last day of skiing.  Slush aside we will definitely be back next year.

Saturday day 7

The long drive back. Cauterets to Boulogne and then an overnight stop at our usual B&B hotel.

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Sunday day 8

Boulogne to Harrogate via Euro Tunnel. #homewardbound

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A week in Cauterets, Haute Pyrenees 

A week in Cauterets, Haute Pyrenees ⛷🏂🎿Missed the Mais.

This was a lovely half term week skiing. Didn’t think I could manage all week but I did. It would have been nice to do the spa and Loudes but there just wasn’t the time. Our skiing has progressed really well. Particularly Callum’s snowboarding 🏂. We’ve filmed him on a red run for his GCSE PE and he’s also used his GoPro to film himself.

Cauterets is a really gorgeous place to stay – really busy all day long so a great atmosphere, interesting architecture.  There were lots of Eataries BUT as usual for me as a vegetarian, food was an issue, unless I was happy eating pizza all week – and most were booked and/or had two sittings so we booked one night and most nights just wandered till we found one with a table free. The evening we were going to venture to the cinema, La La land was cancelled.  However, there were lots of things to do, if you have the energy after a days skiing.  A swimming pool, spa (x 2), salle de jeux (mini arcade with pool tables / air hockey / pin ball etc) and several play areas for younger children.

Hotel Edleweiss, where we stayed was a family run hotel – the mother and father had very little English but one of the sons spoke really good English and as it happened another family staying at the same time could also speak very good English too.  The cousin of the hotel owner even bought Grandma a gift when we left! On the down side the restaurant had no choice, only plat du jour. No bar and the sitting area was for a max of 10 people. We did manage to get tea, coffee and wine every night delivered to this area. Not the same as having a huge open fire and views of the mountains as we have had in previous hotels.

Skiing – a bit daunting  when we first got up to the top! Blinded by the sun and what appeared to be very steep runs. Even my son, who is very brave, was a bit overawed to start with but ended up loving the steep slopes.  The food at the top was fine – there was a restaurant (but we tended to eat sandwiches / hot dogs / chips / waffles and crepes from the bar) it was busy but we always found a table and never queued for more than 10 minutes and that was a one off.

Our lessons this year were “ok” – the instructor just said that we could clearly ski and knew the techniques but just needed confidence (more of a psychology session!). He wanted to take us up to the top but I was too nervous – he said we would be fine!

Queues were horrendous – 45 minutes (at its’ worst) for a turn on the “source” pommel. However queues to go to the top on the proper lifts were actually very quick and if from 8am till 10am the queues were manageable.  But it was half term school holidays in France too.

The basic small blue runs (3 choices of routes down) we started on were a bit of a pain because of “moguls” that were created every day by the sheer number of skiers going through one crossroad – and then bumps just after (on two of the options) where you would take off and needed good balance to get through – these didn’t exist at the start of the day but were very difficult to handle at the end of the day. Also hard because of the number of people who congregated at this point / slowed down to get through them.

Tapis wasn’t too bad – reasonable for warming up / cooling down and queues easier to handle – lots of under 8’s to slalom around!

I lacked confidence so stuck to the green and blue runs. The instructor took us on a steep part of a blue run and taught us how to slide so we would know how to get past steeper bits we didn’t feel like skiing! However, I fell and that knocked my confidence.  Quelle wimp!

The weather was brilliant, although no new snow.

Oh I forgot – there was an avalanche but fortunately not on the pistes. My son was on the chair lift and saw it all but Paul and I were having a coffee so missed it!

Really looking forward to being en France again at Easter.  6 weeks to go!

Skiing in Saint Lary

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Trip to Troncens and beyond. Super trip this Christmas to see the family in Troncens near Marciac. Christmas trees in Marciac.  Gutted that our favourite restaurant in Marciac was closed.  Tried another “boff”. Cold food not good. From here it was on to Saint Lary 1700 in the Pyrenees to do a spot of skiing and celebrate Christmas.  Really impressed with the Hotel Christiania, run by a lovely friendly Belgian couple. Stunning views of the mountains from the bedrooms.

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Once we were all suited and booted it was off to the slopes.

imageIn France Christmas presents are traditionally given on Christmas Eve. It was really charming to see all the parents placing presents around the Christmas tree for their children while they were distracted by watching a DVD in the basement. We stuck to our Own tradition of the 25th but loved every minute of Christmas Eve celebrations.

image After a hard day skiing or discovering Saint Lary village, it was time for Baileys, scrabble, good food and family time.

image Bonne Année, looking forward to 2015.

 

 

 

 

La neige

Fantastic skiing at Tournaboup just up from Barèges in the French Pyrenees. We stayed in Luz St Sauveur in a wonderful family run hotel called Le Montaigu. imagePerfect weather.  No lower than minus 4 and sometimes plus 4. Perfect company. Great hotel. Great dog! The children won’t forget Aslan.imageWhat more could you ask for. Well I’ll tell you. Shins and calves that don’t ache. These are the culprits. imageBoots that clamp around your feet and shins like a vice and force your legs into an unnatural forward slant that encourages you to keep your body weight over your toes which is, apparently, perfect for skiing. However, with the help of Michele, our ski instructor, it’s all worth it.  We can ski.image I just need to master getting off the ski lift. Talking of ski lifts I was so proud of Cal taking the lift to do his first mountain run. imageLuke and Evan made a fantastic snowman. imageimageCal and Luke enjoyed chewing the fat. imageAnd the scenery was stunning. Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures high up in the mountains so this will have to do.imageBonne année 2014 from Au Carotte chez Mais.