Wildflowers, rolling meadows, gentle hills and jagged snow covered peaks: the Pyrenees has them all in abundance. The meadows are a riot of colour in late spring as the snow recedes. Often described as the floral cross roads of Europe, purple alpine gentians, primulas and pasque flowers of northern Europe mingle with the yellow and white wild daffodils of the Iberian Peninsula. Orchids and marsh marigolds flower near streams as late as August and September.
Long, lazy lunch breaks lying in meadows surrounded by a plethora of these botanical beauties had a dreamlike quality. Those feeling more energetic could set off on an additional circular walk, perhaps another kilometre or so around a nearby Cor – but sunbathing beneath a crystal blue sky often proved a popular option.
The fluidity of the itinerary is what makes this trip so special. On the first day adept leader, James, led us on a gentle walk through rolling meadows and alpine forests, telling stories of the ancient Cathars that lived in the area and all the way gauging the abilities of the group. and tailoring his route to suit the individuals in the group. We still did a very credible 14km, a walk to blow away the cobwebs get us in the mood for the rest of our time here.
Over the course of the week we ramped up the altitude gain, walking between 10 and 14km each day. We soon left the meadows behind and reached a few summits around the 2500m mark. The scenery was enough to set my spine tingling – or maybe that was the spots of snow still lingering on the peaks in May! There were also marmots scampering about on the slopes – although at least one was confirmed to be a rock once someone had found their binoculars…
Don’t expect to come back from this trip perfectly svelte and able to fit into last year’s jeans – Alan the cook and owner of the hotel will see to that! He sees a hiking group as a challenge, so after you’ve worked up an appetite on the hills a three course home-cooked meal is on the table when you return, not to mention freshly baked local bread and wine. Even people who thought they were still full from a picnic lunch in the open air somehow valiantly make room for dessert anyway…
By Andrea Beech, Sales Executive, who travelled on our Walking in the French Pyrenees trip.