Friday, July 8, 2011

Leo and Steph and into Gascogne

As we were saying...We paused in the small village of St. Maurin, ordered a beer at the cafe and called our friend Leo to come and escort us the last 4 kms to his home. Dave had been corresponding with Leo via email since being introduced by our friend in common, Bernard. Leo is an avid bicycle tourist and has many excellent journals and articles on the website When we arrived at his old stone farmhouse we were greeted by Leo's wife, Steph. We had a great evening swapping tales and Leo gave Belinda a good route to Pau.

The next morning we bid farewell to Steph while Leo accompanied us (in a light rain)until noon. They are a great couple and their hospitality is as good as it gets.

Our route included a little more time on the canal. The canal du Midi was built in the 1600's and is an engineering marvel with 63 locks. The rain stopped just before lunch and the sun came out. We passed through a small village that legend says has been saved by cats two times. The story is that during a famine the villagers ate all the cats and survived the famine. The next few years were good harvests and the rats multiplied and the village was facing starvation again when a young girl admitted that she had hidden one cat. The cat had kittens and they stopped the rats and the village was saved again. We finished the day in Condom.

The town sign was stolen innumerable times before the mayor started a museum of condom history (but not the town's history). Gascogne is also the homeland of the musketeer, D'Artagnan. That character created by Dumas is actually based on the life of Count D'Artagnan who was a musketeer. Here were some fortifications just down the road.

After spending Monday night in Condom we headed out Tuesday morning with cool sunny skies. All day we rode past vineyards recognized as Cotes du Gascogne and many producers of Armagnac. We finished the day in Aire sur l'Adour and had an excellent Cotes du Gascogne red wine with dinner. After dinner we tried the Armagnac which reminded us of a cross between brandy and a fine single malt scotch. Wednesday morning was cool and overcast as we headed toward Pau through more beautiful farmland.

Bernard and Helene met us 30 kms outside of Pau to guide us to their home. We met Bernard in 2006 as he was finishing his bicycle tour across the United States. Our friends Ray and Brenda had crossed paths with Bernard earlier in Kansas and invited him to visit when he got to California. It was during this visit that we met Bernard.

They live in a small old town, Jurancon, just over the river from Pau. Here is one of the views of Pau from the bridge.

We will be sightseeing and resting with Bernard and Helene from Thursday through Saturday. The Basque country and the Pyrenee mountains are on the agenda.


Leslie said...

Oh, boy! A map! Where's Raymond?!

Dave and Belinda said...

Ha ha ha I'm sure Ray would love a trip like this... France has loads of little roads to ponder over on the map and to choose a route from.