We are HOME! It felt so good to pull into our parking spot and walk in the front door. It felt like a lot longer than a week away but we covered a lot of ground.
Yesterday we left Toulouse with every intention of making it to Valencia but by 6 pm we decided to stay in Lleida and drive the last 4 hours this am.
On this weeklong trip we experienced schlosses, castles, chateaus, palaces and castillo. Some big and some HUGE. Here’s the last one we saw in France before making the turn south, towards the Pyrenees.
It’s in the village of Saint Elix and is the dominant feature, like so many towns that sport these old ruins. It looked like someone might still occupy part of the building but the grounds were, sadly, in ruins.
We began our turn south with a stop for lunch at an inn. Best meal of the trip so far, and cheap – Spanish prices while still in France. Who knew that was possible. Three courses for the Menu du jour. crudités, pork and purée (mashed potatoes) and gateau (cake) Basque for dessert. The village was old with a medieval centre. I kept thinking about conquering armies that passed through over the centuries. The people in these mountains survive harsh conditions. Tough group to conquer long term.
Here are a few videos of our ride through the French side of the Pyrenees. They include our encounter with goats being herded and our ascent to the one way tunnel opening going under the mountain from France to Spain.
I cheered when we came out the other side of the 3km long tunnel and the sign said ‘España’. That word means home now. Funny how that happened and we didn’t even know it.
We rode down the other side. Gorgeous views. We could feel the air difference from the French to the Spanish side. Moist to dry in an instant.
We decided to stay in Lleida at the Parador. I love Paradores generally but while staying there is lovely, getting there in Lleida proved very very difficult. One way streets, pedestrian malls. An actual parade. I just kept thinking ‘only in Spain’ and then I smiled.
Here’s some video from the parade.
It’s the Fiesta for San Anastasi – complete with green dragon and the requisite effigies. The patron saint of Lleida.
We checked in and the hotel was worth the frustration. A quiet oasis amongst the chaos on the streets.
This morning, we got up early and made our way south towards home. I cheered again when we saw the sign for Valenciana Communidad’. The orange blossoms and their scent greeted us. When we pulled in Jeff commented.
‘I knew we were close when I could smell the onion fields of Alboraya.’
I guess that’s his new marker for home. Not matter – we made it back, safe and sound.