Pyrenees paradise

There are few views more spectacular than those you find up in the mountains. Unfortunately, back in England, living in possibly one of the flattest areas ever, these views don’t come around all that often. That’s why the Pyrenees became one of my top destinations to visit this year, and what better time to escape for some fresh mountain air than when your own city’s skies are thickened with tear gas?

Being just a couple of hours drive away from Toulouse, visiting the Pyrenees was always a no-brainer for me. But with the end of term, December expenses and Birmingham apparently being the only university not to have received their Erasmus grants yet, I didn’t think this trip would be possible before Christmas. Fortunately, I was wrong! For just under £30, we managed to get travel and accommodation for a night, giving us two days to explore this wonderful place.

We got a cute little air bnb in a town called Cauterets, right next to the Pyrenees national park. True to its price (working out at just 6 euros each for the night) it was tiny, but we absolutely loved it and found that it was perfect for a short stay. So, without further ado, here’s what we got up to in this Pyrenees paradise…

DAY ONE

CAUTERETS & LAC DE GAUBE

The whole reason we planned this trip in the first place was because we saw one of our friends post an amazing photo on Instagram of the Lac de Gaube. I had never even heard of it until then, but as soon as I saw it I knew I had to go there. So day one of our trip was dedicated to exploring Cauterets and hiking up to the famous lake!

After arriving earlier than expected to our air bnb, we decided to go for food in town. Luck was on our side and we managed to find a restaurant that did main courses, cheese AND desert for just €11!!

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After this we took a short taxi journey up the winding mountain roads to Pont d’Espagne, at the foot of the national park (FYI: if you get car sick then this journey isn’t for you). There is usually a cable car that takes you up which would have been amazing, but sadly we visited a week before the season started.

From here, it was a 1.5 hour hike up to the beautiful lake. I must admit that none of us really anticipated how difficult this hike would actually be. Faced with steep rocky pathways the entire way up, I may have started the journey wearing four layers and a puffa jacket…but I ended it red faced and wearing a single t-shirt (note to self: do more exercise).

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The walk may have been tough, but it was TOTALLY worth it when we got to our destination. With panoramic views of the mountains reflected over a beautiful lake, I felt like I had been picked up and dropped straight into a laptop screensaver. But no, this time I was experiencing it for real. I can’t really put into words how amazing it was, so instead I’m just going to show you a load of photos and let them speak for themselves.

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Yep, so pretty amazing. We probably stayed sat at that lake for almost two hours before we decided it was time to head back into Cauterets.

We finished the day off with wine, cheese, pizza and a Christmas film. What could be better?

DAY TWO

Lourdes

As lovely as Cauterets was, there wasn’t all that much to do in the little town so we decided to get our connecting bus back to Lourdes early so that we could explore. On first appearances, there really wasn’t anything to do in this town…but that was when we realised that we had walked in the opposite direction of all the tourist sites, classic.

We first attempted to go to the Pic de Jer, where a train takes you up the mountain to the highest point in Lourdes for beautiful views of the city. However, like the cable cars in Cauterets, this was also closed. However, if you go to Lourdes in high season I would recommend this because it looked amazing!

So after finally figuring out where we were, we managed to go and see some tourist sites. Lourdes is an extremely religious place. Every year, millions of people make the pilgrimage there, to express their faith, and experience the healing qualities of its holy water fountains.

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I myself am not religious but this part of town was still amazing. I have never seen so many people so dedicated to their faith in one place, it was an atmosphere that I have never experienced before.

I must admit that aside from this area there wasn’t much to do in Lourdes, so unless you are very religious, I would only spend a day here/ go here on your way to somewhere else!

All in all, this weekend was a pretty magical escape. We were brought back down to reality pretty quickly in Toulouse with the Gilets Jaunes causing chaos in the city, but hey, c’est la vie.

There’s nothing left to say to you now except that if you get the chance to go to the Pyrenees, just GO! If you’re anywhere near, in France or even Spain then it’s easy to get to, and I’ve shown that it doesn’t need to be an expensive trip! All you just need a few friends, some sturdy shoes and a tiny air bnb and you’re set to go. Just take my advice, I promise you won’t regret it.

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