September 8, 2011

Pyrenees Tour: Valley d'Ossau

Today I'm going to explore the terrain near my hotel, riding without panniers in the valleys here. I've planned a few stops of two or three days, to give me time to explore an area a bit more extensively than I can if I'm passing straight through it. The countryside is gorgeous here, the mountains always in sight.

This area is known as the Vallee d'Ossau, roughly between Laruns and Pau. The passes at the head of the valley are Col de Marie-Blanque, headed west, which I rode yesterday,  and Col d'Aubisque, much tougher, headed east. If I attempt Aubisque, it will be tomorrow.

Seeing a sign for Ste.-Colome that promised a 14th century church and older chateau, I climbed the road to have a look. The town was charming, with the promised old houses, narrow streets and ruined castle. A sign in town provided some history, including the fact that besides the wars and invasions that have taken such a toll on the rural population of France, since the Roman invasion, the town was badly devastated by the plague.

Still in Ste.-Colome, I stood for a few moments, enjoying the sun  and checking my route, near a crossroads with a sign clearly marking the direction to Nay. I watched the activity there ... it was timeless. First the beautiful chicken, with the cat watching, then the little girls on bikes. As I left town, the dog was barely interested.


I continued on some of the little roads in the valley, in the area between Arudy, Nay, and Gan. This was a day without any fixed goal, other than eating a good lunch, and exploring the countryside. There was nowhere particular I needed to be. It was intended to be a day of easy riding, though I'm not sure it turned out to be that. Though it was (with the exception of a brief stint on the D934, a road I did not enjoy, with its truck traffic,) all extraordinarily beautiful.I adjusted my route as I rode, continuing to explore promising looking directions.

For the first time in my riding in France, I saw an intersection without a sign. Following the direction that showed clear signs of more traffic, I reached Nay, my goal for lunch. 

The details along these roads can be as beautiful as the views, so I tried to capture some of them. Details can be difficult out of context, but here are a few anyway.

Nay is small city, with a good cafe on the square. The salad was huge, the greens fresh, but the highlight was absolutely delicious blue cheese in it. Don't know the variety. Also in Nay, I saw the first shop selling postcards since Bayonne. Not that I have been wanting postcards, but it gives an idea of the size and culture of the towns I have been visiting.

Salmon has been featured on many dinner menus, and salmon is caught in the rivers. Trout is also frequently offered, though I have not yet had any. Today I passed more than one commercial trout farm.



  1. I was in Pau once looking at real estate with Rudy. Had dinner there, so I kinda sorta know where you are. Of course, that was 3 market crashes ago, so my memory is a little fuzzy. Sounds like you're having a great time--hope it continues.

  2. Larry, thanks for your note. I'm not going to actually be in Pau, but hear good things about it. Though I don't hear much good about the market right now I'll pretend that is because of my poor language skills. Breakfast and then to St. Savins.SM


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