The drive begins – stage 1

Day 18

We left San Sebastian on a cold and wet day to travel over the border into France by bus. Biarritz was a fancy coastal town but bad weather (and a taxi) drove us straight to the airport to pick up our little Golf diesel hire car. Well after a quick French omelette that is. Driving in a foreign country on the wrong side of the road and car is a little daunting but we soon gained confidence. Despite taking the onboard GPS option we still managed to head the wrong way out of town back towards Spain !! After some detours, dead ends and driving through some very narrow little streets in tiny villages we arrived in a town called Oloron-Ste-Marie. Here are some geese we saw on the way at one of our dead ends.

Ducks at a dead end

The tourist office in Oloron-Ste-Marie found us a Bed and Breakfast where our French host, Patrick, recommended where we could get a traditional Basque meal at a Restaurant. This was the menu –

Complimentary bowl of olives and polenta bread

An assiette/shared platter of local produce including meats, pate, peppers to share Duck (for Matt)

A beautiful veal casserole (for Connie) (chefs special)

Our French is not so good (well Connie does all the talking) – We had more luck in Spain, maybe after some more practice we will get better at ordering. It was still very yummy.

The entree

Day 19

Our host from the previous night suggested we head south through a valley before heading west as our route dictated. It did take us through a very pretty town. One that we were to spend the rest of the trip trying to find again to stay in for a couple of nights. (see Video) After taking what we thought would be a quick drive to get back on our westerly route we ended with a very difficult drive that took us up to the very highest peaks of the Pyrenees. We were a little intimidated by the drive and perhaps did not fully appreciate the sights we came across. The ski fields, incredible views of snow covered mountains, cows on the road and huge birds of prey soaring right next to us. We were so high it even dropped down to 6 degrees. On the way we passed through the tiniest of villages where the car would barely fit through. We even got stuck behind the lady delivering baguettes, in her tiny van, to the locals. More windy roads and tight bum cheeks to get back down the mountains.

Two cows .......

Drove through Lourdes and ended up in a small town (Beltren) near St. Betrand at a B & B catering mainly for English bike riders. It was owned by an English couple and we ended up with a home cooked meal, shared with 3 middle aged guys having a bike holiday, the 2 owners, and 2 English staff that live and work there. Here is the menu.

The Menu at Patrick's bike riders chambre

Note : Maps, maps and more maps—cant take anymore – GPS has been very helpful though, Connie has to bite her tongue because she did not want one, all part of her going with the flow plan.

Day 20

Unfortunately it rained the whole next day on our drive to Gillian and Roger’s in Plaigne. We stopped at a market in St. Garand to stock up on cheese, meats and bread for a picnic later in the day. Drove in our usual style of indecisiveness of whether we should go off the beaten track or take the main roads, so spent way too much time playing around with GPS; redirecting ourselves all the time. Sadly had to have our picnic lunch in the car because it was a miserable rainy sort of day. Sort of getting nowhere on the beaten track so changed direction and went to Foix, as it had been recommended by someone the night before. Had a quick look but still time to move onwards.

Arrived in Plainge (a tiny village) earlier than expected because of the inclement weather. Here we met with Gillian and Roger. Gillian is the cousin on Marion, Connie’s brother in laws mum. They showed us around their house they are renovating themselves and gave some incredible insights into the history of their town over dinner. Dinner was a delicious (the best in France) meal of local and home grown delights. Here is the Menu

Warm local Goats Cheese Salad drizzled with local Honey

Local Duck Breast cooked naturally with duck Fat sauce to pour to taste, served with Potato Gallete and green beans

Huge Cheese Platter

Cheese please

PAVLOVA with home grown raspberries (We had to convince them this was an Australian invention)

Red Wine and Whiskey

All this came with great conversation and we must thank Gillian and Roger for the incredible effort they took to ensure we had a very authentic French meal. Not to mention our room and the help to try and plan the next stage of trip. Hopefully we can return the favour some day. After such a huge and long and glorious dinner with G&R, stuffing ourselves silly over some lovely conversation we went up for a good lie down and recovery from the food, vowing to not eat the next day, well ok, just no bread, cheese or meat.

3 Responses to “The drive begins – stage 1”
  1. Annie sister says:

    Crazy. And what navigating! Clearly your trip wouldn’t be the same with out the featuring of cows and ducks!..
    On a super early train this morning to ballarat so def the first to see your adventures. Can’t see a video- but all good, photos say plenty. A week of meat free may be on the menu?..

  2. Marijana says:

    Brett would be very jealous of that cheese platter.


    • Matt says:

      Maybe you and Brett should pop over to France! You get cheese with everything…. every meal you have at a restaurant has cheese as one of the courses, just before dessert… yum but the hips are growing 🙂

      see you very soon in Croatia xxx

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