Monday, 23 November 2009

France, part two.

As you can see, day two dawned a VERY nice day, with the thermometer showing around 18C on the patio in the morning - just the sort of morning to have breakfast 'al fresco'.
This is our friends house 'Les Samoyedes' in the Pyrenean village of Nyer.
Our room is the one on the left with the exposed balcony.
I wouldn't have thought that security was such a big thing, but most rural French houses have these 'decorative' but vicious-looking metal bars at the windows. I mean, this window is upstairs, and only tiny - who be able to GET in here, even if they could reach it? (Also, the window has shutters.)
They DO look nice though.
Most mornings, this was our first view. The Nyer gorge nature reserve.
The sun comes over the top of the ridge (as you can see in this photo)
and immediately warms you through to the bone.

Sun now WELL up, and time for a walk.
This path is five minutes behind Brenda's house.
That big lump behind us is Coronet mountain (yes, we've been up there).

Suddenly Sue cried; "LOOK UP!"
There was this beautiful Eagle flying right over our heads.

Looking down the Tet valley to the Cerdagne area.
This is a high area that gets snowed in very early in the season.

Look carefully, you can see En village, and the chapel
perched on the promontory bottom left.

A simple, primitive water cart, now abandoned.
Just a 45 gallon drum on a frame, but effective.

Sue walks down the hard-to-find path.
Brenda & Mannes knew where it was, and this
photo makes it look far more obvious than it actually was.
You can't beat local knowledge!
We came across the Sharon, or persimmon fruits, growing wild.
We'd seen lots of fruits and nuts growing wild on previous visits at previous times, but this was a first.

Losing height, we were now looking up at En Chapel an the skyline.

We also picked up a LOT of chestnuts. I even managed to bring some back to England, and roast them in the pizza oven (lovely too, they were). They are DEVILS to handle though, and the spines are like little needles. Great care must be taken, but I find stamping on them very effective!

Back at 'Les samoyedes' early afternoon, time for a drink on the patio, then we planned a walk up the Nyer gorge as far as we could get. Brenda won't take the dogs up there, as it's too dangerous, so it was a solo trip for us.
Not until we'd had a beer though :-)
This patio looks lovely in this setting, bathed in sun as it so often is.
HOWEVER! Brenda found that when it snows, it's a different story.
More of this later, but just to show you how bad things CAN get out here - scroll down.

FIFTY EIGHT centimetres of snow - overnight!
Don't think I'd fancy sitting at the table in THIS sort of weather!

Anyway, back to our afternoon/evening walk. We set off above the village, towards the gorge.
This is Nyer chateau from the road above it (zoomed)

Next thing, Sue stopped me in my tracks. She'd spotted this on the road in front of us.
At first, we thought it was a big grasshopper, but it was soon obvious we were
looking at the first ever praying mantis we'd seen in France.

We let it crawl away to the safety of the grass, getting this shot in the meantime.

We entered the gorge on a perfect evening, looking back to Nyer village & the mountains beyond.

There is a MASSIVE ongoing project to improve irrigation to Nyer from Mantet, at the other end of the gorge. For many, many years, there has been a canal. similar to the levadas in Madeira, that brought water to Nyer farms. This happens all over the Pyrenees, but this particular one suffered a lot with collapse, rockfall damage, etc etc so it has been decided to replace the WHOLE canal with a pipe. This pipe will be placed in the line of the canal, but bolted to the rock. It's a huge operation, and God knows what it will cost, but they have a lorry running all day, collecting pipes from Olette, then taking them to the top of the plateau above Nyer. There, a helicopter takes them around the mountain to the men welding and bolting the line together. It takes the lorry 30-40 minutes per trip, and it brings four pipes. It takes the helicopter just five minutes to lift and drop off each one.
This went on while ever it was light.

The chopper passed above us as we walked.
On a later walk this week, we would be looking DOWN on him!
The path up the gorge - and the reason Brenda won't bring the dogs.
Mostly, the path is wide, but on this section, it isn't, and part of it has collapsed.

.....and believe ME, it's a long way down if you fell.

A fearless Sue negotiates the path where it's barely a foot wide.
That really is a sheer drop off to her right.

As it's the only way up the gorge, I had to face it too.

Beyond the 'squeeze' is the first tunnel. The opening on the right is just for light.

What AM I doing here......................
Trying to get a picture of this little fellow.
'chauves-souris' en Francais, or the bat, to you and me!
We walked through the tunnels, and this is Sue at the end of the road - the bridge that was once here was swept away in a storm. So far, it's remained impassable, but there are now plans to re-instate it and recover the path to Mantet. For us, this was where we turned back.

The evening shadows were starting to cloak the mountains around us.
That lovely blue hue was settling down before the cool of sunset.
Just LOOK at that PERFECT, azure blue sky!

We just had time to drop down to the village and take a quick tour of the chateau grounds - there was something I wanted to take pictures of in here.

This was it - a grotto in the grounds!
I'm not sure how this got here, if it was natural, moved here, preserved or what.

All I know is, it's the first time I've seen a preserved snake like this.
It's petrified in stone, but you can still see the colours on it.

Also, a petrified frog!
After being amazed by that grotto, we decided it was time to make for home.
This is the tower of the chateau.

The tiny Nyer village.
One of the elders.
(whoo iz zees strange Eeenglishman in SHORTS!!!)

Tomorrow, we have a walk up to the old village of En planned, but the weather doesn't look as
good as it has been today - we'll see.

Part three in a few days.

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