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Circus life

Part 10 of a 2006 Cataluña/Pyrenées/Roussillon travelogue

by Thor Iverson

21 October 2006 – Saint-Savin, France

After an exhilarating but exhausting morning at Lac de Gaube, we’re ravenous for lunch. Back, along twisty but still-dramatic roads, to the gîte it is, for the last of our pure Ibérico (and we’ll miss it), some cheese, some leftovers, and a little wine.

Viños Piñol 2004 “Sacra Natura” Terra Alta “Viñas Viejos” (Cataluña) – Organic. Good, spicy crushed red fruit thrown in a blender, then well-infused with a rock-and-graphite tannin and zesty acidity. Finishes with drying apple skins and a good dusting of salt (and pepper). Fun and gluggable, but also a quality wine with some aging potential.

Cirque de Gavarnie – After lunch, and with a wary eye on the weather forecast, we decide to do the second of our major walks in this region. It will eventually turn out that, given goals of rain-avoidance and excellent visibility, this is a good idea. However, at a certain point our feet – especially Theresa’s – decide that maybe one hike per day is enough. Nonetheless, the Cirque lives up to its lofty reputation, and though the path is laden with afternoon strollers (who gradually fall away as we approach the great arc of the cirque itself), the feeling that one is approaching the wall at the end of the world is inescapable.

[cauterets waterfall][hotel & mountain]
[mules][grassy hills]
[stone bridge][river & bridge]
[autumn leaves][valley view]
[waterfall][river & cirque]
[cirque][mountain sunset]

Saint-Savin, France

Dinner is a lean slab of roast veal with garlic and herbs, and must be coaxed to tenderness given its general lack of flavor-inducing fat. Broccoli with fromage fort is…well, it’s a bad idea, but we’ve grown tired of the horseradish-y concoction on its own, and are looking for ways to finish it off. Eventually, we’ll just chuck it, but at this point we’re not quite ready for that.

And tomorrow? It’s our last in the Pyrenées, and we leave it unplanned, knowing that the weather will determine our course. But we’re already regretting the brevity of our stay, and in a way also regretting our location. The gîte is quite nice, but we’re too far into the range, which restricts our options. With a half-hour sacrifice of Saint-Savin’s admittedly fine vistas, we’d have more feasible possibilities due to a greater network of roads; as it is, getting anywhere else means backtracking for a long while, then taking on yet another voyage into the heart of the mountains. This is something we’ll keep in mind, because – based on this short trip – we will most definitely be back. We haven’t had this much fun in the mountains since…well, since New Zealand.

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Copyright © Thor Iverson.