Subject: Re: Re: Trip report: French Pyrénées III
I have saved this final chapter for last as this part of the Pyrénées is very near and dear to us.

After leaving the Ariège and the Charrue's in Aulus-les-Bains, we called friends who own a B&B in the Aspe Vallée (This is 1 hr. south of Pau) about 1/2 hr from the Col du Somport (major ski area) and into Spain. Their B&B is called La Curette tel: 05 59 34 78 18 -- Eliane and Christian Caton - This is our 4th visit with Eliane and Christian and they are special people. Their B&B is special too! We always stay, eat with them and other guests or family and have a terrific time! Elaine is the best cook and her B&B in the hamlet of Aydius (14 min drive above Bedous off rt. 134) overlookes the village and the mts and is ideal. They are warm, open people who will welcome you! Christian is a builder and the bathrooms (we all know some of the European bathrooms) are terrific!!! The hiking in the valley is special and it will truly be a treat for anyone wanting a truly French experience. They do NOT speak English - but neither does my husband and he adores them, as they do him! Everyone comes to the table with dictionaries and we all laugh and communicate somehow. (I speak passable French - but make plenty of grammatical errors!) Their dinners include a cheese course, dessert and wine!

We also returned to the Val d'Azun - to climb in the lac d'Estaing area. (Val d'Azun was still closed because of avalanche danger) This is a very beautiful area to the east of the Vallée d'Aspe - it is about 3/4 hr drive from Lourdes and 1/2 hr. from Argeles-Gazost for those of you looking at a map. The villages are tiny, but it is incredibly beautiful. The village of Arrens has a large Parc (Pyren.Nat.Park) headquarters and the people who work there are very helpful.

Our usual B&B was closed, so we stayed in St.Savin - about 10 min from Argeles-Gazost -(very picturesque town with a wonderful 12'th??? C. church) - Hotel Viscos (2-toque Logis) - accommodations were OK - but the food... oh the food was terrific!!! (see Michelin - 2 fork recommendation) tel: 05 62 97 02 28. The chef lived in America for awhile and his food is really good! - (don't be turned off by the restaurant decor... if looks a bit tattered.) I must include in this -- two wonderful places that we visited over the past couple of years on trips here - One, La Chataigneriaie owned by Dany & Jean-Pierre Dessay - in Salles-Argelès (15 min from Argeles-Gazost-) This is a restaurant - very romantic with terrific food - tel: 05 62 97 17 84. They fill up fast, so if you want to eat there, call early. We stayed in an apt. they have (they only rent by the week and weekend now - but it cost us about $45/night two yrs ago and was perfect!) This is out in the country, one room with beamed ceilings and wonderful, hearty French food and atmosphere. The second recommendations is La Ferme du Pic de Pan -- tel: 05 62 97 45 35. This is a working farm where the people raise angora goats. They cook what they raise (not the goats....) and the experience is really wonderful. They are young people who have an alternative life style and it works. They food is good but not fantastic but the experience and the people are wonderful. This is located outside of Val d'Azun up the Col des Bordères.

This was a wonderful trip. We love to travel and don't spend a great deal of $$$ - most days, our lodging, breakfast and dinner is about $70/ with private room and bath. Sometimes, it's much cheaper - and in a pinch - we sometimes have to spend a bit more. This is what happens when one does not have reservations. (La Curette in Aydius is about $60.) We never travel in the summer, preferring to travel slightly off season which gives us the best rates and gives us time to meet and be with the people who live in these wonderful places. We use also - The Rough Guide and Fodor's Rivages - Bed and Breakfasts of Character and Charm in France - (read between the lines and if he says that the proprietor is very helpful and charming, he is usually right! - watch out for omissions - We also use the Guide Routard (all in French) which is written for the different regions of France - for informal travel and is wonderful. For those of you who might remember the old Hachette guide, this is the new version. Any tourist information has a list of B&B's, Gites and other recommendations (sometimes with photos of the places to stay) The Gites de France puts out a large book (for sale) with all of the Chambres d'hotes (B&B's) available each year - rated, with pictures. Most large tourist information offices will have the sectional Gite de France chambres d'hoted guides - just ask them! The small regional ones are free. (In the back of these catalogus are farms where you can have a meal occasionally consisting of what is produced or raised on the farm - or sometimes even stay there.) Have fun!! Susie Newton, MA

We love travel and if I can help anyone out, let me know.