Between Heaven and Hell

Barcelona – Part 4

I realized early on, when we began this adventure, that really, only one MAJOR outing per day could be planned before the kiddies lost their minds and were a complete mess (making my life a BAZILLION times harder than it needed to be). The outing for this particular day in Barcelona was was going to be something close to my heart.  We were going to visit THE MOST FAMOUS MARKET IN BARCELONA……. LA BOQUERIA!

The outing on this day was 100% for me. I was half hoping that the kiddies would be super excited by going to the market……. but I knew that they were most likely too young to enjoy this little treasure of Barcelona.

We spent a good portion of the morning at the hotel prepping for our adventure, before we hopped on the train, to take us into the heart of Barcelona and La Boqueria Market. We navigated our way on the metro and walked a good portion of La Rambla before coming upon the market.

It is a large covered market, that has all the spanish delicacies that one dreams of!  We walked in (make way people……double stroller coming through), to some of the most amazing smells.  We passed by a Tapas restaurat and the food smells were OUT OF THIS WORLD! Seriously……  what I would have given to have sat down and ordered a glass of wine and some fab food…..

As the kids and I meandered around the market we notice many local specialties and tons of frresh vegetables and seafood.  At this point I realized I was caught between Heaven and Hell.  Pure Heaven with all these amazing ingredients around me ….. and Pure Hell since I was living in a hotel with no where to cook all these ingredients. We ended up leaving the market with some AMAZING fresh squeezed juices…… but that was it.

It was hot day in Barcelona, and the kids seemed like they had had enough so we decided to make our way back to the hotel on the metro and call it a day pool side with Brodies’ new friend and some yummy eats.

Barcelona Part 5

Friday was our last full day in Barcelona and we woke up with a mission.  It was the day of the Opening Ceremonies for London 2012 and we were making our way to the Olympic Diving Pool from when Barcelona hosted the summer Olympics in 1992.  It is the most iconic of venues from the ’92 Olympics.   It showcased Barcelona as everyone had ever imagined it to be…..   The backdrop for the divers was (and is) SPECTACULAR to say the least!

We arrived via, the metro and then to a funicular up the mountainside to the dive pool.  I did find it strange that it took us a while to find the “Olympic Pool”.  I had assumed there would be signs pointing us in the proper direction, but there were none. We did eventually get on the right track and made our way to the admission counter and to the pool deck.

I will admit that I was a bit thrown off that this Olympic landmark was not better signed.  Coming off the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and seeing first hand the care that Vancouver has put into preserving its Olympic Legacy, I was shocked by what we encountered.  It was almost like Barcelona could have cared less about this once iconic venue…..   it made me sad 😦

Since it was the Opening Ceremony day for London 2012 I had hopes that something spectacular might be going on here….. and with 4000 seat bleachers…….I thought there maybe big screen TV’s with ticket admission to watch…. I dont know…. something….seriously SOMETHING! I was wrong…. there was nothing “Olympic” going on here…. BOO!

During our visit,to the pool we took in the most STUNNING view of Barcelona with no crowds. We got to cool off in the heat of the day in a pretty awesome pool with about 12 other people, as well we got to watch the Barcelona Diving Team practicing.  The kiddies and I thought that was pretty cool. The pool is in much need of some serious repairs as you will see by the pictures.  It is sad that such a beautiful pool is not being used to its full potential and is falling into disrepair.

The kiddies and I had a super fun last day in Barcelona, making our way around town like we were locals!

During the week leading up to the Olympics, Mike and I had been looking into places to watch the Opening Ceremonies. We finally decided that our hotel room was most likely the best place to see it.  We couldnt find any “hype” around the event so we made our own.

We had dinner across from the hotel in an “Itallian” restaurant that was attached to the mall ( *disclaimer*…. I  have already stated this was not a culinary journey for the Bain clan).  We then proceeded to the “mini” amusement park. You know…. the one that seemed to follow us everywhere in Europe.  Brodie was  full on on the trampolines from his experience in Luz St. Saveur and when it comes to any type of carousel…… well Syd seriously could go in circles FOREVER, so she was in HEAVEN!

We made our way back to the hotel, and with wine and chocolate milk ordered to the room, we had the best time cheering the London 2012 Canadian Team on as they entered the London Stadium with Simon Whitfield carrying the Canadian FLAG!  It was such an awesome evening, even if we couldn’t understand what the local commentators were saying!

It was an fabulous way to end our last day in Barcelona……

Enjoy your (not so) Daily Dose.

Xox

B.

Barcelona 2-1

Our Hotel. The Hilton Diagonal Mar. we were 7 windows up on the right hand corner. We looked right into Mikes work at SAP!

Barcelona 2-2

La Boqueria

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An entire stall dedicated to Baccalau (Salt Cod)…. sorry it’s not my favourite!

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Barcelona 2-8 Barcelona 2-9

Our purchase for the day! So super YUM!

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Mmmmmmmm……..MUSHROOMS!

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nnnnn…….. NUTS!

Barcelona 2-15

AWESOME and beautiful!

Barcelona 2-16

YUMMERS!

Barcelona 2-18 Barcelona 2-19

An entire stall just for Foie Gras….

Barcelona 2-22

Outside the Market… La RamblasBarcelona 2-23

Hahahaha…. to late now….. but needed this for sure!

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Our entrance to the metro

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Pool…. Here we COME!

Barcelona 2-31

Spiderman follows us EVERYWHERE!

Barcelona 2-32

FUNICULAR up the mountain

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Mr. Man

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Little Miss

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Kiddos in Barcelona!

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Pool… finally!

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Olympic Dive Pool

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Down we go to the pool deck!

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Dive towers

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Barcelona team practicing

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Brodie LOVED THIS… said I NEEDED to take the birds photo!

He was right.

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Diving Platforms

Barcelona 2-47

Repairs needed

Barcelona 2-48

Hallway to change rooms… no signs, so it turns out we all changed in the “boys” change room.  Oops!

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Random fix-it-up places all through out the dive pool venue 😦

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Loving the stair walk up!

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Up Up Up

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Dive platforms

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“Olympic” signage…. so sad!

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More fun at the hotel pool before dinner!

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8:30PM and its EMPTY! Will be full in about an HOUR! Late night dinner for everyone in Barcelona!

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Round and round we go!

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Chupa Chuyps Truck

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Chupa Chuyps Truck was the favourite

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Motorcycles…. FUN!

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Opening Ceremonies – London 2012

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Barcelona 2-66

Yay Canada!

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Barcelona 2-68

Hello Canada… Hello Simon Whitfield

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The opening ceremonies were AMAZING!

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Room 62 and an Olive Tree

Carcassonne – part 2

After our week in Lourdes it was time to say good-bye to the Pyrenees Mountains and Le Tour de France and head back to our beloved castle and room 62 at the Montmorency Hotel in Carcassonne…. YAY!

To say that I am absolutely in LOVE with this hotel is not really a understatement!  It totally ROCKS!  The rooms…. super cool.  The beds….. amazing. The pool kicks butt, and being so close to the castle, well really, can you ask for more? Oh yeah…. there is also an olive tree right outside the door!  Hello……. it really doesn’t get any better!

Since we were in the same room from a week ago it kinda felt like we were coming home.  Everyone there remembered us and the kids loved that they knew where they were going.  I was happy that after a week away from this fabulous hotel, I, once again had full water pressure, an amazing rain shower, and various body gels and shampoos.  This hotel is simply AWESOME!

We arrived after an uneventful 3.5 hour drive from Lourdes – where we left overcast cloudy skies for sunshine and warmer temperatures. We spent what was left of the afternoon in the pool before heading into the castle for dinner.

We decided to head into the centre “square” for dinner which was probably a mistake on our part just given the touristy nature of the restaurants we were eating at. All the restaurants seemed to have similar plastic coated menus and had a HUGE number of tables that were all full of tourists ( I know …. I’m a tourist as well…..). This is usually my sign to run and find another eating establishment, but the kids were pretty set on the place that “they” picked out…. Brodie says “lets eat at that restaurant” referring to the restaurant with the green awnings and umbrellas.  I ordered the goat cheese salad, in my head, hoping to replicate the one I had in Luz St. Sauveur (but with no luck).  The kids ended up being super happy with their meals, and in the end as long as their tummies are full and they are happy….. well, anyway, that’s what I tell myself!

It was a beautiful night so we walked around the castle till dusk, stopping in on our favourite store… Real chocolate.  We picked up a crazy stash of über tasty chocolate.  After our shopping extravaganza , we were ALL going to head out on the “Daddy/Brodie” nightly castle walk.  Well little Syd had other ideas. Her “less frequent” meltdown was fast approaching…. I have no idea what set her off, and it lasted about 10 minutes with her kicking, screaming and crying on the ground, before I finally said… “OK let’s go back to the hotel”. She was happy as a clam to be heading back to room 62, her comfy bed, and Bubble Guppies on the iPad.  Brodie and Mike finished their nightly castle walk without the two of us, but then stopped by to pick us up for a “night-cap” at the hotel bar.  Apple juice for the kiddies and fermented grape juice for the parents!

We woke up to cloudy skies and a weather report calling for rain…. noooooooo! I wanted hot Carcassonne sunshine and blue skies!  We decided given the weather that we would enter the castle and walk the ramparts around the walled city.  The line up was a bit crazy, with about 30 minutes in line waiting just to buy entrance tickets and I found myself thankful that it wasn’t 32 degrees and sunny!  We all throughly enjoyed touring around the old castle, and walking the defensive wall that surrounded the castle.  The views of the countryside and city were amazing. Although it still wasn’t super hot and sunny….  we ended our day in the pool.

Our last morning in Carcassonne was BEAUTIFUL! Blue skies, sunshine….. the perfect morning for a quick breakfast, a quick pack of the hotel room and car, and then a lazy morning spent splashing in the pool and basking in sunshine.  We slathered on the sunscreen and ended up splashing, jumping, diving, swimming, shark hunting, dragon hunting, princess rescuing….. in the pool for HOURS!  We were all quite sad to leave but with a three-hour drive to Barcelona ahead of us, and lunch to eat, it was time to call it a day around 1:00.  We said goodbye to the resident pups, and cats, jammed our selves into the “european full size” car, and we were off.

Good-bye Carcassonne, room 62 and my olive tree…… till next time!

PS. Just so you all know….

I  didn’t understand the crazy amounts of time a blog would take, and the frustration I would have with the Wi-Fi in our various accommodations on our trip, so this isn’t really a LIVE account of our trip.  We have been back in Vancouver BC now, just about 4 weeks, and I am still blogging about our trip from July……  maybe it’s now called a “Journal”.  Either way, I’m still having fun recounting our trip from notes I took on my iPhone and going through the photos I took…… I hope you are all still enjoying it!

PPS If you are reading this and you happen to live in Carcassonne….. we left an iPhone 3GS (iPod really….) at the “green” restaurant  (we think).  If you could help me track it down and ship it back to Canada I would be forever grateful…. as would a little 3 year old princess! If you track it down you can comment via the blog and we can get in touch!

Enjoy your Daily Dose

Xox

B.

Hello Carcassonne Castle

“Real Chocolat” store   Mmmmmmmm…….

So, so happy!

Sword fighting in the castle

The Family

Hangin’ in a castle

The nightly walk

yup…. it’s pretty deep!

The Castle and Ramparts

Siblings

Me and my kiddies

we’re off to see the wizard….. Oops…..wrong era!

Walking the Ramparts

The inner City and Castle

Oh my…. we are all of a sudden not happy!

The start of the nightly walk

Syd is not having ANY part of this walk

My little man

Good Morning Carcassonne!

Fun with giant X’s and O’s

Hello AWESOME rain shower!

Bye bye comfy bed

Bye Bye resident pups 1&2

Bye bye, Syd’s favorite kitty

THE POOL!

My Olive Tree

Vive Le Tour de France!

Lourdes – Part 3

Well this was the day we all had been looking forward to, and anticipating for a VERY long time!  We were heading back into the Pyrenees Mountains to watch Le Tour come through…. live and in person! We were very excited to say the least!

After days of trying to figure out the BEST place (many maps and GPS devices were used to figure this out) to watch the tour go through from Pau to Bagneres du Luchon, we decided to head to Luz St. Sauveur, on the Col du Tourmalet climb.  The advice we were given from “our” local trampoline/ski instructor from the day before was that the road wouldn’t close down till about 11:00am so we would have plenty of time to get there before the race came through.

Mike and I were both a bit sceptical on whether the road would be open (this is THE Tour de France after all) but decided to go with the advice we were given by our local “guide” and make our way for around 9:30am. This would give us plenty of time to hopefully find parking, and scope our spot to watch from.

We made our way and were pretty surprised that it was relatively quiet.  I was expecting thousands upon thousands of people all crowding the streets just trying to get a glimpse of the riders…… however that was not the case.  We found parking easily and had a great morning (amazing yummy coffee and chocolate croissants were involved) waiting for Le Tour to come through.

About an hour before the riders come through, a huge caravan of sponsor cars came through playing crazy loud music. There were people yelling in French over loud speakers, go-go boys and go-go girls dancing and throwing prizes. Really it was more like junk than prizes, but the kiddies were having fun trying to gather up as many goodies as they could.

At around 11:00 am Mike went to buy a beer….you know…..its a novelty for us Canadians to be able to walk around in public with an alcoholic beverage in hand. I don’t drink beer….. but seriously, how awesome is it to have beer being sold and people just walking around drinking beer, instead of being corralled like sheep behind a “beer garden fence”.  Life is so civilized in France and I LOVE it!

The Tour day that we saw, turned out to be the hardest stage of the entire tour.  Four mountain climbs, and 201 seriously hard kilometers. When they came through Luz St. Sauveur it was the start of the second climb of the day. The peloton was broken into 2 groups…. the mountain climbers were in the front pack and all in the hunt for the polka dot jersey, and to be eventually crowned king of the mountains.  The second pack had Bradley Wiggins and all that were in the hunt to strip him of his coveted, leader of the race, yellow jersey!

It was honestly a blur of cyclists as they passed through Luz St Sauveur.  I would have thought that they would have really been struggling hard to get up the mountain but it looked like this part of the mountain was being handled quite easily by all the riders.  I was so excited by seeing all the riders I actually didn’t get the best shots (certainly not Graham Watson or Liz Kreutz worthy).  The riders passed through, the team cars followed, and then it was over.  It happened that fast.  We headed into the bowling alley/restaurant for coffee/beer and to watch the televised climb up the Col du Tourmalet.  The experience was beyond awesome.

This was Mikes 3rd Tour de France…. in a row…… that he has been in France, watching, live, and in person, and my first. (….so something is wrong with this picture…. no?).

Summer 2010 – after a cycling trip with the guys, Mike said something to the effect that “for being in France, you certainly don’t get a lot of coverage on the race…. its like it’s not even happening”. I thought for sure he was tricking me so I wouldn’t be super envious and know how fabulous it all was.

Summer 2011. Mike was in Paris (for work….hahaha) for the final stage of Le Tour and on the Champs Elysees watching live.  We were talking on the phone, him there, me watching it on TV here  in Vancouver.  Turns out it was him asking me what was going on.  He said he couldn’t see a thing since it was über crowded and there were about 12 rows of people in front of him. Again….. all I could think of was “STOP trying to make me feel better about not being THERE!”

Summer 2012. We spent the entire 22 days in France during Le Tour, and I hate to say it, but Mike is right……. being in France (Paris, Disneyland,Orleans,Carcassonne, Lourdes) during the Tour, we were hard pressed to find out anything about the race while we were there.  It was never on TV, not in the newspapers, not anywhere! Without internet we really would not have known what was happening! Seriously!

In Canada we seem to follow all the stages…. waking up early and catching every pedal stroke, every drop of sweat, every feed station, all while holding our breath. We watch the entire days ride just to see a sprint finish or watching the riders grind it out on the mountain stages. It makes for awesome sport,  awesome TV… and I LOVE it!

With that all said……. next year is the 100th anniversary of Le Tour…. it sure would be fun to be in a motor home, with a group of equally enthusiastic cycling friends, on the side of a mountain climb with a Canadian flag, body paint, costumes…. partying with all the rest of the crazed Le Tour fans. Mike are you listening??!?

After our morning of watching Le Tour we decided to head up another famous Le Tour climb…. Hautacam!  It was stunning and beautiful.  I was surprised how different the climb was from the Col du Tourmalet which really was not that far away.  Turns out they have a crazy luge track at the top of the mountain that we all just loved. The kiddies were in heaven! SO. MUCH. FUN.

Vive Le Tour de France!

Enjoy your Daily Dose

Xox

B.

Race Set up… flag check point

Mountain Tunnel

Cured meat in Luz St. Sauveur

Start of Le Tour in Pau

Hello little Le Tour Fan

more rides before the race comes through

Town centre

Lets Jump – I’m READY!

Brodie was cheering for Cadel Evans and team BMC

up to the minute race stats courtesy your friendly iPhone 4s

The Caravan Arrives

#1 Fans!

More race stats… unfolding as it happens!

Helicopters are near…… the race is near!

Drinking beer in the middle of the streets in the AM…. because you know what…..we can!

look both ways!

The Family…..

Group #1 looking for the polka dot jersey!

Mike…. the amazing human climbing tree!

Race leader Bradley Wiggins Spoiler alert…. he wins Le Tour 2012 AND the gold medal in London 2012!

Brodies team car

Watching from “our” bowling alley

Hello Brodie…. Le Tour de France is going on behind you!

Hautacam in all its glory

Our afternoon coffee stop at the top of a mountain!

Summer Luge track…. FUN!

So high…..

Brodie and Daddy

Syd was SO EXCITED!  This little lady likes danger!

More cows in the middle of the road!

Mountain Towns in France…. They Totally ROCK!

Lourdes – Part 2

So the day after Mikes bikes race the weather started to clear up.  We decided to take a family tour around town, and ended up at the Pic du Jer, and the funicular ride up the mountain,  to the amazing views over looking the city, and where we took in a cave tour – Brodie and Sydney’s first…… EVER!

I wasn’t such a fan of the funicular ride up the mountainside. Being pulled up the mountain in a metal box that was over a 100 years old, by a cable, at a crazy slope (28-58% grade) was almost too much for me to handle.  The views were spectacular but I could hardly wait to get off the funicular and back on to solid ground!

The cave tour at the top of the mountain was very cool. Brodie was super pumped to be inside a mountain….. even little Syd seemed to be excited about the adventure ahead.  The tour took about 30 minutes, and our guide, Helene, was very informative and had quite the sense of humor.  Other than the tour and the views, there wasn’t much else to do at the top of this very pretty mountain, so we decided to have lunch at the little cafe at the top, before getting back in line for the ride down on the 100 year old funicular. I was happy that it didn’t seem to be as nerve-racking on the way down as it was on the way up!

Now it’s totally weird, but during our visit to France, and in EVERY little town, there has been some type of carnival/carousel/trampolines, and Lourdes one was no exception.  We had promised the kiddies for 2 days that we would go to the carnival – seriously 2 blocks from our apartment….. and tonight was going to be that night.

Well…..during the day, the carnival had packed up and left….. except, thank goodness, for a couple of the kiddie rides.  Brodie was happy on his bumper cars, expertly driving to AVOID the other cars, and even teasing some of the other kids with a “drive and dodge“ maneuver (he learned this from Mike in our parkade…. teaching a 5 year old to drive!)…. all while laughing his head off!  Syd was quite happy to go in circles, riding as many different characters and animals on the ride that she could on the carousel. “Just one more ride….. please“, well this too eventually had to come to an end…… and you know what…… it never seemed  to end on a high note….. no matter what!

Oh little Syd……. sometimes you can be just too much….the tears, the drama, all over nothing…… but…….. we love you more than anything!

The Monday in Lourdes we woke up to beautiful blue skies and what we had planned as our laundry day…… Boo!  We found an amazing coin laundry place not far from our apartment (I, at this point was missing our Paris apartment and its washer and dryer!) and we headed there first thing. The laundromat turned out to be one of those industrial type of washer/dryers places. I had ALL our laundry in 3 washers and then put it ALL…. yes ALL…. in one crazy huge dryer.  The clothes were dry in 40 minutes! Totally awesome, we had it all done in record time and we were now heading to the Col du Tourmalet, to scope out our ” Le Tour de France” watching position, and head up the Pic du Midi for stunning views of the Pyrenees mountains.

We ended up spending quite a bit of time in Luz St. Sauveur on our way up the mountainside.  Turns out they had trampolines and a carousel!  REALLY…. I’m just sooooooo surprised by this!

Brodie was in total heaven, bouncing around in the Pyrenees, and Syd was pretty happy, once again to go in circles!  We then made our way up the ever more crowded Col du Tourmalet as everyone was staking their coveted spot for when Le Tour was passing through in 2 days time.  We decided to stop half-way up the mountain since Syd was starting to go a little crazy in the car (she builds up to her meltdowns in increments, so you can see them coming a mile away).  Both kids loved the cows and sheep on previous stops on the mountain, so Mike thought this would be another great adventure.

We were at a ski lift spot on the mountain, as well as an area that looked like they gave kids lessons since there was one of those “moving carpets”.  The cows and sheep graze relatively freely on the mountain however there are these little electric fences put up so the cows don’t go past a certain area.  Well….. Mike thought it was a great idea to hop this little electric fence with both kiddies and go and visit one of these nice little dairy cows, that were wearing GINOURMOUS bells around their necks, grazing on the mountainside.  I followed a bit behind, swearing at myself for being a “scardey cat”, and eventually hopping over the little fence,  joining Brodie at the end of the “magic carpet”.  Mike ventured off into the field with Syd in his arms to go and visit a French cow!

To say that this particular cow (with horns…. now…..does that make it a bull) was not happy to see Mike would be an understatement.  The cow turned to face Mike did this weird little “hop” and made a crazy swipe with its horns at Mike and Syd.  The cow caught Mikes hand with his horn as he turned Syd away. To say that we were relieved that the cow didn’t charge the two of them (because he SOOOOOOO could have) would be an understatement!  It was scary for Mike, Brodie and myself all while little Syd took it in stride, feeling safe in Daddies arms.  We are pretty lucky that the cow/bull didn’t charge Mike….. the day would have ended right then and there, on a completely different note!  Guess the electric fence was there to keep the cows in…….. and the tourists OUT!

With Mikes aching hand, and another half of the mountain to go, we hopped in the car and made our way to Pic du Midi.  We summited the mountain with crystal blue skies on one side of the mountain, and rolling, socked in cloud on the other….. this, as well as arriving late, cancelled out trip up the Pic du Midi. And now ” I ” was in a mood…. the only thing I wanted to do that day was closed…. Uuuugghhhh!

We hung out for awhile and then decided we would make our way down the mountain and stop in a cute mountainside town for dinner.  We ended up in a town just before Luz St Sauveur….. I think it was Estrre but not 100% sure.  The restaurant was right on the side of the road that the tour would be passing through in 2 short days. Dinner was great, but both kids were crabby, so we ended up playing in the park across the street before heading back in the car for Lourdes.

Tuesday had bright blue skies again and we were definitely gonna make it up the Pic du Midi…. without question!  Mike wanted to cycle up the Col du Tourmalet in the sunshine so we packed the bike, a change of clothes, and headed to Luz St Sauveur to drop Mike off.  The kiddies and I hung out in our FAVORITE mountain town, for some bouncy trampoline,and spinning carouseling fun, before making our way to the top of Tourmalet then on to the OTHER side of the mountain for lunch……. where we would meet up with Mike.

The day before Le Tour, on one of THE MOST FAMOUS HC category climbs in Le Tour history = complete CHAOS trying to get up the mountain!  On a road that normally might fit cyclists and one car, in one direction only, now had campers, tents motor homes ….. all parked by the side of the cliff, and any other spot they could possibly STUFF their vehicle into!  To say I was stressed driving up the mountain is an understatement.  Mikes parting words of encouragement were……. “DO NOT drive off the side of the mountain”….. and just so you know……. it could easily happen people!  With no guard rails, there really is nothing between your car and a huge plummet off the Col du Tourmalet! I was totally crossing my fingers that this didn’t happen!  I did make my way up, and at points thinking, “I hope we are 100% covered for accidents” as it was  super TIGHT in some spots.

I was relieved to make it to the top and descend the other side until I spotted the herd of cows just hangin’ out in the middle of the road.  This sight got ROARS of laughter from Brodie as I made my way weaving through meandering dairy cows on a mountainside road, all while talking to them……  ‘do not back up’,  ‘please dont move!’, “If you move, you’re gonna be hamburger meat”.

We found a great parking spot (always a concern when not really knowing all the parking regulations and signs), and then we had a great lunch, with Mike joining us after his cycle. We then made our way to the Pic du Midi gondola…… FINALLY!  Wow… it is a far and long ride to get to the top. I will admit that for some reason, on this trip, I haven’t been so good with the mechanical things,….. you know…… those mechanical things that pull you up, or across a mountain. So WEIRD!  Anyway……. I was scared going up the mountain, deep breathing was used, and I was thankful once we reached our destination and I was no longer suspended 10,000ft above the mountains by a cable!

The views were absolutely amazing!  Wow… seriously, STUNNING!

At the top Mike didn’t really get that close to the edge and barriers as I, and he barely looked around.  He hung back with the kiddies till we sat down at the cafe to grab an afternoon coffee “high in the sky”.  As we were talking about him not having a good look around and I said to Brodie “Daddy doesn`t like heights” to which Mike replied (and Brodie thought was beyond HILARIOUS and repeated on a daily basis………)

” I’m not scared of heights….. I’m scared of dying”

This MIke Bain quote was reference to a “man-made fence” randomly giving way at 10,000 ft. and plummeting downwards towards death.  Hello….. you just took a 10 min tram, with all your faith in a “man-made cable crossing” ( and he gave ME a hard time for being scared on the crossing).

We all made it safely down off the mountain, and it was a day of accomplishments for everyone. Sydney got to ride her carousel, Brodie got to jump on trampolines, Mike got to cycle up the Col du Tourmalet in the SUNSHINE, and I got to the top of the Pic du Midi. For dinner we had the most amazing meal at a bowling alley in Luz St Sauveur. I had seriously been wanting a goat cheese salad just like the one I was served in the “Bowling Alley” for weeks….. and without any luck, so I was happily surprised where I ended up FINALLY getting my salad! We got amazing Tour de France viewing information from the guy who owned the trampolines (and whom is also a ski instructor  on the Tourmalet in winter).  All in all, it was a great day in the Pyrenees Mountains!

And just so you know….. mountain towns in France, well they totally ROCK!

Enjoy your Daily Dose

Xox

B.

Hello….. I’m over 100 years old! The Pic du Jer…. not Mike 😉

the funicular for our journey up the mountain

CAVES!

Here Sydney…. Look at this!

Over looking Lourdes

Lourdes

Funicular Tram for the ride down!

Luz St. Sauveur trampolines

Col du Tourmalet

The cow/bull that had enough of tourists and swiped Mikes hand…. OUCH!

Safe ground from the cows/bulls on the “Magic Carpet”

Die hard fans waiting days for Le Tour to come through….. we are SO IN on renting a motor home next time and joining in on the PARTY!

The beautiful Col du Tourmalet….. and one of the grazing herds.

There is a carnival in EVERY town!

Bumper Cars and LOVING it!

Circles, circles and more moving circles! I LOVE IT!

Hello clean and beautiful Industrial laundromat….. seriously AWESOME!

The CRAZY dryer…. 3 loads …. 40 minutes ……DONE!

upside down in Luz St Sauveur

Circles in Luz St Sauveur

Seriously…… are all carousels in France over a 100 tears old?? 

After a great climb on the Col du Tourmalet

Pic du Midi – Pyrenees Mountains

Pic du Midi

Pyrenees Mountain range

Gondola ride overlooking fab hiking trails

Coffee time!

Just like MOM and I soooooo LOVE it!

Seriously……. on the side of a cliff…..

The drive down the Col du Tourmalet

Sooooo Beautiful!

Yummers …… and in a bowling alley…… in a small mountain town of all places! Seriously in LOVE  with this salad!

After a long day……

…… but so not wanting a rest!

Good Thing He Brought The Visa

Lourdes

We arrived late in the day in Lourdes. We hit some city traffic, and then found our apartment hotel that was going to be our home for the next 7 days. We got all our luggage, (now, plus 1 bike), in the room before heading out for a quick scout around town, pick up some breakfast supplies (it was Saturday night and we now know what its like to be in a town, in France, on a Sunday…. everything is CLOSED!), and grab some dinner.  It turns out they REALLY like pizza in Lourdes.  Almost all the restaurants that were near us were Italian. Pizza and pasta….. the kiddies were in heaven!

Our apartment was situated perfectly in the city.  We were close to shops, restaurants, and much-needed laundry facilities! We were also super close to the highway entrance to the Pyrenees Mountains – this was great since it turned out to be our almost daily commute. As it turns out…. the tiny mountain towns in France are simply the BEST!

We woke up Friday morning to beautiful blue, cloudless skies.  We packed the bike and headed to the Pyrenees Mountains. We drove up the Col du Tourmalet – and at 5km to the summit we pulled over.  Putting on 2 pairs of socks, Mikes cycling shoes, and buckling up his helmet I set out on the rented bike.

Right away……on the bike, I knew I was headed for trouble…… I was not 100% sure on the clip out mechanism of Mikes bike shoes, I couldn’t get the bike to its lowest gear, all while starting out on a 8-10% grade…….well 20 meters into my 5km journey I toppled off the bike into a heap on the road.  Mike came running to my rescue, managed to get the bike in the lowest gear, then got me and my bruised ego, back cycling up the Col du Tourmalet all within a couple of minutes.

WOW, WOW, WOW……..

It was crazy to think that I was actually “cycling” up one of the most über famous mountain climbs in France.  I was actually cycling where Lance Armstrong spent a good part of his career (I LOVE Lance Armstrong…. its OK …… Mike knows). A climb I had seen countless times on TV –  and the ride up the mountain was nothing short of spectacular.  It was so unbelievably amazing, there are almost no words to describe it!

Mike took the kiddies to look at the cows and sheep that graze freely on the mountain while I cycled up.  About 1.5KM to go, they passed me in the car, cheering and waving their arms.  I felt so lucky to have such a great cheering squad encouraging me up the mountain.  They pulled over and continued with cheering and picture-taking.  The last switch back up the mountain is crazy.  It kicks into a 12% grade…..  I wasnt sure I would be able to do it when I watched a van turn and take the climb, but when 2 cyclists passed me and jumped out of their saddles…. I didn’t miss a beat and followed suit.  The last 200 meters there were cyclist making their way down the mountain and they were cheering us all on…. it was like my own “little” Tour de France.  I wish I had enough training behind me to do the entire 23KM climb, but so happy that I got to summit the Col du Tourmalet.

After my EPIC 5Km ride we came down the “back” side of the mountain (which Mike informs me is actually the front side of the mountain), and had lunch in the cutest little ski town.  We were quite literally surrounded by the Pyrenees mountains, and I definitely see a ski holiday there at some point! It would be breath-taking all white and covered in snow.

We then packed the bike in the car, programmed the tomtom and made our way to Pau to pick up mikes race pack for L’etape du Tour.  The drive through the mountains was beautiful, the kiddies slept, and we managed to find exactly where we needed to be in Pau…… parking spot and all.  The bike expo was awesome.  So many bikes (some 6000 euro and above) bike gear, nutrition, Le Tour clothing….. you could definitely get carried away and spend a fortune!

We had dinner in Pau, and got back to Lourdes around 9:00pm. Mike got his bike, nutrition, and clothing together for the big race.  Alarms were set as it would be an early morning for us with a 5:30am wake up and drive to Pau to drop Mike off for his big race. Its always hard to getting ready for a race.  Trying to figure out the right clothing to wear, and making sure it is perfect for the day…. well its just stressful. We woke up to cool temperatures and low socked in cloud. As we were driving to drop off Mike, we were passing all sorts of cyclists heading to the race.  Mike turned to me, and with concern in his voice says “Why is everyone dressed like its winter?”  Well there wasn’t much Mike could do at this point with regards to clothing, so we just had to all cross our fingers that the cloud wasn’t that bad and that it would burn off as the morning progressed.  We wished Mike well, said our goodbyes and the kiddies and I made our way back to Lourdes, as Mike headed for the start line.  We were to pick Mike up in  Bagneres de Luchon later in the afternoon after 201km ride.

The kiddies and I went back to the apartment, cleaned up, had lunch and ventured out in Lourdes.  The town we needed to get to pick up Mike was about 90 minutes away from Lourdes so by mid afternoon the kiddies needed a nap, so we packed in the car, programmed the tomtom, and we were off.  The kiddies napped on cue, I stopped at the roadside rest area for coffee and a small nap before heading back on our way.  We arrived in Bagneres de Luchon, and was trying to find parking when the phone rang.  It was Mike.  His race was over and wanted to know if we could pick him up, instead of hopping on the race bus…. it would probably save us 3 hours.

Our new destination was Tresbons….. about 40 minutes away from where we were.  I reprogrammed the tomtom and we were off.  Now, for me it was a super strange feeling to be driving `blind` and not really knowing where we were.  I`m definitly more of a visual human being, so this is where a huge foldable map comes in handy!  I followed the directions from Darth, and after about 30 minutes I started to question whether we were on the right path.  We exited the highway, paid our toll and we were on an amazingly beautiful rural road in the middle of farmers fields.  I made a right turn as directed and was thinking this can’t be right…… I thought I would drive another 10 minutes and then call Mike if I didn’t find him.  Well lo and behold after passing through countless little communities, there was Mike and his bike at the side of the road waiting for us. Gotta love modern technology….. and our $80.00 tomtom iPhone app….. AMAZING!

Mike had a rough day in the mountains.  The day was the exact opposite to what my ride had been.  It was pouring rain and super cold.  The clouds were socked in on the mountains and the cold from the descent off the first climb was almost too much to recover from. The second climb was the Col du Tourmalet, where, once he was at the summit, jumped off his bike, bought a jacket and gloves (good thing he brought the Visa), both of which were WAY over priced.  Mike said that being as cold as he was, at that point price didn’t matter, and  he would have paid any amount of money, just to get something warm on his body. He found some cardboard and stuffed that in his shirt for extra wind protection for the second descent.

I was sad that Mike didn’t have great conditions for his race and that he couldn’t finish, but he was happy with how well he climbed and I know if the conditions had been better we would have watched him cross the finish line!

Seeing all the cyclists throughout our week in the Pyrenees mountains was super inspiring….. and with the beauty I saw on my ride I know we will be back….. riding up all the famous climbs! Its one trip I cant wait to plan!

Enjoy your Daily Dose

Xox

B.

Driving through the Pyrenees

On the Col du Tourmalet

In Luz St. Sauveur

5 km to the summit

Hanging out with the grazing cows on the mountainside

1.5 km to the summit

Top of the Tourmalet

Someday we will climb them all!

Syd fell in love with horses

Surrounded by the Pyrenees

in Pau

Mikes Race – 201 km

Profile of race day

Brodie was cheering for Cadel Evans – team BMC.  He thought this was pretty cool!

Race day for Mike – you should see the mountains…. not clouds!