Tourist First

Above, the daily flight from Managua at the San Carlos, Nicaragua, airstrip.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Pyrenees Mountains, by Foot or Car


Whether you're cross-country hiking or driving a rented car, you'll find many small towns and villages in the Pyrenees, the amazingly vertical mountains that form a natural border between Spain and France. One high-altitude village is Santa Engracia, in Catalonia near the larger town of Tremp. There you'll find Casa Guilla, shown here, a farmhouse inn that dates back at least 1,000 years. Visit it online at http://www.casaguilla.com/ and be sure to click on pictures of the house and the locality. It'll give you some idea of how truly marvelous the Pyrenees are. The drive to this former stronghold atop a mountain is almost as memorable as the inn itself; at one point you're on a narrow gravel road with sheer drops on each side.
Once you arrive, you'll be greeted by Richard and Sandra Loder, the British ex-pats who have owned the place since the 1980s. There are never more than eight guests, so there's no crowd at the very good breakfasts and dinners that are included with the rooms. For lunch, you might drive up to Andorra, a tiny landlocked country hidden in a valley, where you should try to get off the main and unpleasant highway as quickly as you can. Or you can stroll among the inviting shops in the ancient Catalan town of La Seu d'Urgell, where shaded balconies and overhanging galleries give the narrow streets a feeling of mystery.
If you want some help organizing a walking vacation, start with Vriendenkring Amitié Européenne, a nonprofit Belgian association that promotes hiking in the Pyrenees Mountains. Click on the title of this posting to visit the group's website.



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