Walking in the Hautes Pyrénées and Haute Garonne.
Arreau is a pretty little town in the valley d’Aure where the rivers of Neste d’Aure and Louron meet. In the centre of this town of 700 people is the emblematic town hall.
It was built in 1932 to replace the old wooden hall from the 16th century.
The town of Arreau is in the Haute Pyrenees department about one hour and forty minutes from Toulouse by car and ten minutes from the ski resort of St. Lary Soulan. In this lovely picturesque valley you will find a multitude of hiking trails for all levels as well as many cyclists.
The village of St. Lary is quite charming quite a few restaurants and shops. In St Lary we picked up some local maps of the area and set off for the vallée de Rioumajou via Tramazaïgues which is the departure point for a number of hikes.
Some of the younger hikers, with really short legs, rode donkeys as the rest of us set off in different directions on our chosen paths.
We chose a walk with little incline as it was already 32° in the morning and it was the first hike of the year. The hospice de Rioumajou trail is actually very pretty all the way and you are rewarded for your effort in a fairly short time as you arrive at the hospice where the view is breathtaking. There is a restaurant (best to book in advance) and a bar where you can just pitch up for a coffee or a pint.
Another option is the lac de l’Oule which is our next randonnée planned for this area which looks splendid. As we descended from the Pla d’Adet, we “rescued” a German couple who had spent the night at the refuge there and gotten lost on their way down. We picked them up hitch hiking, overheated and extremely grateful to be dropped off at their next stop , which was Vielle Aure. After seven hours in the relentless sun, seemingly hopelessly lost, they waved goodbye relieved, and in search of a beer. We hardly ever pick up hitch hikers (I watched too many horror movies as an adolescent) but it would have been cruel not to in this case. The Pla d’Adet is where the ski resort is, which is frequented mainly by mountain bikers in the summer.
In the evening we ate at La Grange, just outside St Lary. It’s a super setting with a wooden terrace outside which was lovely as the mountain climate cools down at night, unlike the city in this summer of endless heatwaves. The food was scrumptious, fresh and wonderfully presented. Truth be known, not eating meat in the mountains leaves you with few choices; I don’t believe that a plate of cheese is a “meal”.
We stayed at the Hotel d’Angleterre in Arreau which was perfect with comfortable rooms, a nice little garden and a tiny pool which we enjoyed. There is private parking and they offer meals in the evening as well as breakfast.
Our next stop was Luchon, also known as Bagnères de Luchon in the department of Haute Garonne. The old familiar jewel of a town where we used to spend a lot of time is also very pretty and well set up for tourism, from hiking and biking to paragliding and skiing in the winter.
We did the lac de Bareilles (lac de Bordères) hike which is one of my favourites in the area. You can start the hike from the Sapin Fleuri restaurant, lower down in the valley of Bourg d’Oueil, which is a bit sportier or from the Port de Balès. It was still VERY hot so this time we drove the windy path upwards to the Port de Balès and did the relatively flat trail with breathtaking views all the way, of the gorgeous valley below and typical birds flying overhead. As you arrive at the end of this fairly flat road you will see the Pic du Midi in the distance. The incline is only 200 metres or so but you do it twice so dare I say 400. You can either go up to the top of the Mont Né for an even more impressive view or head down to the lake. As you descend towards the lake you cross back into Haute Pyrenees and eventually see a sign prohibiting various things including dogs and swimming. As you arrive at the lake you will see dogs and people swimming in the lake. Some laws are harder to enforce than others and also, it was really hot. You get to enjoy the amazing view all the way back to the Port de Balès a second time on the way back.
The Pic du Midi is a mountain with an astronomic observatory at 2877m. It is also a tourist site where you can dine at high altitude (definitely one to book ahead of time).
Despite the intense heat and constant exposure, you arrive back in reasonably good shape at the end of the trail so we opted to play tennis. There is a tennis club located by the Pique river in Luchon with a somewhat distracting view of the stunning port de Venasque (that’s my excuse anyway, for losing 6 games to 1).
Last stop before Spain in the morning, the Galeries Gourmandes. Somehow after all that exercise one glass of Pinot Noir and some Patatas Bravas was enough. I actually had two. cheers!
I hope that you have enjoyed this post about walking in the Haute Pyrenees/ Haute Garonne. Follow me to keep up with me on my travels around beautiful Occitanie………………….à bientôt Christina