We spent our first two nights, after a long drive all down the west coast of France, at a Logis hotel that I'd picked from the internet. It looked attractive in a hilly, woodlandy setting and had a restaurant, which I thought would be a good idea as it was a good ten minutes drive from the nearby town of Oloron Ste Marie. The hotel was lovely with reasonable sized rooms and the restaurant very good - and most amazingly, after 16 years living in France I was served fresh vegetables (don't fall off your chair, those of you who know France!) - real carrots, and get this, real, fresh haricot vert!!! Normally the only vegetable type of thing you get on a plate in France is a few lettuce leaves as a garnish or maybe a half a baked tomato, but as we later found, this is a lot more than you get in Spain, where they don't even automatically serve you chips as your vegetable!
We were very lucky with the weather as it had been pouring with rain here up until the day before our arrival, hence the gardens being rather overgrown, which was to my benefit, as you'll see later on in this post.
|Hotel 'Au Bon Coin' in the sleepy hamlet of Lurbe St Christau|
and my OH relaxing beside the pool (which was freezing!).
Minimal driving was the order of the day so during the morning we just walked along the lanes with barely a car going past and marvelled at the lovely scenery, the lushness of it all and the trees all covered in leaf - spring here was far more advanced than back home.
|Tranquil, green and lush|
|And with fantastic hills and mountains all around!|
|Wildflowers were everywere, from the meadows where the cows grazed to the roadside verges.|
Here's an male Orange Tip butterfly (Anthocharis cardamines)
feeding on Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum).
|Of course I had to stop to check out this weevil crossing the road!|
After a picnic lunch in our hotel room (we take our esky/icebox everwhere with us on our travels as it plugs into both the car and the mains, making it a portable fridge) we headed off to Oloron to have a look around. Being a Sunday afternoon it was very sleepy too. We were pleased about the restaurant at the hotel as we only found 2 restaurants in the town, one of which was closed! It was not the prettiest of towns but there was a high point where we walked for great views and we enjoyed a good mooch about.
|In the sleepy town of Oloron Ste Marie we marvelled over this beautiful tree, |
which I have now learned is Paulownia tomentosa.
|On the wall just beside the tree I noticed this beautiful little lizard. |
The flowering plant growing in the wall is Cymbalaria muralis, which is almost a weed at home -
it likes growing out of walls and stony places.
|Plane trees pollarded in an unusual fashion, almost pleached |
as well as pollarded. From above they were uniformly pruned into a perfect
getting up there and achieving that!
|In the main part of town there's a hill with a church up the top, |
and a scenic walk under what will eventually be shade from the pollarded Plane trees.
|Looking towards the Pyrenees in the distance |
and Oloron Cathedral on the right towards the back
|The bark of the Plane trees is quite stunning and beautifully decorative|
Then it was back to the hotel where we though we'd chill in the garden for a few hours as we had another longish drive the following day. Here I was in my element as not only had the unmown 'lawn' turned into a wildflower meadow, all around the outside of the garden there were even wilder areas full of wildflowers, with lots of butterflies and pollinating insects to keep me occupied with my camera!
|Not sure what this bee is but it was happy feeding on Bugle (Ajuga reptens) in the 'lawn'|
|What happens when Japanese Knotweed takes over, |
and then you wish you hadn't planted those young fruit trees there.....
|I was happy to see my favourite hoverfly, the Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus),|
feeding on a Euphorbia flower
|A daytime flying moth that I hadn't encountered before, |
the beautiful Burnet Companion Moth (Euclidia glyphica)
|Brimstone butterfly (Gonepteryx rhamni)|
I thought this was a female as she seemed much paler than
the yellow male when flying, but now I'm not so sure!
|Wood White (Leptidea sinapis), a new species for me, rests on a dandelion seedhead|
It was a lovely little break in a beautiful part of France. The Pyrenees Atlantiques has become my favourite department. It's split into 4 provinces, the 3 to the west are the 3 Basque provinces and this area where we stayed was the 4th province, the Bearn. I'd love to see more of it, and a lot more of the Pyrenees in general one day ... albeit in another car though!
The following day we went over the mountains and into sunny Spain, to do some serious birdwatching at the Ebro Delta in southern Catalonia.