Sunday, September 25, 2016

Biert - French Pyrenees

While we were in Paris visiting Monica and Olivier (and seeing the Tour de France), they mentioned that they were going the following weekend to the Pyrenees to get their kids who were with the grandparents. From there, Olivier and the boys were going camping for a few days then they'd all spend time in Spain. Monica's not big on camping so it'd help them if she could go back to Barcelona with us to wait for the guys.

Diana's talked about Olivier's parents before and especially how I needed to meet his dad who's a big wine fan. Monica and Olivier invited us to meet them and, with Diana's brother in town, Monica needing a ride, having no real plans, and, of course, the promise of some great French wine, how could we say no? I reserved a car as soon as we got back to Barcelona.

During the week, I continued to check for cheaper car rentals and found one on Thursday night, which I booked immediately canceling the original reservation. I went to the rental place Friday afternoon but, when I got there, the agent asked me like three times for my name. I finally just gave her my identification but she couldn't find the reservation. Pulling up the email my heart sank when I realized that I had booked the new reservation with the website-default date a couple of months later. Argh!

The agent's reservation computer wasn't working so she needed me to book a car using my phone but the system showed nothing available. Panicking, I was finally able to find a car at another agency and went to get the car all the while Diana and her brother were waiting for me at home. Our original plan was to leave about 6 p.m. so that we could arrive around 10.30 p.m. We ended up leaving at 8.00 p.m. meaning we'd get to their folks house around 1 a.m. Oh well, no big deal. At least we were on our way.

The house is basically a farm house kinda' like Diana's parents' in Chiquinquira, which meant that finding it at 1.30 in the morning proved to be a challenge. A couple of U-turns at various houses (and waking up one poor family), we had finally arrived and headed straight to bed. It wasn't until the next morning when I went outside that I realized just how rural the "neighborhood" was. That's their house on the right:

After proper introductions all around, Oliver's mom made us breakfast Saturday morning. She included an assortment of breads she had bought at a shop in town along with some different homemade jams and the craziest rock-salt butter. It's exactly like it sounds, butter with big, crunchy rock salt throughout. Apparently, every family uses it. I. Was. Hooked. You know when you're making chocolate-chip cookies and you've mixed the brown sugar, white sugar, butter, and vanilla how you just can't resist sneaking a little of the mix before adding the eggs? Yeah, it's that good.

To work off the buttery goodness, we went for a nice looooong walk...

...all the while enjoying the scenery:

My only experience with the French side of the Pyrenees was a quick stop just across the Spanish border with Juan and Carol a couple of years ago. Biert, which is the closest town to their house, is basically a village a bit more than an hour or so past Andorra. In quite a few ways, the "tri-country" Pyrenees feels a bit like the mountains inland from San Diego and Los Angeles; good views, clean air, fairly dry, nearby snowboarding/skiing, and a good place for a weekend away. In the case of this trip, there's one major addition...French wine!

After our walk, it was time for food...again! This time the meal was a team effort with everyone helping out in some way. Olivier's dad lived up to his reputation by opening bottle after bottle of the good stuff. And, in classic French style, dessert was another bottle of wine and a big spread of cheeses from a local cheese shop.

Olivier's dad giving Diana and me an overview of the yumminess yet to come:

All of this relaxation and gluttony got the best of me and I crashed for the next hour or two. Diana woke me and said Olivier's sister would take us into to town so we could buy cheese at the shop where our dessert was from. Biert has all the requisite sites, a church, some cafes, a plaza, and a bunch of family-style shops including where we bought cheese:

Later that evening, it was even more wine, snacks, and conversation. I've mentioned this in other posts but I love, love, love hanging out talking story with groups with such diverse backgrounds and experiences.

A big thanks to Olivier's family for hosting us. You've all got a place to stay whenever you're in Barcelona. Hope to see you all again soon!

The drive home from France involved much less mystery but I think the key was that Monica was guiding. As a bonus, and consistent with our seize-the-moment planning, we even did a quick detour at Montserrat on the way home.

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