Driving through the Pyrenees, The Peace Van Wags Its Tail


Driving through the Pyrenees, The Peace Van Wags Its Tail

We really liked the Abbaye de Capservy, and we loved Odile! It was a wonderful stay. Jim and I took a walk up the road to the lake where you can fish. Then I asked to see the other rooms. I did not want people reading this to think the rooms all had low ceilings, although for us that added to the charm.   

          The last three photos are of an apartment you can rent.

I wanted to take some local wine home for a gift. Odile told me it was made by Lulu from grapes grown on the property. Lulu and his wife live in the house right next to the Abbaye. I had Lulu sign the bottles. Here is a photo of Sophis and me with Lulu. We were sorry to leave Odile. Actually we have been sorry to leave every host of this trip.  All the people we have met have been warm and welcoming. Especially considering my poor French and Spanish are the best in our group. In France I kept getting confused and speaking in Spanish, French, German, and Russian all jumbled together! Gracias, no danke, no spaciba, what is it in French again?    

 We have had small, humorous things happen this trip. One of them was that somehow we turned on the rear windshield wiper 3 days earlier and we could not figure out how to turn it off. It bothered Jim so he pulled it out away from the window. It still moved back and forth. But instead of wiping the window, it wagged in the air behind us as we drove. All of us were disappointed when Sean jumped on the peace donut in the pool and created a small leak in it, because we thought it was very funny to have the word peace in our rear window with our wiper waving. It made us think of a friendly, peaceful dog. We had Sean blow the peace donut up one last time so we could have it in the rear window for today’s drive.   

 Before leaving this area, we had two things to do. We needed to get the sticky soda off our car. 

And we wanted to stop at the lock we had been driving by between Carcasonne and the Abbaye. The lock is on the Canal du Midi. The locks were originally built of wood from 1666 to 1681, during the reign of Louis XIV. Today they are made from metal and mechanically operated by the lock operator. The operator sits in a short, elevated tower above the lock. There are a series of locks spanning 240 km (150 miles) from the Mediterranian to the Atlantic.


     There was a boat going through the lock when we stopped. The series of photos shows how the water level is raised and lowered by opening and closing the successive series of lock gates. The locks are needed to maintain a level of water so that boats can make their way through the canal. Lucky for us Mary from New Jersey was on the boat. She and her husband were traveling with two German couples. They were going to travel 65 miles in a week. She told us that the distance they traveled each day was dependent on timing. The lock operators go to lunch and go home for the night. When this happens you are stuck where you are until an operator returns. Many people who vacation this way take bikes so they can get around when they stop. It reminded Jim of renting a house boat in the U.S. 

                Today would be a long but beautiful drive. We are deciding where to go as we travel from place to place. We have been visiting and learning about historical sites. While researching where to go next, I read about rafting in the Pyrenees. When Jim and the kids heard about that, they were ready for a change of pace and some adventure.

        We stopped briefly in the lovely town of Mirepoix, France. We might have stayed there, but the guys were ready for some adventure! and it was hot. Sophia and Sean had to use another self cleaning toilet. What was I thinking!?! I did not even stick my head in to check one out!

We could have taken a much faster but less scenic route. We chose the scenic road complete with hairpin turns, charming vilłages, and high mountain passes. If you have the time I recommend taking D173 through the Pyrenees.






Once you begin the ascent on the French side of the Pyrenees it is one small, picturesque town after another. The French side is the rainy side, although both sides look like they get more moisture than the eastern side of the Sierras. The Pyrenees run north/south instead of east/west. The Pyrenees divide France and Spain. We drove through a long tunnel at the top of a pass and went from France into Spain.

Whereas the French side of the Pyrenees has charming little hamlets close to the road, the Spanish side has old castles, churches, and villages that you can see in the distance from the road.

Our ultimate destination for the night was Ainsa, Spain. We were tired when we got there! We were given directions to a place to stay. We became turned around and ended up in the small town of Gerbe. It has 50 inhabitants. Thankfully we found a room for the night in Gerbe. Gerbe was about 10 minutes outside of Ainsa. We spent the night in a small B&B that the owner is restoring.

   As you can see they are worried about aquatic snails just like we are in the states. At first glance we thought it might be a warning about ticks. Sophia and I spent some time discussing the morphology of the cartoon drawing and decided it could not be representing a member of class arachnida.


Jim rode a bike around a bit before dinner. We might have stayed longer in Gerbe, but at 12:30 a.m. (00:30) some guests returned from town and rang the door bell to get into the B&B. The ringer for the doorbell was in our bedroom! I didn’t want to deal with that for multiple nights!

Check out the previous post from Spain here.

Carcassonne is Like a Castle from a Disney Movie


Carcassonne is Like a Castle from a Disney Movie

Today we visited Carcassonne. It was lovely! Like many of the places we have visited, there were almost no people. We have been told most Spanish and French people vacation in July and August.


Check out my new Dali t-shirt. It was hot and sunny walking the wall!


We walked around the outer walls with Sean hanging off of many of them! This was free of charge. There are still some structures dated to Roman time, but much of the castle has been restored or is being restored. In the 19th century, the city was restored to its medieval appearance.


I could have had a child who walks on the path instead I got a wall climber. Check out how far down it is!

   It does not have the same feel as Girona. If you want to feel like you are in an excellent restoration of the real thing, Carcassonne is great. If you want to feel like you are in the real thing Girona is better. Actually they were both very different, and it isn’t fair to compare one to the other. They are close and both are worth the visit. The old town of Girona still has people in it, but there is nothing in it as imposing and impressive as the castle Of Carcassonne.

After walking around the outside we ate and then paid to walk around the inner castle. There were more people here. Including a school group of teens all dancing in unison to a pop tune. I taped it, but with the Internet service I am getting I cannot post it.

We could have stayed inside Carcassonne, and for some people that would be their optimum choice. It was hot and touristy though. We all agreed, we preferred the Abbaye du Capservy. It was about 25 minutes away through the lovely French countryside, http://www.abbayedecapservy.com/en/.

Today Sean had us laughing. One of the things that differs from one country to the next are bathrooms and toilets. Sean went into a bathroom that locked on its own when you went in. It did not unlock until you washed your hands. Once you were out it completely disinfected itself. Sean was freaking out that it might lock with him in it.

This evening Odile made reservations for us in a restaurant in the small picturesque town of St Denis. We had the best pomme frites ever, a dish I do not usually like much. They were crisp on the outside and light & flakey on the inside. Then we treated ourselves to dessert. Every dessert including the citron sorbet was handmade by the owner. I was told this is called fait maison. Yum!

Check out the last post from Spain here.

Leaving Girona for the Abbaye de Capservy, South of France

Abbaye de Capservy

Leaving Girona for the Abbaye de Capservy, South of France

Before we left Girona we had to take one more walk on the wall. Again there was no one on it.





I am sitting on an old fashioned toilet. It would be an interesting feel to bare it all and go to the bathroom like this, LOL! 

Did I remember to post the link to Casa Cundaro? Here it is in case I didn’t. http://www.casacundaro.com/english.html Casa Cundaro is attached to the Historic Hotel. Where we had to have one last superb breakfast.   

Look how narrow the streets of Girona’s old town are! I got out to take this picture of our car.

Before leaving we visited the Jewish museum in Girona. We learned so much there. For instance, I did not realize many Jews converted instead of leaving. If they left they were essentially abandoning their material wealth. They did convert, but they did not always stop practicing their old ways. They also kept their relationships with those who did not convert.   The museum has a large collection of gravestones. When Judaism was outlawed in Spain, the Jewish gravestones were removed. Many of these have since been unearthed as they have restored old buildings in Girona.   

         It was in the face of mass conversions without changes in religious practices that the inquisition took place. The Catholic Church wanted to make it prohibitive to live in Catholic countries if you were a practicing Jew. This did cause most people to become more obedient in practicing the Catholic faith. I have included a series of text panels from the museum with the photos.  



That is a man I wish I could sit and speak with! Asking him so many questions 😉



Thinking of you, my dear friend Michelle! We wish you were here with us!

There are Roman ruins in the museum too.   

 We had one last stop to make. Sophia and I needed a cup of the best tea of the trip.   http://www.teashop.eu/en/tea-shop-girona/

We decided to follow a circuitous path to France by driving to Collioure, France. We chose this route because it was the path of the Jewish diaspora from Girona in 1492. Since most people converted there was not a large number of people who left. It seems like a pattern. The Catholic Church converted the rulers, and the rulers forced people to convert or leave. Americans are most familiar with the treatment of people of the Jewish faith and the decimation or forced conversion of Native Americans. Interesting to me is that the most tolerant people, as a whole, of any country we have visited is the predominantly polytheistic people of India. Don’t you wish you could go back in time and see all the different cultures and people before the Romans conquered so many and before mass religions took hold? 1 month ago there was a threat to the Jewish museum in Girona so they now have guards posted at it permanently.

I LOVE history. I would like to go back to the time of the dinosaurs too! The only problem with that is, I would probably get eaten right away! When you drive through Europe you see castles on hilltops all the time. #AmericansLoveCastles   


We drove to France along a narrow, twisting road. There were grape vines on the hillside and cyclists on the road.  Shortly after passing the border into France, we came to the top of a pass and there was a wine stand with people tasting wine. LOL, that would not fly in the U.S. It was a windy road out of  the Spanish town of Cerbere. When he saw it, Sean said, “That is the most French thing ever!”   

When the Jews fleeing Spain got to Collioure they must have thought it would be wonderful to live in such a beautiful place. A couple of years later the French King told the Jews to convert or leave Collioure, so it was not to be.

We were headed to the Abbaye de Capservy. Our reason for driving to the south of France was to visit the restored castle of Carcasonne. Although we wanted to visit the castle, this time we chose to stay in an old abbey. http://www.abbayedecapservy.com/en/

When we arrived we were greeted by Odile and the 2 dogs in residence. Odile was making a special vegan meal just for us. The dinner consisted of a mound of rice, surrounded with smaller mounds of beans and various vegetable sides. French bread was also served, of course! The dessert was fresh fruit in a lemon agar jelly with elderberry. Days later we were still talking about the lovely abbey, the dinner (it was one of the best of the trip), and the wonderful hospitality of Odile. If you go be sure and have Odile make dinner for you. You will not regret it. You also get Lulu’s delicious wine and Odile’s conversation. Odile has two daughters who are both living in London. We met several people on this trip whose adult children are in London working because of a lack of jobs in their area. One of Odile’s daughters works in a castle as a tour guide. She loves it. While we were at the Abbaye, Odile’s daughter was interviewed on the radio about the castle and its history. I must email Odile and get the name of the castle!

  The Abbaye de Capservy has the main building where we stayed, a smaller house behind, and another house where another couple lives. Across from the Abbaye are fields of grapes.

    Odile, our wonderful host.  I love to look in people’s kitchens.

On the long driveway leading to the Abbaye, Sean put his hand out the window into stinging nettles. The Abbaye has a pool, Sean recovered by going for a swim. Unfortunately he popped the peace donut!   
The kids wanted to taste French wine in France.

Abbaye de Capservy

We stayed in a family room at the top of the Abbaye. The ceilings were short which for us adds to the charm. There were rooms with higher ceilings, but we preferred this one!

Check out my previous posts from the Spain trip here. Check out the Worldschooling section of our blog.