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To Pyrinees and Back, Pt III

Updated: Nov 23, 2023

French Pyrinees

Day 14: Lac d'Oo

Located in Luchon valley of the French Pyrinees this lake has an artificial origin and water drops into it through a 273 meter waterfall from Lac d'Espingo higher up. We parked overnight down in the village and hiked to the lake early in the morning but we saw many people returning with tents and it felt like a better idea to wake up to these views and meet the sunrise there.

Outdoor Photography - JZeppelina - Lac d'Oo
Lac d'Oo

On the way back down we found a spot below the bridge to the refuge where it was reflected in the river.

Outdoor Photography - JZeppelina -
Neste d'Oo

The weather was getting moody again and Juan was covered from head to toes.

Outdoor Photography - JZeppelina - Lac d'Oo Hike
Lac d'Oo Hike

Descending back to the parking, pleasantly tired and hungry we had lunch in Le Mailh d'Astau which is just on the opposite side from the parking. It's a family owned place, food is good, cooked with local products and cafe gourmand is even better.

Day 14-15: Loudenvielle

The road to Loudenvielle is among the most scenic mountain routes we've experienced!

We were already into the 3rd week of our honeymoon trip, trekking and hiking in the mountains and still hadn't a moment to relax. Where did we have to go next ? Balnea Spa! Through my research I found out how marvellous it was and there was no excuse not to visit it. But before that I had to hike more hills and make my photo report of the village.

Genos is the village neighboring Loudenvielle on the north-western side of the Genos-Loudenvielle lake. It welcomed us with the rainbow.

Travel Photography - JZeppelina - Rainbow In Genos
Rainbow in Genos

We had an atmospheric afternoon conditions with low clouds.

Between the two villages we found a beautiful road curve to shoot the camper, Juan had to make several drives back and forth until I got the right shot.

Travel Photography - JZeppelina - Genos-Loudenvielle Drive
Genos-Loudenvielle Drive

The same road curve in the twilight.

Travel Photography - JZeppelina - Genos-Loudenvielle Light Curve
Genos-Loudenvielle Light Curve

Sadly, camping site was closed due to low season, thus we parked in Genos along the road and not far from the lake. At sunrise I just needed to step out of the van and face a fog fiesta with the Genos castle.

My excitement was over the rooftop!

Outdoor Photography - JZeppelina - Foggy Morning at Genos-Loudenvielle Lake
Foggy Morning at Genos-Loudenvielle Lake

Fog and reflections game altogether!

When I finally finished shooting, it was time for a morning coffee which I got in L'Escapade cafe in Loudenvielle. Frankly speaking, it was too overpriced and not so good tasting. My coffee quest of the villages continues.

Now it was time to put the camera aside and dedicate the day to Spa relaxation!

After the dinner in the same L'Escapade cafe, we decided to continue our way to Ariege Pyrinees and check out Foix with its castle.

Day 16: Foix

It's a 2 and a half hour drive from Loudenvielle to the north-east of Pyrinees, both toll and toll-free roads are available. And since we were driving in the dark, we couldn't see much of the scenery.

Camper van parking in Foix was full and the only reasonable spot we could find was in the parking de la Vigne. Sunrise viewpoint at Croix de Saint-Sauveur was within 40 min walk uphill. By far Foix was the biggest town we visited in this road trip.

Travel Photography - JZeppelina - Foix at Sunrise
Foix at Sunrise

Even though my body was getting tired from daily hikes, it was still well worth the view.

Of course, this hike was rewarded with the proper coffee, quiche in the French café and a walk in the street of umbrellas.

Travel Photography - JZeppelina - Umbrella Street in Foix
Umbrella Street in Foix

Exactly in Foix I ran out of space on all my external drives to do my daily photos backup, and we resorted to visiting E.Leclerc commercial center in search of electronics department. Thank goodness, they had Sandisk SSDs that came in very handy! If you ran into a similar situation, you know where to look for things. :)

Sunset mission was yet another hike uphill but on another side of the town. The place is called Table d'orientation Terrasses du Pech and it's quite tricky to notice it from the street. The entry to the trail up starts in the small passage from the street and I passed it by 2 times before I realized it.

Travel Photography - JZeppelina - Foix Golden Hour
Foix Golden Hour

Peculiar fact about the castle illumination at night - it's not orange, not yellow, it's purple!

You can judge it for yourself but I preferred it lit by the sunlight :)

With this sunset we said goodbye to Foix and headed to Roquefixade for the overnight stay.

Day 17: Roquefixade

Yes, another place with the castle! In my last 2 days of hiking I didn't even bother to change to my hiking boots and continued walking uphill in my sneakers :)

Hike to Roquefixade was the last push. And boy was it worth it!

Drone Photography - JZeppelina - Roquefixade Castle
Roquefixade Castle

A view of the small Pyrenean French village from the bird's eye.

Drone Photography - JZeppelina - Roquefixade Village
Roquefixade Village

When descending back to the village I located a hostel Gite d'Etape de Roquefixade with a small cafe inside. I swear in this small place they served the best coffee which cost only 1.2 euro!

Then something happened. A basque photographer Juantxu, a friend of mine, was inviting us for some beers in San Sebastian. It wasn't even planned and we would possibly continue to Montsegur or Carcassone for yet another castle but sometimes best decisions are the ones taken spontaneously. And the beauty of traveling by camper van is that you can go anywhere anytime you please.

Basque Country

Day 18: San Sebastian

After a few short stops in the French villages and 5+ hour drive we were sipping beers with Juantxu in the terrace of Plaza de Santiago. Juantxu proposed a place for our overnight parking where we could also go shooting at the sunrise. That was Jaizkibel mountain, with the only camper parking slot remaining available, yay!

Since our first visit to Basque Country back in 2019 we were pursued by the grey skies. This time was no exception, except for the surprising burst of sunlight through the clouds.

Outdoor Photography - JZeppelina - Jaizkibel Watch Tower
Jaizkibel Watch Tower

Travel Photography - JZeppelina - San Sebastian Sunrise
San Sebastian Sunrise

That was the best Juantxu and I could squeeze out of it. For the rest of the day we were invited to spend in my friend's company with travel and photography talks, home made food and wine, meanwhile deciding the place for our final stop on the return route.

Soria Province

Day 19: Gormaz

Our last stop had to have a castle too. Have we not chosen to visit my friend in San Sebastian, we possibly would not have taken the route through Gormaz and would not have experienced that magic morning. It was a 3+ hour drive from Guetaria to El Burgo de Osma, where we could park overnight in the caravan area. In fact El Burgo de Osma has a pretty castle too but Gormaz just fit all our criterias. It's a 14 minute drive until Gormaz, so we set an early alarm to get there before the sunrise. It's possible to park just near the fortress and from there it was all ours to explore. Suddenly out of nowhere low fog started arriving. The fortress is enormous and it's difficult to capture its entirety from the ground level, it just had to be photographed from the air.

A story about the rural view through the fortress arch.

That was a perfect way to end our trip and I hope this itinerary inspires you to explore the areas in your next road adventure.

When To Travel:

If you want to avoid crowds in these locations, autumn or spring are good seasons. From mid-September to mid-October you will sea a seasonal transition and autumn colors in mid-October. During the spring months April-May it's no longer as cold as in the winter , there is a possibility to see some flowers blooming. In both autumn and spring periods there is a good possibility for catching foggy conditions. If you are into photography, fog is your best artistic friend.

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