Two Types of Pilgrimage – Col du Tourmalet & Lourdes

We both did not sleep well due to the heat and the noise from the restaurant downstairs. Still had to get up eventually. Had a chilled breakfast 9:30am at the hotel with croissants, baguette and coffee. Café au lait is not even half as good as café con leche though. Packed light again for s shorter day out, just the essentials and light shoes to change into later.

Left at 11am and it was already 26C. Oof. Vents and jacket open again. Luckily we rode through a wooded valley at first with plenty of shade. Once more quite the change in scenery with the towering mountains led and right covered in trees and a bustling river to our right.

It opened up as we got towards Luz-Saint-Sauveur, another village geared towards ski tourism. After that we were finally at the foot of the proper climb up the Col du Tourmalet, another famous Tour de France pass/finish.

More cyclists today and kudos to all of them taking on like 15km of relentlessly steep climbing. Part of me thought that I should pick this as my next challenge. There’s plenty of steep hills around Bristol to prepare for it.

Once more we hit a simply stunning road full of switchbacks, tight corners and hardly anyone on it other than a few cyclist. It was a bit easier to see ahead on this one and I’m slowly getting used to those 180 switchbacks.

Just after the start of the famous climb up to Col du Tourmalet

It was over way too soon thought. At 2100m it was nice and cool and we didn’t even sweat in the sun. How nice! 12:30 it was now and time for a coffee and orange juice. Of course there was a café at the top. Other than that it was basically full of cyclists and bikers, with cyclists outweighing bikers 2:1.

Brilliant views at the top again. And a nice look back to that amazing road we just did.

Down the other side we went and again it was easier this side. More long sweeping corners and dead quiet French villages. Very distinctive architecture in this area. So very different than in the North where it looked like a mixture of Mediterranean and Alpine architecture. In this area it all looked more like plain and straight 18th century buildings. Hard to describe without being an architect.

And down again

Arrived in Lourdes 14:30. Bike parking proved to be difficult so we bit the bullet and paid for parking. Some far roads had once more been pretty empty. Right by the Basilica pedestrian traffic was quite something though. We sort of joined the throng feeling a bit out of place, being the only “normal” tourists among all the pilgrims.

There was one souvenir shop after another selling religious “things”. We were both clueless. Queues of wheelchairs where pushed to and from the grotto beneath the Basilica. It’s great to see that everyone gets a chance to come here.

We had some ice cream and walked over to the Basilica. It was quite the impressive building, but it was really getting super hot now. Deffo over 30C.

Been there done that. Was it worth it? Maybe. We didn’t quite feel it there. It was all geared towards the pilgrims and apart from that there wasn’t anything else.

Back at the bikes 4pm and it took only 30mins back to Argelès-Gazost. Showers of course and then a snack at the cheese and charcuterie shop behind our hotel. 5 sausicions for 10 Euros… Mad! But was too hot to take any with us 😥😥😥. Or any of the cheese… Instead we bought a handful of mini salami balls which we happily munched before settling for a couple of nice Mojitos at the hotel restaurant sitting outside watching the world go by.

All this yummy food and we an’t buy it, it would just die in the heat, boo.

Food followed inevitably and a little walk around town to let it settle. Then some chilling watching youtube motorbike videos. Long day tomorrow heading over to Andorra!

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