A southern view into Spain

The mountain valleys of the French Pyrenees  are a paradise for hikers.  There are routes for just about every level of hiking expertise that offer splendid views of the mountains, and often interaction with the wandering herds of cows and sheep that pass the summer in the high pastures.  The Vallée d’Ossau, just south of Pau, follows the river Ossau (a river is called a “gave” in the local dialect) as it tumbles down from its source in the high mountain lakes near the border with Spain and eventually joins with the gave d’Oléron.  If you feel like the name is familiar, it may be because the region is famous for Ossau Iraty, a sheep’s milk cheese that we often featured on our cheese board at Le Pichet and  Café Presse.

We spent 3 days hiking in the Vallée d’Ossau last week and  were lucky enough to have excellent weather: warm but not hot, cloudy but never cloudy enough to interfere with a nice view. The highlight was a hike up to the col de Peyrelue, a mountain pass into Spain at the crest of the Pyrenees.  The pass itself is a wide prairie with a few small lakes and a stunning view onto the Spanish sierras. Our path up skirted the pic du Midi d’Ossau, one of the most distinctive peaks in the Pyrenees Atlantique.  Wow!

When we got to pass, we were greeted by a herd of about 40 Béarnais cows lounging in the tall grass and wildflowers.  The bull seemed very lethargic despite his ferocious looking horns,  the lyre-shaped spread typical of the Béarnais breed.  He left us to the view.

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