We are on the first leg of our European tour and have just driven to the Pyrenees.
We are going to ride Le Petite Train d‘Artouste; this is one of the main reasons for visiting Laruns, in the Pyrenees. The train looks like something from a children’s fairground but actually goes around the edge of a mountain.
We arrive in Artouste which is approx. 15 miles from Larun’s; the drive is incredible as it is along narrow roads winding up the mountain. This is not something to be done if you have a nervous disposition as there are really sharp bends and at times you are overlooking sheer drops.
As we are driving we see a couple of people walking from their car with a camera and think how mad to park the car on such a dangerous bend, until we see the reason why. There is a massive dam and at the edge is the feed for the hydro electric plant, the sound is deafening, so obviously we have to get out and take a photo as well! The health and safety is out of this world, there is none!!!! You stand right at the edge with no barriers, the only semblance of safety is a sign that states danger, but this is so small you have to go up to it to read it, sort of defeats the point!
We continue to drive up to Artouste, we had seen the train on the internet but the site does not do the experience justice, as you arrive you can see an enormous lake with snow capped mountains all around, you have to drive past the lake to find the road that crosses the lake and all around you are sheep with bells, we had come across this once before when we were in Switzerland and apparently it is so the sheep can be heard in the heavy snow, when they cannot be seen!
We park at Artouste, which in winter is a ski resort, we book our tickets and pay for a cable car ride up to the train station, this is spectacular and is probably the closest you can get to feeling like you are flying (minus an aeroplane) the views stretch for what seems like forever.
Once you are out of the cable car you can sit and have a bite to eat (John had a burger and I had a croque monsieur) after we ordered we did realise that the café was empty and there did not appear to be anything other than one microwave! Whether this is better when it is in the height of the season, I do not know, but the food is not the best!
What is the best is where you get to sit and eat it, we really felt like we were sitting on top of the world!
Another couple appeared and made general chit chat and as they were Dutch, I used my best French on them, but they insisted on speaking in English, which I thought was very nice, even if it did mean my French was so bad they knew I was English straight away!
It turns out I am not very good at accents and they were not Dutch but actually from New York! We spent a great 30 minutes talking about places we had visited and where we all intended to go, then we realised there was now a queue for the train, I also noticed that people were all wrapped up in winter clothes and rain coats, I was wearing my pants, pumps and luckily the sweater that we grabbed out of the car (for just in case!)
We boarded the train and it set off through a tunnel, there really is no other way of accessing the mountain tops without being an experienced walker or skier.
The train is the most exhilarating experience I have ever had, it travels at 2000m and is on a little train track, there are at times approximately 12 inches between the edge of the train and the 2000m drop at the side!
As we are chugging along the snow gets closer and closer till at times you are passing thick snow and ice and this is the middle of summer!
The train stops at a certain point and you can get off and walk for 20 minutes to a lake, but unfortunately due to the heavy snow the walk is closed and there are signs all over stating risk of avalanche!
We stop for a while and get the chance to throw a couple of snow balls, not something we expected to do on our summer holiday but hey, what is life without a couple of snowballs!
On the ride back John says he saw something run under the snow, it was furry with a long tail, yeah of course he did! Then I see it as well, we have no idea what it was but it wasn’t too big so I think we are safe.
The drive back isn’t as scary as the drive there, after perching on the edge of the mountain side in a little train, nothing can be too scary!
The day was an amazing experience, but if you are planning on going there, make sure you have some waterproof and warm clothes, even if you are visiting in the middle of summer!
This was the first part of our journey come and see more at http://jennyandjohninbrittany.blogspot.co.uk/