Thursday, March 18, 2021

More Covid Adventures

On a 10-degree day (50 Fahrenheit) soaking our feet in thermal waters

 It seems silly, the things that we miss during lockdown. I have friends who have lost their mothers and fathers. Who am I to whine about missing restaurants, bars and cafes? Getting together with friends, stopping for coffee at the end of a walk or meeting for a glass of wine at the bar overlooking the river. 

But that is one thing we've missed. Restaurants and bars have been closed in France since October 30th.

Rain was predicted in Quillan for Monday. We had talked about revisiting the beach from the previous week, since our friend Kris had been working rather than joining us. But high winds were predicted along the Mediterranean all week. We started looking at maps and when we heard about a restaurant that served food at outside picnic tables, we agreed to go, thinking it might feel like eating at a restaurant again.

The restaurant though was at the top of a Col, though, a mountain pass. The weather forecast said sun, but the high temperature predicted was 1 Celsius, 33 Fahrenheit. 

We drove through curving roads, moving higher and higher, expecting to see snow, but much of the snow has melted. Along the way, Kris named a litany of foods he planned to order once we got to the restaurant. "Steak haché and frites, moules, a demi of rouge, and that's just for starters."

When we rounded a corner, we saw a fabulous view of the Pyrénées and the snow we had anticipated. 

In spite of warm weather, the high peaks retain their snow.

The place looked deserted. We were the only car in the lot. We walked around enjoying the view but shivered in the cold. The time had arrived for us to see whether the restaurant was open. 

We walked in, masks in place, and acted like people who hadn't been at a restaurant for five months. The proprietor asked if she could help us and I stumbled over words like "repas" and "dejeuner." Finally, she understood we were there for food and she cautioned that we needed to eat at the tables outside. We agreed and eagerly ordered. Tartiflette for me, potatoes with cheese and ham, a delicious mountain meal. Earl, Kris and Derrick all ordered hamburgers with special sauce and fries. Derrick drank mulled wine while the rest of us had red wine. 

The view from the picnic tables is lovely, but chilly. 
Me and Earl
After our lunch, finished with a coffee and a toilet break (always a worry for me because many toilets are closed due to Covid), we drove across the col to the town of Ax-les-Thermes. We've heard that cities with Ax and Aix were hubs for Romans, like Aix en Provence, but I can't confirm that from my curosry search online. The Romans were there in Ax-les-Thermes, enjoying the thermal waters back in the day. And Ax is related to the Latin word for water.
Nevertheless, the town is now know for its waters and for its skiing. France has banned skiing for the year because of the virus. French people who try to go to nearby countries (Spain, Andorra, Italy) are not allowed to ski either. 

There are hot water fountains in two places in town. 
The temperature warmed up quite a bit from the restaurant to Ax-les-Thermes, registering at about 10 Celsius or 50 Fahrenheit. We quickly pulled off our boots and socks to soak our feet in the warm water. 
Good thing I had a pedicure for my birthday
Kris and Earl enjoy the hottest water

  The water is generally hotter closer to the source it comes out, but it wasn't too hot on the day we were there. 
After some time in the water, which left our feet feeling very soft, we drove up to the ski station. The snow machines are not making snow. Only patches are left. Kids and parents pull up sleds and come down the hills. 

A lonely ski slope
I had packed some hot chocolate with amaretto in a thermos, so we enjoyed it while Kris and Derrick's dogs played in the snow. I even brought along a can of whipped cream, which the Brits call "squirty cream." 
A cup of hot chocolate in the snow and sunshine. 
It was a pretty great adventure. 


Mystica said...

It is a treat since it happened after so long. I went for a dinner to a nice restaurant two weeks ago and it was wonderful meeting up.

Noreen said...

You have the most delightful adventures, and the stories you tell about them make me feel as though I experienced them too. Merci!

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