Our journey started in Barcelona, a high-energy metropolis (watch out for the well-dressed commuters on scooters racing from stoplight to stoplight) with a compact central city that is ideal for sightseeing.
Leaving bustling Barcelona and traversing the Pyrenees, you encounter many small villages that present a slower and more relaxed pace of life. Roda de Isabena is one such village. Located on a hilltop overlooking the Mid Isabena Valley, it is a medieval town centered around its 10th Century cathedral.
A beautiful picturesque village in France, although quite touristy, is St Jean Pied de Port. This village is on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, and has seen pilgrims pass through for centuries on their journey to Santiago.
The historic walled city of Carcassonne, France is without peer in the fabled storybook city category. The city inside the wall, the wall itself with all its turrets, the cathedral, and the castle, all combine to fashion a wonderful place to visit. There will be lots of others visiting along with you, but Carcassonne is worth it.
Elegant old churches are, of course, very abundant in the Pyrenees, and each village has a major cathedral located on the highest ground in the town. These are a few of the ones we stopped to capture on "film."
Ancient stone bridges, some from the Roman times, also caught our eye. Here are two that were particularly nice. The citadel in the middle of the city of Jaca was built between the 15th and the 18th Centuries and even has a moat (now dry) with a drawbridge.
And of course, the beauty of the Pyrenees themselves cannot be ignored. Andorra is lush and green in the summer and a very popular ski destination in the winter, as evidenced by all the ski chalets. Still within Andorra but removed from all the traffic congestion is the road to Ordino.
No trip to the Pyrenees would be complete without a visit to the Spanish National Park of Valle de Ordesa. Its scale is so large that pictures cannot come close to capturing the beauty of this special valley. Another special valley in the Spanish Pyrenees is the cirque named Valle de Pineta with its plentiful waterfalls.
The French Pyrenees also have a wide variety of impressive sights. Most prominent are the many lush green valleys surrounded by majestic mountain peaks. There are also several steep gorges, such as the Gorges de Galamus.
The Pyrenees end in the East near the Mediterranean Sea, and that's a good excuse to go visit the sights along the Mediterranean coast. You won't be disappointed, we certainly weren't. Collioure on the French coast is an old fishing village that has also become a center for artists. That is easy to understand, as this village is extremely picturesque. Be warned that it is also very touristy, but well worth the effort. Another artist center is the seaside village of Cadaques, on the Spanish coast. Dali lived here. The road to Cadaques is small and very twisty, all the more reason to visit Cadaques.
Traveling through the Costa Brava section of the Spanish coast will bring you to Tossa de Mar, probably the prettiest scene along this part of the Mediterranean coastline. The road to get there was the best one of our trip, and that is saying a lot. Hope you enjoyed our travelogue!
Thomas R. Powell
Last updated on 02/19/2012.