Tourism / Travel

Escaping to Foix

Remember that one time I went on vacation during my two week break in February, and basically never got around to writing about part of it?

Well, that stops today!

So, in addition to Toulouse and Carcassonne, on this particular trip I also visited the speck of a town called Foix. Or more precisely, the countryside surrounding the speck of a town called Foix. I was feeling absolutely SUFFOCATED by Paris at this point in the year, sick of the city and noise and people, and all I could think about was getting out somewhere peaceful in nature–preferably the mountains. Chamonix seemed impossible at the time as it was prime ski season (aka… $$$) so instead I looked south, towards the less popular Pyrenees mountains. All kinds of googling and scrolling through TripAdvisor somehow landed me on the section of the Midi-Pyrenees called the Ariegois (or Ariège region) which, according to photos galore, had some lovely peaceful scenery and beautiful views in good hiking weather.

One of the many maps I used to plan hiking routes through the Ariège region of the Pyrenees. Thank God, or I would have gotten totally lost.

One of the many maps I used to plan hiking routes through the Ariège region of the Pyrenees. Thank God, or I would have gotten totally lost.

The capital ‘city’ of the region is Foix, which also happens to be the smallest capital city of any region in France, and hosts a teeny tiny castle, a rail station, some shops and restaurants, and a sweet little river. Between these aspects and some not-too-far-off caves called the Grotte de Niaux, which hosts neolithic cave paintings (!) I figured I could fill up 3 days or so. I decided to couchsurf, and found someone to stay with rather easily. I’ll go ahead and lay out there that the couchsurfing ended poorly, my host was totally generous with home and food but seemed to take a pretty quick and obvious disliking to me and I got so uncomfortable and unhappy I flat out left a day early. (That was the quick version. If you ever catch me and ask for the full depths, I’ll chew your ear off for 15 minutes with the tale.)

In the old farmhouse where I stayed, there was no heating. I slept with a hot water bottle (BEST INVENTION. EVER. EVER.) and spent evenings in front of a teeny fireplace in a very old stove. Loved it...minus the chill.

In the old farmhouse where I stayed, there was no heating. I slept with a hot water bottle (BEST INVENTION. EVER. EVER.) and spent evenings in front of a teeny fireplace in a very old stove. Loved it…minus the chill.

An adorable 6 month old Australian Shepherd belonging to my host. He was still being trained, and had enough energy to just about wriggle out of his skin every time he saw me. Or anyone. Or anything, really.

An adorable 6 month old Australian Shepherd belonging to my host. He was still being trained, and had enough energy to just about wriggle out of his skin every time he saw me. Or anyone. Or anything, really.

All that aside, I was able to accomplish my main goal fairly easily–from the farmhouse where my host lives, I had access to MILES of footpaths and hiking trails, and equipped with one of my host’s maps I spent a good 6 hours one day hiking through the mountains. It was unfortunately a bit hazy so my photos were less than stunning, but I was so happy to be out in fresh, open air that I couldn’t find any complaints. I hiked past quaint hamlets, pastures, forests, streams…just all over the place.

A view from a mountainside of one of the many tiny hamlets dotting the landscape in the region. Not something you see so much in the USA.

A view from a mountainside of one of the many tiny hamlets dotting the landscape in the region. Not something you see so much in the USA.

My hiking trails, towards the end, extended into a bit of a road, and I took a hint from a group sitting at the other end of it and plopped myself down for a rest.

My hiking trails, towards the end, extended into a bit of a road, and I took a hint from a group sitting at the other end of it and plopped myself down for a rest.

Still unsure as to who built this little nature-shrine, but it sure was adorable.

Still unsure as to who built this little nature-shrine, but it sure was adorable.

On my second day, after working a bit in my host’s garden, I hopped in my host’s car and we shuffled off a few towns over to the area of Niaux cave. To go in the cave one must call ahead and make a reservation, and frankly, have a car–getting there from the closest train station would take hours walking. I had some time before my own reservation, and with nothing else to do, took another quick hike suggested by my host.

River strolls...the perfect way to shed the feeling of being on a crowded Parisian sidewalk!

River strolls…the perfect way to shed the feeling of being on a crowded Parisian sidewalk!

This particular hike was faster and along a river, yielding some lovely background bubbling of running water while I ambled along. I stumbled upon a field of workhorses, much to my delight, and had to pause a few minutes to pet them, naturally. I also found a certain part of the trail that flat out looked like I had walked into a rainforest–everything was covered in an electric green moss.

I'm sorry, when did I go to South America?

I’m sorry, when did I go to South America?

Unfortunately photos are not allowed in the Grotte de Niaux itself, but I have to say, the paintings in there are really, really interesting and VERY well preserved. I was quite pleased with myself because I opted to take the tour in French, and really don’t think I missed more than a handful of details during the entire tour–if you happen to be in this area (which, I admittedly sort of doubt you would without planning) I’d say it’s definitely worth a stop!

Hiking up the road leading to the Grotte de Niaux, and looking back down into the foggy valley--those clouds were carrying snow!

Hiking up the road leading to the Grotte de Niaux, and looking back down into the foggy valley–those clouds were carrying snow!

The next day saw my early departure in the afternoon. I do hate to be such a bore with this post but I have to say, the negative experience I had couchsurfing there really just ended up fogging over my entire vacation there and even in Toulouse/Carcassonne for a bit, so I’ve not got loads to report. That being said, I DID get to spend time with puppies, kitties, horses, and absolutely one of the most stunningly clear and bright night skies I have ever seen–the stars were infinite, and I stood out in the cold February air drinking them in my first night, and that kept me going through the next few weeks back in Paris.

That’s all for this evening, lovelies!

-B

One thought on “Escaping to Foix

  1. Pingback: Chamonix Part 1 | Becky Abroad

Share your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s