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Day 17: Southwest France & Saint Bertrand de Comminges - 30 May


The stock market volatility hit once again, giving Peter a sleepless night. This means that I didn’t get much sleep either, despite the extremely comfortable beds and quiet surroundings of the Auberge. While it looked like an idyllic day for scaling up the mountains of Pic du Midi, Peter wasn’t clear headed enough to manage the hour and a half drive there and back, let alone several hours at the top. So we chose for the gentler option of a visit to Saint Bertrand de Comminges at Valcabrere, which was only a half hour drive away.

Saint Bertrand de Comminges at Valcabrere:
Saint Bertrand de Comminges at Valcabrere is made up of the ancient town, where ruins from the Roman Empire and Frank kingdom can still be seen, the 12th century basilica of Saint-Just de Valcabrere, and the upper part of the town, which is comprised of the well-preserved surrounding wall built for defensive purposes, the Cathedral, which holds the remains of Saint Bertrand, the Cloister, and the Medieval City.

Saint Bertrand de Comminges is known to be a halting place for pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. After performing their devotions at Saint Bertrand’s tomb, they follow the route through the foothills of the Pyrenean chain in search of a pass where the weather is good enough to make it through to Spain, or were content to make it to Sainte-Christine, Somport - or Ronceveaux - to Escaladieu abbey and the various religious communities living in the foothills offering a spiritual and material welcome. Saint Bertrand’s Cathedral and Saint Just de Valcabrere’s basilica have been inscribed on the World Heritage List, as have “The Routes To Santiago de Compostela.”

Lunch Recommendation in the Medieval City:
Conscious of the 12-2 rural lunch time frame, Peter and I sniffed out a modest restaurant that served regional meals called Restaurant Chez Simone. Decked out in red and white checkered tablecloths, Provencal chairs, and a vase of freshly cut roses for every table, the rough wooden beams and exposed mud brick walls completed the picture of this old structure. While the locals had taken up the seating outside, we were happy to settle indoors, which was pleasant and cool.

For 17,00 Euros each, we were eager to try the set menu, which most of the patrons there seemed to be eating. The first course was a clear, full bodies soup that tasted like a rich chicken and mushroom broth; it was sensational. The hors d’oeuvre’s were next, which consisted of a terrine, blood sausages, cornichons and a mixed salad with a basket of bread. That too was delicious. The main meal consisted of Coq au Vin, served simply with boiled potatoes; the chicken just slid off the bone and was sensational. Dessert was a choice of cheese or fruit, and after the big meal, I chose the later.

Restaurant Chez Simone (cuisine familiale), 31510 Saint-Bertrande de Comminges.

Dinner was once again a superb experience at Auberge des Coteaux de Gascogne. In fact, we would have all our dinners here after sightseeing during the day for the rest of our stay for two reasons. First and foremost, after dining at restaurants all day, it was wonderful to come back to a mouthwatering home cooked meal at night. And Rachid, Sylvie’s husband, was an exceptional cook. The second reason, and a very good one, was that with St Lary Boujean was not traceable on our GPS and we didn’t have a hope in hell of finding our way back after a restaurant dinner on those dark and winding country roads! Either way, we felt that we had the best of all worlds.

Posted by Victoria Ugarte on 30th May, 2012 | Trackbacks
Categories: France
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