Monty lives it up in Luchon
“Non, rien de rien…Non, je ne regrette rien…..”
I’m back in France, and to get me in the mood I’m humming along to a bit of Edith Piaf. Well, it’s not quite true that I regrette rien, as I do regret listening to Sara when she told me she could do a good job of trimming my ears with the kitchen scissors – one ear is definitely shorter than the other. I don’t regret, though, that we’re off to spend the day in Luchon in the French Pyrenees, which is one of my favourite towns in France. Luchon, or Bagnères-de-Luchon to give it its proper name, has a rich history. It has its own thermal springs, and was once a popular spa town with many dignitaries coming to take the waters. The main street is still lined with beautiful buildings dating back to the 18th century when the town was in its heyday as a spa, and you can still bathe in the thermal springs. Well, personally I wouldn’t want to, they smell a bit dodgy – but there’s no accounting for taste, and the humans reckon it’s good for them.
Nowadays, the town has other strings to its bow besides the spa and is a popular tourist destination, offering mountain walking and biking in the summer and snow sports in the winter – it even has its own ski resort, Superbagnères, perched on the mountains overlooking the town. I’ve been up there in the winter – dogs can ride the cable car for free – but today we’re staying nearer the ground. We’re starting the day with a walk, and drive through the town on the road that leads to Spain (Luchon is on the Spanish border), before turning off up to the Hospice de France. This inn is perched 1400 metres up on the side of the mountain, and offers sleeping accommodation and meals. It’s also the starting point for lots of walks, and you can even walk to Spain. I’ve done it – it’s a fairly stiff climb for a couple of hours up to the Port de Vénasque, then you walk through a gap and see Spain spread out before you. Coming down again only takes an hour, especially if you’ve got four-paw-drive, and you can treat yourself to a big lunch at the Hospice.
Today, however, we’re doing a less energetic route up to the Fontaine Rouge behind the Hospice, which takes a couple of hours. Sara has given up asking French restaurants if it’s OK to bring a dog in, as the question always results in a bewildered Gallic shrug and a “Of course. Why on earth not?” So when we’ve finished our walk we head straight into the dining room at the Hospice for lunch, and I immediately go over to say hi to Chiara, the hospice dog – she’s probably missed me while I’ve been in the UK.
Afterwards, we drive back down the winding mountain road into Luchon town, and park at the top end of the main street near the spa. The first halt on my whistle-stop tour of the town is the casino.
Built in 1880, it was in continuous use as a games venue until last year when the actual casino part of the business closed. It’s still open as a tea rooms, but there are plans to re-apply for a games licence to preserve this part of the town’s heritage, so I’ll soon be able to dust off my bowtie and make arrangements to meet up with Daniel Craig.
Next, we go for a wander down the main street, and stop for a drink at the Café de la Paix. This is my favourite lunch venue in Luchon, as they have pavement tables set in little fenced enclosures which are great for me to people-watch from. A French lady stops to admire me, and says to her companion, “Ce chien, il est magnifique, ne c’est pas?” I do like the French; they’re so discerning.
Although it’s the end of the summer, there are still lots of people walking down the main street, and also plenty of cyclists. This isn’t surprising, as Luchon and the surrounding area are a popular spot for mountain bikers, and the Tour de France often passes through the town – in fact, the bunting is still out from the 2012 event, and not, as I first thought, to celebrate my arrival in France. Now, what’s this? It might still be 28 degrees, but it seems to be RAINING! I don’t come to France for this, you know. Quickly, get me back in the car before my ears start frizzing and look even worse. It’s au revoir for now Luchon, and à bientôt, mes amis!
Phileas Phact Box
- For more information about the Hospice de France, 31110 Bagnères-de-Luchon, see http://www.hospicedefrance.com/. It’s not open all year round, so check the website before you visit or call +33 6 88 32 40 64. Accommodation prices start at 24 euros per person.
- The Café de la Paix is on the main street at 19 Allée d’Etigny, 31110 Luchon. Telephone +33 5 61 94 74 70
- For more information about the town and the surrounding area, visit the official site at www.luchon.com.
Competition Time Canines!
I, Phileas Dogg, aka Sherlock Bones, have news of an exciting treasure hunt in which you can help your owner sniff out clues and win a holiday to the British Virgin Islands. (Not sure that we can get there on our pet passports though!)
Anyway, Beach Tomato, which Jane recently wrote a piece about the best dog beaches for, has commissioned six pieces of art depicting the British Virgin Islands and their golden sands, and they’re all around London, metropolitan mutts. Sniff out three of the artworks on the city streets of Soho and Shoreditch to enter and be in with a chance of winning the holiday of a lifetime to the islands. I’ve already donned my deerstalker and I’m off to pick up the scent of this prize. Check out www.beachtomato.com for more details and happy hunting hounds.