About six months before leaving on our journey in December of 2011, I signed up for a website called Caretakers Gazette. It featured ads from people looking for house-sitters, usually to take care of a variety of pets/animals. That site sent out weekly emails showing available house-sitting jobs, and each time the email arrived, I scoured it for something that might fit with our schedule and needs, but nothing really ever came close.
It’s interesting that if you go to the French rail website for their train system, SCNF, you get a variety of options for stating your home country. If you choose the USA, you get re-directed to the Rail Europe website, where fares are almost always more expensive than if you try to navigate the SCNF website as someone who says they are from Europe. For instance, the trip we were taking from LaTour De Carol was 18 Euros a person on the Rail Europe website, but only 13 Euros a person on the SCNF website. And by purchasing our tickets at the train station in LaTour De Carol, we paid the local rate of 13 Euro. So know you now. You’re welcome.
After that weirdness, it was great to get to the peaceful house near the village of Nescus and have a tail-wagging welcome. Sean and Laura were the homeowners who were leaving the next day on a holiday to Spain, and they had a Labradoodle, Polly who had given birth to seven puppies. Two of them had already found homes, but we still had five to take care of and enjoy.
Sean and Laura were from Sheffield, England and had decided about five years ago that they were looking for something different and they found it in the French Pyrenees. It was a large old house that they had renovated about a third of into living quarters for themselves and their two kids.
The puppies were the highlight of our stay in the south of France, but not the only aspect of our time there that we enjoyed. We arrived on a Thursday and Sean and Laura had told us about a weekly market on Saturday in the town of St. Girons. The picturesque village was about a 20-minute drive away. We got there around mid-day and some of the vendors were winding down their activity, but there was still plenty to see.
The drive to St. Girons and back also gave us the chance to see some of the gorgeous countryside in the region. The Pyrenees are beautiful, rising as high as 11,100 feet. Even a few weeks into summer, some of the peaks had snow remaining in the higher valleys.
On Sean's recommendation, we took a drive into the mountains just south of his property. The narrow, twisty road brought to an overlook that gave us a view that went for miles.
Carcassonne. We had heard and read a lot about it, and having a few days on our hands, plus a rental car we decided to make the 90-minute drive to see the ancient walled city.
The streets are crowded with all kinds of shops and restaurants and there wasn't much room to move around. It's kind of like Gatlinburg in July but without the fudge shops. We walked around a bit, decided not to stand in the long lines to get access to some of the areas of the castle, grabbed some gelato and a meringue and hit the road.
That was the best part of the day: the drive. The road takes you through the foothills of the Pyrenees which happen to feature field after field of sunflowers. Annie became Van Gogh like in her obsession with them, and we stopped to take several pictures.
They are beautiful, especially when you see this many spread out over so many fields and hillsides.
On our last day, Sean and Laura returned home and the following day two more of the puppies were taken to their new homes. We were sad to see them go, but it was time to say goodbye to them and say hello to the Basque region of France and Spain as we continued our trek toward Paris.