Monday, June 7, 2010

Pic Cagire.

Last weekend, Monsieur J and I set out for the Pyrénées. After an hour and a half, we arrived at the parking lot for the hike we'd planned to go on: pic Cagire. The information we'd found on the internet warned that the hike was steep, but well worth it for the beautiful views.

I can now confirm that this is an accurate description, though we added a detour.

Unfortunately, we got a little confused by the signage and turned left. This path seemed to wind around the mountain rather than climb up it, ooops. We were a little disappointed but still had lovely views to enjoy and lots of wildlife to take in.

It wasn't until about 2 hours later that we ran into a race. We asked the organizers how to get to the top of the peak and they recommended we turn right and follow the "runners." They weren't actually running, but were muscly creatures moving at quite a clip as they had to pace themselves for the 48 kilometer trek covering three peaks that they had signed up for.

We followed them until we arrived at a refuge, a set of two cabins intended for shepherds and hikers. The runners may have continued on past this checkpoint, but we stopped for sandwiches, cherries and a much needed break.

We asked the man recording the runners' times at the checkpoint how to get from the refuge back to the parking lot. He was curious to know how we'd gotten this far. When we explained the path we'd taken he stared at us in disbelief and bellowing of laughter said, "you turned left out of the parking lot? Do you realize that you added an extra 9 kilometers to your hike?"

He kindly explained that if we continued to follow the runners up to the peak and then down the mountain we would eventually reach the parking lot. Whew. What he failed to mention is that you need to be part mountain goat to reach the top.

The difference in elevation between the parking lot and the summit is somewhere in the neighborhood of 3280 feet; there was still snow on the ground. Translation: this probably wasn't the best idea for our first hike of the season, but I don't regret it.

My legs may have been sore several days afterwards but it's pretty hard to beat a beautiful hike in the mountains.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Getting ambitious on the balcony.

The balcony is like the rest of our apartment, which is to say it's petit.

You see, Monsieur J and I share a whopping 350 square feet of living space. Somehow it doesn't bother us. The good news is that barring a move to Hong Kong, Moscow, Paris or New York, we probably won't have to live anywhere smaller ever again. There's always a bright side!

What started as a small collection of plants on the balcony has morphed into some serious urban gardening over here on rue des fontaines. In addition to a thriving collection of cacti and succulents, we have a banana tree, an olive tree, a yucca, a lime tree, a grape vine, rosemary, basil and an overflowing pot of mint.

I'm here to confirm that we are officially reaching max capacity.

However, you may also remember a mention of tomato plants...

I think I told myself that cherry tomatoes would be smaller than regular tomatoes. Yes, this is true for the fruit, but not so much for the plants. They have gone from 6 inches to over 3 feet in three weeks. Fuzzy stems and yellow flowers are sprouting every which way, making it a real challenge to even access the other plants enough to water them. It's turning into a real jungle!

I'm hoping our harvest of delicious little cherry tomatoes will make this slightly crazy endeavor worth the effort. In the meantime, I love opening the door every morning to check and see what may have changed overnight. You'd be surprised at what can happen in the span of a few hours.

Today the banana tree presented a tightly coiled new leaf marked by a single drop of dew. A cactus that weathered an entire winter outside has recently revived itself and is now in bloom. Haricot vert is forever gravitating towards the sun; he just can't get enough.

Has anyone ever seen a plant like this before? We bought it at the market two years ago and I've never seen anything remotely similar since. We just call him green bean!