The Pyrenees is a mountain range that lies between the borders of France and Spain. RT, my mother and I ventured here by car through treacherous round-a-bouts aided by an outdated GPS. Ignoring our robotic Australian guide, we have veered off the road into the manila void of the screen several times. Our destination was the Cirque de Gavarnie. Cirque, the french word for arena, describes a glacial formation that appears as if a chunk of mountain has been scooped out–it’s other half floating elsewhere in the world. It is September and tourist season has reached a lull. The town of Gavarnie itself is unremarkable, with bus loads of tourists pouring in for the day and leaving the town empty at night. The tourist shops are filled with the usual junk. A stuffed animal marmot with a motion sensor that whistled “whew whew” may be the signature sound of Gavarnie. One day, many of the visitors are disabled, maneuvuring their wheelchairs through the town to breathe in the mountain air and see the gigantic glacial bowl.
We were here many years before with my father, and he is here with us again, his ashes tucked away in my mother’s backpack. Growing up, my family often hiked on weekends along the dreary paths of the Appalachian mountains. The highlight of each hike was undoubtedly lunch where we would eat sandwiches with proscuitto, tomato, basil and mozzarella with olive tapenade. The location of lunch was an important consideration, a spectacular view being ideal, but sometimes hunger driving us to an attractive large rock. Sometimes we would take along a small camping stove and make ramen, my mother cutting green onions on the back of a pot. One time it was so cold out, the ham topping froze in my mother’s backpack.
We hiked amongst sheep and cows steadily winding our way up the path. The perfect place was high up the mountain, away from the well trodden path to the cirque, a view that was worthy of lunch. RT gathered rocks from higher up the mountain, as my mother and I realized that there was no escape from the massive amount of cow dung that covered the mountain. We made a cairn over my father’s ashes and carefully poured beer over it. Afterwards, each of us taking a sip of the still cold Kronenbourg 1664. Next to my father, we ate our lunch – baguettes with local sheep’s milk cheese and saucisson.Read More