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Looking down the main street of Gavarnie

Our hike to the Breche du Roland was great but we were both pretty tired when we got back to the hotel. The hike was long, lots of elevation gain, and a lot of work going over the scramble sections. Sandy decided to rest in out room before dinner but I wanted to get some pictures of the Cirque du Gavarnie from below with bright sun and blue sky. So I hiked about a kilometer up the valley where we had gone yesterday. I did think that I got some good pictures.

I did see one funny thing. In Gavarnie they have a large area with dozens of horses. They take tourists into the cirque if they don't want to walk. But by the end of the day all that horse traffic leaves quite a bit of debris on the trail. So here were two guys driving along with a small pickup and stopping every little bit. They would get out with shovels and clean up all the horse droppings. What a fun job! And I hate picking up dog poop once a week before I mow the lawn.

We had dinner at our hotel again - forced moves are easy. We were more careful about not forcing stuff that didn't appeal to us. We got more disapproving looks from our hostess, but what the heck it was our last night. It was even worse the next morning at breakfast. When she came to ask if we wanted coffee we both said no. That got us a serious eye roll. Just weird, these Americans.

View of alpenglow on peaks from our hotel room window

Before we left Gavarnie I made a last trip to the deli to get a couple of Diet Cokes for the road. The first time that we had stopped in the guy hadn't known a word of English. But each time I came back he had something new. When I came in he said "hello". He asked if I wanted "Diet Coke" (outside of the US it is usually called Coca Light) and if I wanted "one or two?". Then he told me the price in English and said "Goodbye. Have a nice day." Wow, talk about customer service. The guy was really trying. He made me feel guilty that I was leaving.

We had a nice day to travel back to Barcelona. Part way down the valley we took a side road that went up and up and up to cross a pass into the next valley over. It was slow going. The road was narrow and very winding. To make it even more interesting there were cyclists all over the place. They really love their cycling in France. Sometimes you pass groups of serious cyclists all wearing some team uniform and pushing hard up the hill. Sometimes you pass people who look like they are just out for the weekend. The cyclists who are coming down are even more of a menace. After all that hard work to get up the pass they want to come roaring down and they don't like to break and give up all that hard-earned speed. I just can't imagine how many bicycle accidents they must have on these mountain roads.

Returning to Gavarnie from the hike to the Cirque

We were doing pretty well on navigation on the way back. Then just before we reached the main highway that would take us over the main range into Spain, the Google directions had us turn off onto a minor road. At first we weren't sure that it was a road at all - we thought it might just be a campground entrance. But it kept winding around through the woods and then climbed up over (yet another) pass. There were no roadsigns and the road we were on did not even show up on our highway map. But we seemed to be going the right direction so we stuck with it. Eventually we came out onto the main highway again. Google had helped us with a short cut. The main road would have been fine by me, thank you very much. We went through a tunnel to pass under the main crest and were back in Spain. Soon we were on our route from earlier in the week. Our only worry was finding our way through the town of Monzon, where we had difficulty on the way up with the construction and detours. But Sandy found a way to avoid the town entirely on good highway. Before long we were on the freeway (actually, the autovia) and zooming back to Barcelona.

When we picked up the rental car at the aiport, the guy there told us that we didn't need to return it to the airport. That was good because the airport is somewhat off the main through highway. Instead we were going right to our hotel. There was a big shopping mall just a block away that had a Hertz counter, and he told us to drop it off there. We found the hotel without difficulty. We go into Barcelona at about 4 pm but it was a Saturday and there wasn't even much traffic. A pleasant surprise. We checked into the Hilton and just had a one block drive to drop our car off. We found the parking garage entrance, found the Hertz area, parked the car, and took the elevator to the mall entrance.

View from one of the many passes we had to cross

...And it was closed. Turns out that it wasn't just any Saturday. It was National Day. We went back to the hotel and went to the executive lounge. Sandy asked the lady there to call Hertz to find out what we should do with the car. It took her multiple calls, and several very long conversations, before she came up with elaborate instuctions for us to take the car across town to the railroad station to drop it off. But that office wasn't open either, so what was the point. Finally Sandy called the airport rental car office herself and in two minutes found out that there was a drop box where we had left the car. A quick walk back and we dropped off the keys and contract. Whew!!! That had been hard. Now we could go back to the lounge for some drinks and snacks. Tomorrow we had a full day to explore Barcelona before Sandy's meetings started.