Monday, January 13, 2014

(5/)6 Micro-nations I: Paris - Toulouse - Andorra - Ger - Llivia - Cannes

12/1 - Paris to Toulouse

I landed in Paris the day after leaving, without the person who I'd planned, late in the game, to be coming with me.  For her sake, I'd replanned this to be a much more normal, sane, and sensible trip, one that someone who wasn't a hardcore radikult traveler could survive and one that a couple could have fun doing, but the wheels, as things will do in my life, rather predictably came off.  I had a choice: to do the easy and relaxing trip solo, or to attempt the hard one, pushing myself to my very limits, both to take my mind off the breakup and other attendant crap and to see if it was possible, at least for me.  I wasn't dead on arrival.  The car they gave me was diesel, which was a sign.  And so I headed not for Le Blanc-Mesnil and a desolate moping through the Ardennes and the Westerwald, but for Toulouse, 750 kilometers away to the south-south-west.

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001. Leaving Paris.

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002. Impressive skies.

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003. Art on the autoroute.

004. Trying for a hole in the sky.  (DNCO)  More of these pics did not come out than any other trip, due to the shooting conditions.  Not give-up bad like some of the train windows in Russia, but still salt-spattered and at highway speed.

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005. Countryside from a rest stop.

v01. Curve and some radio.

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006. Streaming skies.

007. Holes in heaven.  (DNCO)

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008. Stormclouds over the land.

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009. Great long emptiness on the Occitane.

v02. Rolling hills, more French radio.

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010. Amazing landscapes, even on the autoroute.

I got the Toulouse with the benefit of the satnav deep into the dark, about 7 hours after landing, most of which had been spent traveling at about 130 kph.  I stowed the car at the hotel, set my phone alarm for 0500 local, and went to sleep mostly from exhaustion.

12/2 - Toulouse to Andorra to Spain to Llivia via France to Cannes

I awoke to the alarm with no problems and got moving, rolling away from the hotel a little after 0600, so I did the entire autoroute portion of the first leg in the dark, and most of the French Pyrenees as well.  Nothing like icy, partially-cleared mountain roads in the dark to get and keep you awake.

011. ((not germane))

012. ((not germane))

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013. Dawn in the Pyrenees.

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014. Clouds and snowy roads.

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015. Rare: straight and mostly clear.

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016. Breathtaking mountains.

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017. Winding switchbacks.

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018. Amazing slopes.

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019. Across the valley.

The roads were a little scary, but the views were fucking amazing -- and while I did have to stop for a few trucks, the car did stop, and I didn't have to back up once.

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020. Down into Andorra.

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021. Basically, the whole country is a ski resort.

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022. Monument by the roadside.

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023. Straight down.

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024. Government buildings and public art.

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025. Below St. Esteve.

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026. Statue outside St. Esteve.

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027. Casa de la Vall.

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028. View from the courtyard.

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029. Medieval passage.

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030. "Angel on the Trapeze".

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031. Up from the main square to the mountains.

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032. St. Esteve and mountains.

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033. Andorran Olympic Committee headquarters.  You'd wonder why a country so small would have an Olympic team worth a full-time headquarters, and then you look up at the mountains and remember that "whole country is a ski resort" thing.

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034. Back into Andorra, leaving.

The above was at a gas station stop where I fixed my permanently-retracted side mirrors, which had gotten stuck that way in the parking area.  This was the only thing on the car that broke in a way to inhibit driving, which I was grateful for, as I'd just found out the night before that I was going to drive it past its yearly maintenance interval, and that day, that it was entirely out of wiper fluid.  On to Spain!

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035. OMFG.

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036. More mist in the valley.

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037. Sheer cliffs.

038. Bad light on snowcapped peaks.  (DNCO)

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039. God's country, from the parking lot in Ger.

Even if I couldn't find the Dogfrisbee center, the Spanish Pyrenees are fucking amazing.  I'm glad I came this way instead of turning tail into France, or using larger highways.

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040. Back on the road; soaring peaks.

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041. Pure white ridge ahead.

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042. The road out of Spain.

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043. Mountains and a lucky highway sign.

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044. Better mountains, smaller signs.

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045. More mountains on the road to Llivia.

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046. Literally everything looks this awesome.

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047. Through Llivia; there may be both France and Spain in this shot.

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048. Amazing mountains behind amazing mountains.

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049. Llivia sign, outskirts.

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050. ...and on the other side.  The insensibility of Llivia really strengthens the argument that this should all be one country -- neither France nor Spain.

This represents the first but not last time that I walked out of one country and into another on this trip.

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051 / 052. Two panoramas from this little turnout, which was probably the location of the customs post before the Schengen agreement.  Put them together for for a 360+ degree pan.

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053. Just some cows.

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054. Amazing skies.

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055. My little Citroen, all alone in the vastness.

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056. Bull on the way downhill.

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057. Awesome valley.

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058. Towering peaks.

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059. The fortress at Montlouis.

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060. Going down the mountain.

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061. Hugging the slopes.  There was a lot more incredible stuff, but I was too busy, um, not driving off the goddamn mountain, to take pictures of all of it.

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062. Super-badass viaduct.

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063. Fortress in Villefranche.

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064. More of the fort.

065. Trying to get a brilliantly-lit formation outside Perpignan.  (DNCO)

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066. More of those hills from the road.

067. Out to the mountains again.  (DNCO)

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068. A try at vineyards in Languedoc.

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069. Another one, other side.

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070. Ok, this is a good one.

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071. Church near Gallargues.  I had no chance to take the marvelous cathedral at Narbonne, because the highway by it was under construction and I needed both hands to drive.

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072. Weird structure by the road.

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073. Burning the ground clear.  The smell passing through this smoke cloud was amazing; probably a vineyard or orchard then.

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074. An old house and trees.

075. Windmills and valley.  (DNCO)

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076. Into Provence, losing light.

v03. The trees block the scenery, but in this light even the autoroute is beautiful.

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"v"04. Kind of an accident -- I was going to delete it but for the sky in the preview.

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077. Ahead into the haze.

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078. More awesome natural formations.

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079. Ronald McKnockoff, on a circus caravan, and a viaduct.

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080. Down to the Hautes de Barcelone.

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081. Palm trees in Cannes.  We're less than 600km from that winter panorama in Llivia.  Today went from a low of -7 up in the mountains in the morning, to a high of 16 (both Celsius, of course) coming in to Cannes in the evening.

This was the big drive.  Everything else was shorter than the nearly 800km covered this day.  In Italy, things might get more complicated, but there was not, for the rest of the trip, another day that covered eleven hours behind the wheel.  I was getting better adjusted to the time at this point and did not fall asleep immediately, but I was still too bushed to walk the block or so to the Mediterranean in the dark.

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