I had a restless night caused by a bad case of hayfever. Unfortunately, in tight quarters, Sarah had to share my pain. We awoke at 6:30AM and quickly prepared for our 7AM breakfast. Christian was quietly slipping out of the private quarters in the hotel just as we headed downstairs. We enjoyed our coffee, croissants, and bread while we sat in the breakfast parlor with our bikes.
We dressed, packed, and returned downstairs to pay our bill, 74€ for the room, dinner, wine, and breakfast. Christian wanted us to load the bikes inside and tried to arrange them to make it possible but I was more comfortable doing it outside so he assisted in getting them out the side door. There we loaded the bags, then topped off air pressure in the tires, before rolling out of the village towards the south.
The ride out of town started, under clear skies, with a marvelous descent on a smooth, wide road featuring gentle curves. To Sarah's dismay I told her to turn left after about a kilometer of the descent. The road we had been on headed towards Pau, but we wanted to avoid the city. The road I directed Sarah to take set us up for an almost due south trek to Pontacq and then on to Lourdes.
Our route took us through mostly agricultural areas. At on point we had to stop while a woman drove her herd of cows, all with heavy udders, across the road and onto a gravel lane. This all happened with the Pyrenees as a backdrop in the distance. The more we rode south, the larger the mountains loomed in the background. By the time we reached Pontacq we could not see the larger peaks, the smaller peaks in the foreground were blocking our view.
We stopped in Pontacq for a break. Sarah stepped into a pastisserie for a strawberry tart and a baguette then over to a Petit Casino for a liter of grapefruit juice while I did some minor adjustments on the bikes. We sat in the shade on the side of the pastisserie and ate the tart, then the bread with the last of the cheese from the day before, washing it all down with grapefruit juice. With more calories in the tank we launched off towards Lourdes.
Lourdes was the first city of any size we passed through on this trip. Traffic was a bit of a problem as we entered the city. We got out of most of the traffic when we turned off the main road and went torwads the city center. Many of the vehicles seemed to be tourists heading towards the famous grotto, pilgrimages to the healing waters. Clear of the traffic we rode through the center of town looking for a place to eat lunch. At the far end of the main strip we found a restaurant with outside seating, so we stopped and rested the bikes against the wall. We were seated outside with barely enough awning to provide shade, a necessity as it was getting rather warm. We both ordered the specialty of the day, ray 'wings' with Spanish rice. The ray was interesting; eating was straightforward once we figured out that you need to scrape the meat off the underlying cartilaginous struts. The food was quite good, and filling. It was not until we were done eating that it dawned us that the special was fish because it was Friday. We apparently had been a bit on the dehydrated side, due to the mid-90F temperatures, as we consumed a couple of liters of water with lunch.
Outside of Lourdes we entered the Pyrenees. The main road was closed to bicycles but the signs directed us to a smaller, parallel road. At first we were on the east side of the highway, in the shade to a degree, but later had to cross to the west side where we are more exposed to the sun. Just below Argeles-Gazost there was a small tourist information pullout which we pulled into to fill up the water bottles. After we passed through Argeles-Gazost, the road to up the Gorge Luz diverged off to the left from the main road to Gavernie. We enjoyed a quiet ride up the gorge along the river, past the turn-off to Luz Ardiden and on to Luz St. Saveur.
Shortly after entering Luz St. Saveur we approached a T intersection. A sign at the edge of town had informed us that there were three two-star hotels in town. At the T intersection we found one right across the road from us, one a half a block off to the left and the third a half a block off to the right. We chose the one to the right as that is the direction towards Tourmalet. I entered the hotel to inquire about a room, only to find out that the Hotel Londres was just re-opening for the summer season. Since this was the first night for the summer, the restaurant was not fully operational and therfore half-board was not available. The desk clerk asked where we are going and I explained the general route and the specific information that we anticipated crossing Col du Tourmalet the next day. He informed me that the pass was closed, but he had a friend who would know more. He called the friend while I got Sarah and moved the bikes into the garage under the hotel. The clerk met us down there with his update: Tourmalet was closed but the road had been cleared just this day. The pass would not be officially opened until June 2nd. We could try to go over, but might have to turn back if caught. We might be able to continue even if caught if we explained we were just tourists. We decided to formulate options that night, just in case.
A pizza joint on the edge of town had caught Sarah's fancy as we rode in that afternoon. Since half-board at the hotel was not an option, we followed her craving and walked down the street for a pizza dinner. In hindsight I should have pressed Sarah to opt for a more carbohydrate rich meal. The pizza joint had an odd name, and was a combination bar, restaurant, and bowling alley. We tanked up on beer, salad, and pizza/calzone, then took off for a walk towards the start of the climb to Tourmalet. On our way back Sarah wanted some ice cream, and she was a bit ambivalent at the cafeteria/glaceria until she saw malaga as an option and then she was sold. We each had a small bowl, eaten on the patio, before returning to the hotel to discuss route options and schedules.