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davidx Orlu - A travel report by David
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Orlu,  France - flag France -  Midi-Pyrenees
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davidx's travel reports

Orlu in Ariège, Midi-Pyrénées

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We had looked up sites at home for the caravan and tents – there were numerous on the road from Ax-les Thermes to Andorra but the main road put us off. Lastly there was one down a side road at Orlu. Here we stayed.

Orlu travelogue picture
Except for one day, when the rain beggared belief, I suppose I might have described Heaven as being like a dream version of Orlu. Although we had travelled in mountainous areas, this was the first time we ever stayed for some time on a single site in a mountain area. We had determined on France for a long time and a programme on TV had decided us on the Pyrenees. We had taken best part of four days from home – dashing about with a caravan was never our scene – and now we had arrived. We managed to find a site adjacent to the river and to rig up a sort of Heath Robinson device to keep milk cool in the water. The boys’ tent wasn’t far from the caravan. Some days the heat was such that we were happy to spend the bulk of the day just relaxing in high meadows, memorable for both the sight and scent of the flowers and for the varied butterflies. I’ve never found a better place for the butterflies in Europe. Others we toured around the area: a trip to Montaillou, where the Cathars had been wiped out by those of more orthodox versions of Christianity; a visit [that had to be booked] to the caves at Niaux to see the prehistoric paintings of animals; [see howcaves/Niaux.html] a walk up into the mountains proper. This last was unfortunately the occasion for a brief but horrendous electric storm so the walk fell in numbers from 5 to 2 after we had sheltered in a crude bothy. Then there was the trip out to ascend Pic Carlit, one to travel on the Petit Train Jaune [see my Vernet-les-Bains report], and one to see Andorra and a bit of Spain. This last wasn’t a great success. I don’t think either country shows its best side when treated in that way but I shall certainly never go to Andorra’s capital again – a non-stop parade of duty-free shops. This was 1981 by the way. As we left home and passed Leeds, they were playing the famous game of cricket that was won by England after following on and led to ‘Botham’s ashes’.

Favourite spots:
Orlu travelogue picture
Looking back, my overall favourites were the longish walk my [middle] son and I did on the day of the storm and the ascent of the Pic Carlit. Terrific pictures of the latter can be found on team/photos/carlit/c-arlitg/12 from near the start at lac des Bouillouses [near Font Romeu] to the summit, although there is not much in English to be found. There were both chamois and ibex to be seen on the snow slope above us as we descended in the evening. This immediate area seems to have the extra appeal of a special micro-climate with sun for most days of the year.To describe the walk from Orlu, I should need a walking map of the area but i remember walking straight beyond our site with the Dent d’Orlu to our left and ascending to near a bothy. We shot in as soon as the rain hit us, but some of the party were already too soaked to continue. My son and I continued up to a mountain hut, where we were able to buy a glass of wine each before descending.

What's really great:
Those cave paintings at Niaux were special enough for anybody. The first time we went, we didn’t know of the [sensible] severe limitations on the number admitted at any one time and we had to book for three days ahead. I wonder what it’s like now! ish/fr/showcaves/Nia-ux.html Horses, ibex and bison are the main creatures portrayed and, as is common with ancient cave paintings, they seem only just to be lacking the capacity to move. They are all done in black paint and are reckoned to have been done in a relatively short period of time some 10,000 years BC.

Orlu travelogue picture
Pam and I had both read the book ‘Montaillou’ by Emanuel Le Roy Ladurie so that seeking out the place was a bit special.
It involved some driving on forest tracks, where buzzards and eagles were quite profuse. When we reached the site of the village, i think the children wondered what the fuss was about; the old Cathar castle didn’t really amount to a great deal. They weren’t the right age for enjoying scenery for its own sake and a bit of magic had to be dreamt up fairly quickly.
The Cathars were regarded as an abomination by the Catholic rulers of the country and the region and eventually the whole population was arrested and interrogated in 1218 by order of Jacques Founier, Bishop of Pamiers. The book is largely based on this but you can get an English translation of some of the ‘confessions’ if you go to
www.languedoc-france.i nfo/120722_montail liou.htm and click where you are invited for the purpose.

Orlu travelogue picture
Camping Municipal d'Orlu
9110 Orlu
Tel: 05 61 64 30 09
The site is a bit beyond the village as you approach from the main road. Peace is valiued and there was an hour beyond which cars had to be left outside. We were there at a busy time but has reasonable space because we didn’t need electrical facilities for the caravan. Toilet arrangements were entirely satisfactory.

Other recommendations:
Orlu travelogue picture
The nearest French towns are Ax-les Thermes and Tarascon-sur-Ariège, beyond which you can reach Foix. You are not far from the strange phenomenon of Llivia, a Spanish town completely surrounded by French territory. It remains Spanish because the treaty of the Pyrenees provided for the transfer of all villages in a certain area from Spain to France – but Llivia is a TOWN!

Published on Monday March 7th, 2005

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Sun, Mar 13 2005 - 08:47 AM rating by mkrkiran

Very impressive report. You are making these places even more interesting by your description. Thanks

Tue, Mar 08 2005 - 12:03 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

hii dav
i liked this report very much

Mon, Mar 07 2005 - 03:48 PM rating by rangutan

Beautiful adventure in pure nature! Magnificent pictures.

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