Home Base Gavarnie, France

After reading the description of the mobs of people that descend on Gavarnie, France to visit the impressive cirque de Gavarnie in the high season I hesitated making this the base for our visit to the High Pyrenees. However, this tiny village really does have a Jekyll and Hide personality. By day it’s a tacky, crowded tourist trap but in the early morning before the tour buses arrive and in the evenings after everyone has gone home it’s just another quaint mountain town with an incredible view.

In fact, arriving late on the first evening and having been out all the following day it wasn’t until our third afternoon that we saw the Jekyll side of our little village, with swarms of tour groups of all ages filling shops that we previously didn’t even know existed. By the time we walked to dinner it had returned to being our sleepy little town.

For day hikers Gavarnie offers a range of hikes directly from the village or from trailheads a short drive from town.

Hotel Le Marboré

The Hotel Le Marboré is conveniently located near the entrance of the village. It’s a larger establishment (for Gavernie) with 20 rooms, a bar and restaurant with a pleasant terrace. The rooms are nothing special but clean and comfortably large with a smallish bathroom.

The first evening we ate in the hotel restaurant. The food was OK and the demi-pension may be a good value if you want to take your chances with the set menu, but was again nothing special for those looking for a “nice” dinner.

What really gives the hotel character is Madame Fillastre who runs things. People complain on Trip Advisor of her motherly nature with her rules and teasing, but underneath she is really quite quirky and funny. The lobby is decorated in semi-dressed stuffed animals and there is a Seven Dwarfs tableau along the staircase. The breakfast is typically French with a generous bread basket and good coffee. The other offerings – yogurt, fruit, granola, etc. are just adequate.

Dinner at Les Cascades

The better dining option in town is Les Cascades, in the center of town with exceptional views of the cirque. Reserve ahead even in the off season if you want a window table, worth the effort. The daily specials, while they may lack variety (I was served the same kind of potatoes with both the lamb and the duck), are excellently prepared, with the meat tender and the duck barely cooked. The roasted potatoes with mushrooms were so tasty and garlicky I really didn’t mind eating them two nights in row.

June 5-7, 2012

For links to all the posts in this series see the French Pyrenees page.