Author Archives: Stephen Christie

A snowy weekend in Andorra

A long-planned weekend in Andorra with my three boys. In January? Expect snow.

I’m posting this report reluctantly because it reveals my dubious decision-making. On reflection, I perhaps should have called off the trip at the start, given the weather. But with a no-refund hotel booking and boys who would have been bitterly disappointed if unable to go, my judgment was biased towards proceeding. Continue reading


L’Arche Perdue – sequel to Holes

Today I join the local walking group on their walk up to L’Arche Perdue, the hole in the rock above Maury. Last month I wrote about that remarkable rock formation and my hope to visit it. This is the walk that was scheduled for last month but cancelled due to high winds. Today is also windy but we do it anyway. I drive to the meeting point at Maury, half-way between Quillan and the Mediterranean coast. We have friends at Maury, very close to the meeting point, so going there brings back happy memories of pit stops and a summer evening barbecue three years ago. Continue reading

A walk up to those cliffs above Quillan

At Quillan three years ago I explored many of the tracks in the hills surrounding the town. On my very first foray into a forested mountain area I felt a little on edge, not knowing for sure what dangers I might encounter. Hans Christian Anderson tales had taught me from a young age that Europe’s forests were to be feared. Should I watch out for snakes? What were the chances of encountering a wolf? And what of the people in these remote hills? As time went on, and reassured by a little internet research, I became more confident and saw that the only risks were familiar ones: getting lost or breaking an ankle. On this current visit, the winter weather adds the risk of hypothermia. Continue reading

A walk up the hill to a lookout over Quillan

This afternoon Tom and I go exploring up the hill above Quillan’s old castle. Despite the sunshine, I wear many layers of clothing. You can’t be too careful at this time of year. Tom is more lightly dressed. More sensibly dressed, as it turns out.

We start by going up Rampe du Chateau. This leads us onto Rue de Bitrague. Now we go offroad.


Chateau de Quillan

Continue reading

A walk above Ginole

Nicholas and I went for a walk on the tracks above the tiny village Ginole, France. It was warm for the time of year, so Nicholas was happy to leave the extra layers of clothing in our bag. We stopped to look for vultures a few times but saw none. We saw a long-legged spider walking up the track and we followed it some way. Nicholas was careful to not step on it.

The village bell donged 12 times at 11am (no adjustment from summer time to winter time, apparently), then repeated that two minutes later. I counted the chimes and Nicholas stamped his foot to the rhythm.

The track was crumbly and steep in places so we held hands.

A very pleasant morning. Thanks, Nicholas.


There’s something about holes. They’re real – everyone knows that. And yet, they’re not really real. A hole is really just the absence of the real stuff that surrounds it. It’s as real as a shadow. In fact, a shadow is a hole; a light-hole. I’m thinking about holes because the day after tomorrow I plan on walking with an organised group to a hole (I hope) in a mountain above a town in the Pyrenees. Continue reading

Being up for it

Over the last two weeks Tomos has faced some challenges. He has traveled to the other side of the world to a place where he knows no-one, other than his mum, and has enrolled at the local primary school in Quillan. It can’t be easy, given the travel, social, language, cultural, and academic issues.

Tomos could not have anticipated each particular challenge over the past two weeks and the challenges to come in the months ahead, but he knew from previous trips the scale of the challenge. He knew roughly what was he was letting himself in for.

Surprisingly, he went into this adventure willingly. Enthusiastically, in fact. Why would he do that? Continue reading