Pearls of the Pyrenees where true-blue gentians steal the show

thumbnail_Gentian verna
TIME FLIES – and how! Which is why it’s already a week since I’m home from seven days down in the Pyrenees where France meets Spain . . . or, to fall into line with political will, Catalonia.

Our train trips into the snow-capped mountains – on the Yellow Train and the Núria Rack Railway – produced a few interesting photos of wild flowers, though the locals were yet to decorate their gardens with colour and foliage to any great extent. Unless, of course, they don’t dedicate as much time and effort to their patches as we Brits are inclined to do!

Florally, the most memorable sight for me were clumps of spring gentian, Gentiana verna, reached by cable car, bearing the purest bright blue funnels and looking quite fragile amid the short grass which offered not a scintilla of shelter.

Other dinky gems to catch the eye included Malva sylvestris, the common mallow with pink-to-purple veined flowers, the five-petalled Potentilla villosa, Cistus albidus the grey-leaved rock rose, and Cirsium acaule, the spiny dwarf thistle which enjoys life in limy soil among short grass and is native to a huge area across Europe, including the UK.

Pyrenees scenic

And, as we were based in the very English-sounding resort of Roses – pronounced Rozzas by the locals – how could I resist snapping a smartly-painted container of red roses . . . in Roses!

For anyone seeking a frontier flirtation with Spain and France, this is a fascinating tour from Rail Discoveries which included a trip to the busy city of Gerona, lying between Barcelona and the French border, a stroll around the exquisite French resort of Collioure, and entry to the eccentric Salvador Dali Foundation in Figueres, a sizeable museum full of the bizarre surrealist paintings, sculptures, photography and numerous other works of one Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dali i Domenech, the 1st Marquis of Dali de Pubol, who died in 1989 aged 84. Let your imagination run riot.

I think I prefer those gentians!

Cistus albidus, grey-leaved cistus

Malva sylvestris, common mallow

Roses in Roses

Pyrenean pulchritude: From top – spring gentian, cable car view of mountains and conifers, grey-leaved cistus, common mallow, dwarf thistle (left), potentilla and roses in Roses.

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