An Affordable AirBnB holiday with Mountain Views

First off, I'm sorry!! It's been more that 2 months since my last post. The reasons for that are many which I won't go into now but the plan is to be around posting more frequently from now on (best laid plans and all that!).

So, here's a LONG awaited post about our holiday in the Pyrenees way back at the beginning of March. If you've been following me on Instagram you would have seen that I went on holiday to the most beautiful little mountainside cabin nestled in the French Pyrenees. Many of you asked for more details and info about where we went and I promised to deliver. I didn't think it would take me so long to get down to editing the photos and getting a post together but finally, here it is!

The whole thing was a perfect short break from London. We went with two friends and we had a great time. We hiked together, cooked and ate lovely food and did a good amount of relaxing and lazing about in our jogging bottoms! 

There's probably too much (and too many photos) to fit it all in one post, so for now here's some info about the house we stayed in, the surrounding area, and roughly how much the whole thing cost us.

The cabin from the garden

The cabin from the garden

The AirBnB

We booked really cheap Ryanair flights to Toulouse and then kind of forgot to book accommodation. A few days before we were set to depart we were still looking on Airbnb for a place to stay and found this little place that seemed pretty nice. The photos on their profile do it very little justice and at £47 a night for four I was nervous it might not be all that great.

However, when we arrived we were pleasantly surprised. The decor is simple and rustic, definitely a genuine mountain house but with all the necessary amenities for self-catering (including a coffee maker!) and plenty of bedding to stay warm on the chilly nights.

But, what really made it for us was how remote it was and how incredible the view was. The snowcapped mountains were just outside our bedroom windows, I'm convinced it's the most wonderful view to wake up to each morning.

Sunrise from the upstairs Terrace

Sunrise from the upstairs Terrace

We never met the hosts but spoke with them on the phone one evening when the gas went out and they were really nice and helpful.

The house was very clean and had some lovely features. Each level had a terrace looking out onto the mountain range, perfect for watching the sunset or catching the sunrise lighting up the mountain peaks in the morning. 

It also had a wonderful stove that once the fire got going quickly heated up the whole house. And made for a great spot to sit and read, or play board games. We brought along Settlers of Catan and Rummikub from home to play in the evenings.

The house has two cats that come and go as they please who were very relaxed with the presence of strange people in their house. They were actually really sweet, even for me, and I'm no animal lover!

For the really (almost unbelievably) reasonable price we paid we had no complaints about the house. It had a bit of a funny sleeping arrangement with one bed in the main living space and sadly the bigger bathroom didn't work as the water pressure was too low to get hot water to it. So the bathroom was a little small and tight but nothing to really worry about. 

Normally when we travel we do pretty basic accommodation so this was actually a bit of a step up for us!

Walking in Castillon-en-Couserans

Walking in Castillon-en-Couserans

The Surrounding Area

Like I said we flew to Toulouse but actually didn't want to stay in the city we knew we wanted to be in the mountains good and proper.

We'd never been to the Pyrenees before so we just google mapped locations and tried to find an AriBnB because we found such a great deal on AirBnB we picked Arrien-en-Bethmale. It's about a two and half hour drive from the airport and pretty straight forward getting there.

Here's a nifty trick, if you don't have data roaming you can download maps from google to your phone when connected to the wifi at the airport and still be able to map your route whilst you're driving.

On the way to the house, we stopped in Saint-Girons to pick up some food and supplies at the supermarket as we knew we'd be pretty tired once we got to the house and it was going to be getting dark.

For the four days we were there we spent a lot of our time cooking and eating great food together and drinking plenty of lovely (and cheap) French wine. The local town has a small Carrefour supermarket with everything you could need to cook and eat great food. The town is either a 15-minute drive away or an hour's slow stroll down the hill through some picturesque, sleepy french villages.

Church along the walk to castillon-en-couserans

Church along the walk to castillon-en-couserans

Had we been there for longer we would have loved to visit a local weekend market. The French really know how to do a good farmers market. We would also have done a few more day trips and taken a drive along the Col de la Core up to Lac de Bethmale which was sadly closed due to snowfall.

The one trip we did do was to Cascade d'Ars but I'll write about that next week because it's a pretty big story!

Affordable Aribnb france
Arrien en bethmale

The cost 

If you're thinking you can't have a beautiful holiday on a tight budget you are wrong! I didn't take note of the exact amount that we spent but roughly speaking for each of us we spent -

Flights - £36 each

Airbnb for 4 people for 5 nights - £273 (£68 each)

Car hire - roughly £200 (including petrol)

Food and wine and everything else- £60

All in all, it cost us roughly £220 each for a 5 day holiday. 

France Airbnb

I'll write more about the trip we took to Cascade d'Ars later in the week. And I'll also post a bit of a life update because ALOT has happened.

Did you find this post interesting and helpful? 

I'm happy to be back here on the blog and you'll be seeing a lot more from me here very soon!

Let me know if you liked this post in the comments. I'll leave you with a few more photos.

N x

The importance of reflection: 2016 a brave year

I realise I've done this backwards somehow. I posted my 'it's 2017 look forward to the year and set your goals' post a few days ago and now I'm posting about reflecting on 2016. 

But I guess that's how my brain works so here goes.

I am lucky enough to work for an organisation that values reflection as core to its everyday functioning. In every meeting, training session or presentation we are always encouraged to reflect. 

We teach the young people we work with to reflect on their achievements and challenges they have faced. And so we challenge ourselves to do the same.

I have learnt the importance of reflecting on my life and I've been doing a lot of that over the last few weeks. 

For Christmas I received a large print of this stunning photo from Nikolai. Taken by our dear friend John at a moment that I will never forget.

We had been hiking in the cold and rain for a couple of days at this point. The air was thin and John and I were struggling massively with the altitude. There is nothing like the feeling that you simply cannot get enough oxygen to your body to keep you going at barely a gentle stroll. 

On the second day I had wanted to turn back, finding the altitude overwhelming, with an injured toe made worse by the thin air stopping it from healing. After some tears and a lot of encouragement from the other 4 in our group we pressed on, together.

On day 3 We took a rest day to help acclimatise before we headed over the mountain pass at 4,750 metres the next day.  At this point, we had barely seen the views surrounding us because of constant cloud coverage and pretty steady rain. 

Exhausted and in pain, I was feeling pretty beat up and spent the day in our tiny broken tent resting and writing. Then suddenly the clouds broke, as if appearing from nowhere we were engulfed in the most spectacular views of the glaciers. For a few brief moments we were awestricken by the beauty and magnitude of where we were.

Just the 5 of us sitting on these rocks in the middle of nowhere. 

Santa Cruz trek, Peru - Mountain Pass

Santa Cruz trek, Peru - Mountain Pass

Shortly after, the clouds returned and the mountains hid from our sight. We got back into our little tents and the next day we pressed on to pass over the mountains shrouded in fog and clouds. 

For many people (myself included) 2016 was a year highlighted by grief, fear and hatred. But looking back I'm reminded that it was also a year that people pushed through to show each other and the world love, grace and kindness.

There were so many stories of people coming together to fight against hate and fear. Be it at Standing Rock, the Alberta tar sands, the fossil fuel divestment movement or with Black Lives Matter.

I know that for me love won over hate in 2016. For sure, this year I felt like turning back and giving up so many times. But I didn't.

On reflection, I choose to remember 2016 as the year that despite being broken, bruised and afraid, we encouraged each other, we pressed on together and we chose to be brave. 

I hope that we can remember how brave we really are and be inspired to keep being brave no matter what 2017 brings our way.

Go wildly & slow

N x