We decide to take a rest after the exhausting Canigou adventure yesterday. The perfect time for the Traine Jaune. We go from Villefranche de Conflent to Font-Romeu. This is more than half of the total route. Takes about two hours in one direction. The train passes a number of beautiful mountain villages (i.e. Olette).
We leave Villefranche de Conflent at 9.05am. The train has 4 carriages, one of them open-air. We take the open one – to enjoy the views. The views come with a lot of freezing though. I get a fellow-traveler – a grasshopper, it drives on my hat for about an hour! Perhaps to see his family 🙂 The train runs through 16 tunnels and a number of beautiful bridges. It goes upwards all the road – from 400m in Villefranche de Conflent to about 1600m. It gets colder as we move upwards. This does not ruin the good humor of the travelers though. At one of the stops the group of 5 Germans join us in our section. Everybody takes shots, greets the drivers passing by. The drivers honk, the trains conductor answers. Everybody enjoys. On a way back our neighbors are a group of French seniors. When entering the tunnel they yell. While in the dark somebody makes a posture (like lies down on a bench with legs up in air). When the light comes back others take shots and everybody has fun.
Font-Romeu train station is an hour walk from the town. An hour walk upwards the steep road. Before to do this we visit the world’s largest and most powerful (as the tourist prospects say) solar furnace. The wall of the main building forms the main mirror. In front of it on the mountain slope stands more than 60 mirrors – heliostats. that tracks the sun light and reflect it to the main mirror. The main mirror accumulates all the sun light into one point. They say that the temperature there reaches about 3000 Celsius. The furnace is used for the scientific research, in particular for NASA.
We take a guided tour inside the main building and then proceed to nearby Odeilo. Odeilo is a typical for Pyrenees village with an old church, steep narrow streets. In the very center of the village stands large bonfire for the St. Johns feast. Next we go through the village to Font-Romeu that turns out to be a contemporary tourism and ski center. We even did not manage to find something like the old center. We spend here a hour, then move back down to the train stop and go to Villefranche de Conflent. We are back in Villefranche in around one and half hour – obviously it is easier to drive downhill. There is a bonfire near the walls of Villefranche as well. Looks like everybody has get ready for the feast. We stop for a while in Vernet-les-Bains to take a shots of the castle and then drive home.
On a way home we stop to look at the castell of Vernet les Bains.