I gotta have more Cowbell!
Before SNL turned hard woke. The very American "Saturday Night Live" comedy show used to be worthy of your time. Especially when Will Ferrell was to be seen. One notable show was way back in the year 2000. When life seemed a little more innocent. The "More Cowbell" sketch was presented as an episode of VH1's documentary series Behind the Music that fictionalizes the recording of the song "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" by Blue Öyster Cult. The sketch featured guest host Christopher Walken as music producer "The Bruce Dickinson", and regular cast member Will Ferrell, who wrote the sketch with playwright Donnell Campbell, as fictional cowbell player Gene Frenkel, whose overzealous playing annoys his bandmates but pleases producer Dickinson. The sketch is often considered one of the greatest SNL sketches ever made and in many "best of" lists regarding SNL sketches. As a result of its popularity, "more cowbell" became an American pop-culture catchphrase.
I was reminded of this magnificent comedy sketch bizarrely as I found myself out walking in the South of France on the Plateau de Beille. Why on earth would this obscure place in the northern peaks of the Pyrenees cause me to think about Walken & Ferrell at their finest? Well, there's a lot of cows on this plateau and each one has a Cowbell round its neck. Bruce Dickinson would be very pleased I found myself thinking as I took in the sound and the beauty of the landscape with the happy cows that would regularly trot by.
For a long time, this plateau was only a place of livestock, especially cattle. It has recently become the site of a large winter sports resort of the Pyrenees, mainly dedicated to the practice of cross-country skiing, with tracks between 1,650 and 2,000 metres (5,410 and 6,560 ft) altitude.
Since 1998, the ascent from Les Cabannes to the plateau has regularly been used as the final ascent of a stage in the Tour de France. On the first four such occasions, the stage winner at Plateau de Beille also emerged as the winner of the general classification of that Tour. Since its discovery by the Tour de France in 1998, the Plateau de Beille has served as stage finish five times (in 1998, 2002, 2004, 2007 and 2011). The ascent is ranked as hors catégorie in the mountains classification. The Tour de France returned to the Plateau de Beille for stage 12, on 16 July 2015.
On the first four occasions, the stage winner has gone on to win the Tour: Marco Pantani in 1998, Lance Armstrong in 2002 and 2004 (although now stripped of those titles), and Alberto Contador in 2007 who won the Tour de France as a result of the exclusion of the Danish Michael Rasmussen.
And as you have come to expect from this Blog - I've made a brief video about my recent outing at the Plateau de Beille. Obviously, if you choose to visit in the Winter the place will look exceptionally different. Stay tuned to this Blog & the YouTube Chanel to maybe see a glimpse of this place one day in the winter. A place for walkers, skiers, Cyclists and of course all those who love Cowbell!
The Plateau de Beille or the Ski-Resort of Beille can be reached from overseas by either flying into Perpignan, Toulouse, Barcelona, Carcassonne and Girona. The quickest transfer to Beille from the Airports is in exactly that order with Perpignan being the fastest route to Beille, however, all are achievable airports to fly into if exploring the area. If you are in the lucky position to be taking the scenic route while travelling through this part of the Pyrenees in Southern France there are plenty of beautiful hotels and chalets you could stop at in the nearby area.
Airbnb is always an alternative option as it gives you a real taste of the local area and is generally far better value than a Hotel in Southern France. Of course, Breakfast is not always included but does this matter with the money that will be saved! I'm an Airbnb host as well as a frequent Airbnb traveller. I love Airbnb because not only does it make travelling more affordable but it also allows you to stay off the beaten track. Staying with a local or in your own cottage is far more unique than staying in a generic hotel you could find anywhere in the world. Use the map below to search for the perfect Airbnb stay within this charming part of France.
I hope you have a great adventure in and around the Plateau de Beille should you ever visit. I am not sponsored by the French Government or any Travel Group, I simply have written this post as I enjoy travelling. Please do check out this blog for more independent travel ideas and my YouTube Channel.
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Thank you - Alex van Terheyden AKA The Wondering Englishman