Day 9 – Pyrenees Excursion + LSC (5/7/18)
WARNING – Photo Heavy
Had early start to this day as had long coach journey to the Pyrenees to enjoy. As the coach approached the Pyrenees, we passed through some fantastic scenery which only got better as the journey went on.
Once in Canfranc, the coach dropped us off outside the railway station and we walked the short distance to the offices of the Laboratorio Subterraneo Canfranc (LSC). This is an underground laboratory based in an old railway tunnel linking Spain and France and focuses on detection and analysis of cosmic rays.
(Canfranc railway station, shall come back to this later as it has quite the history)
After a short briefing in the LSC offices, it was back to the coach to enter the lab. Health and safety meant we had to wear high vis jackets for this section.
Walking back to the coach, I got some more photos of the station. For those of you wondering why it is such a huge building for a tiny town in the middle of the Pyrenees, the station was built as a massive cross-border transport hub between France and Spain. Due to the different track gauges used by France and Spain, all trains passing through Canfranc had to be transhipped between rolling stock. This caused the need to have a massive station here in order to deal with the logistics involved. Unfortunately, the station never saw the intended passenger levels and didn’t survive that long with the link to France severed after a bridge on the French side collapsed and was never rebuilt. I believe the station has seen more visitors now as a semi-derelict tourist attraction than it ever did as an operating railway station! (All this explained in more detail here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canfranc_ ... ay_station) The closure of the railway tunnel which this French line would have passed through is now where the LSC is located!
The main vehicular and visitor entrance to the LSC was through the adjacent cross-border road tunnel. This meant leaving the coach while still inside the tunnel, unique experience for me as have never had to get out into a road tunnel!
To avoid pollution from entering the clean environment within the LSC, we had to enter via a massive sci-fi style airlock: (Photos not great quality for a while due to phone not liking the underground lighting)
(group photo taken within airlock)
(within the old railway tunnel, looking towards France)
(within the old railway tunnel, looking towards Spain)
(photo of me taking a photo!)
(group photo entering the lab itself)
(Map of lab in relation to adjacent road and rail tunnels)
The lab itself. Can’t remember what most of the equipment does though.
(Van parked in area between road and rail tunnels)
Various group photos were taken within the lab itself:
Overall, it was a very interesting place and am glad I was able to visit. As what they were doing there was more Physics than anything, the topics of research didn’t particularly interest me but the location did.
On leaving, the coach had to leave via the French portal so had a very brief visit to France!
Lunch was had in a restaurant in central Canfranc so took the opportunity to take more shots of the station and surrounding areas. Since that day I was wearing my Icon jumper, I’m fairly sure a photo exists of me leaning against the station railings, clearly showing the Icon logo on my back. Wish I had saved a copy of it as now can’t find it.
(attempt at selfie with station building)
After lunch, it was back on the coach to head further into the Pyrenees. This ended at a site around 800m directly above the LSC for a Geology talk. This meant we were right on the actual French border and the coach actually parked in France!
(Bad attempt of selfie with France border sign)
(Group photo with France border sign)
(old border crossing buildings)
(better attempt at selfie with Spain border sign)
(Group photo of Geology talk)
Geology talk was initially interesting but was long so I got bored and wandered off to take more photos. Did see a wild lizard during the talk but was unable to get a photo.
(the piece of rock the talk was about)
(The “interesting” cliff face again)
Only when we were getting back on the coach did anyone notice there had been a branch stuck to the roof of the coach all day!
The drive back to Zaragoza involved stops at numerous beauty spots so many more photos were taken!
This next rock formation was again supposedly geologically interesting and apparently very popular with rock climbers. Looks nice but I missed most of the talk on it as was bursting for the loo since there wasn’t any public loos all afternoon and the heat meant I was drinking a lot of water. Luckily, found a small cave tucked away from the group and the road. Leaving that cave was probably the most relieved I’ve ever felt! Could actually enjoy the rest of the trip home!
(Map explaining the geological sites of interest nearby. Believe this rock face is the bottom most one (Murillo de Gallego))
After this stop, the coach headed straight back to Zaragoza, allowing most of the group to prepare for the “elaborate bar crawl” that is the €2 tapas + beer offers that most Zaragoza city centre bars put on of a Thursday Evening. All bars were packed but was worth it for the authentic experience of Spanish Tapas and culture. The evening showed the informal nature of the whole ISWZ week as not only did one of the organisers join us for the evening, he even bought rounds for us and we bought him rounds! Was only the local lager (Ambar) as part of the €2 offer but was enjoyable enough to drink, especially for someone like me who doesn’t usually like lager.
This ended up being a late night and I broke from the group soon around 1am to get a taxi back to the residence.
Day 10 and the end of ISWZ coming soon!