At Boulon, the last village in France, twelve long leagues from Perpignan, and seemingly under the foot of the Pyrenees, we crossed a river, for the first time, which must be forded three or four times more, before you begin to ascend the hills; but if the river can be safely crossed at Boulon, there can be no difficulty afterwards, as there alone the stream is most rapid, and the channel deepest. At this town there are always a set of fellows ready to offer their service, who ford the river, and support the carriage; nor is it an easy matter to prevent them, when no such assistance is necessary; and I was obliged to handle my pistols, to make them unhandle my wheels; as it is more than probable they would have overset us in shallow water, to gain an opportunity of shewing their politeness in picking us up again. The stream, indeed, was very rapid; and I was rather provoked by the rudeness of the people, to pass through it without assistance, than convinced there needed none.
Having crossed the river four or five times more, and passed between rocks, and broken land, through a very uncultivated and romantic vale, we began to ascend the Pyrenees upon a noble road, indeed! hewn upon the sides of those adamantine hills, of a considerable width, and an easy ascent, quite up to the high Fortress of Bellegarde, which stands upon the pinnacle of the highest hill, and which commands this renowned pass.
You will easier conceive than I can describe the many rude and various scenes which mountains so high, so rocky, so steep, so divided, and, I may add too, so fertile, exhibit to the traveler’s eyes. The constant water-falls from the melted snow above, the gullies and breaches made by water-torrents during great rains, the rivulets in the vale below, the verdure on their banks, the herds of goats, the humble, but picturesque habitations of the goat-herds, the hot sun shining upon the snow-capt hills above, and the steep precipices below, all crowd together so strongly upon the imagination, that they intoxicate the passenger with delight.
The French nation in no instance shew their greatness more than in the durable and noble manner they build and make their high-roads; here, the expence was not only cutting the hard mountain, and raising a fine road on their sides, but building arches of an immense height from mountain to mountain, and over breaks and water-falls, with great solidity, and excellent workmanship.