This is France's largest region and an area where agriculture plays an important part. It has Languedoc-Roussillon to the east, Aquitaine to the west and Spain to the south. Many fruits grow here including apples, kiwis, pears, plums, peaches and melons. Maize and wheat are also cultivated and so are tomatoes. Sunflowers are an important crop for their flowers and also oil. However as the name Pyrénées indicates it has mountains and ski resorts. The Saint Ferréol Lake was created by making an artificial dam and holds over 7 billion cubic metres of water. It was built in the 17th century to supply the Midi Canal.
Departments and Main Towns
DEPARTMENTS: Ariège (09), Aveyron (12), Haute Garonne (31), Gers (32), Lot (46), Haute Pyrénées (65)Tarn (81), Tarn-et-Garonne (82).
MAIN TOWNS :
Aulus-les-bains - famous for natural hot water which is considered to have healing properties and also a ski resort
Ax-les-thermes - natural spa. The water temperature is 77 degrees and flows naturally from the mountainside. It was said St Louis started the baths as a leprosy cure but it is considered good for people with respiratory problems. Skiers love the hot baths as a relaxant from a day skiing - 70km of ski-runs nearby
Foix - pretty and historic and excitingly has an underground river close to the town near the Plantaurel Massif, which is visited by barge. It is full of grottos and underground waterfalls plus of course stalactites.
Mirepoix - historic "Cathar" town famous for its fruit and vegetable market
Saint-Girons - ancient town where interestingly gold sifting courses are run in the summer
Tarascon-sur-Ariège - has a prehistoric park and cave paintings in the close-by Niaux Cave - go to http://www.niaux.net/
Conques - became on the Compostella Pilgrim trail and has a wonderfully restored abbey
Espalion - has kept its "dyers" houses intact on the left bank of the river which flows through the town Nearby Laguiole has traditionally produced pocket knives which are authentic if a bee symbol is engraved on the handle
Millau - the glove making capital of France
Najac - sits on top of a hill and was in a strategic defence situation - beautiful castle
Roquefort-sur-Soulzon - is the birthplace of the famous Rocquefort Cheese
Rodez - regional capital - situated on a hill above the Aveyron River it has many old features including the Notre Dame Cathedral but from the 1960's became a commercial centre.
Sauveterre-de-Rouergue is considered one of the most beautiful villages in France and is also a knife making centre
Auch - is known for a beautiful cathedral which has red and gold windows, famous for catching the suns rays and glowing.
Condom is the place where Armagnac is produced and has a museum dedicated to the brandy
Eauze is said to be the birthplace of Armagnac but other places claim this honour
Lectoure is famous for its pastels and also for melon production
Samatan has a nearby lake where many water sports such as windsurfing, sailing and canooing take place. It has a Museum of Foie Gras and a Market is held each Monday.
Vic-Fezensac - the place to go for parties and music. Very popular with musicians Very lively.
In Haute Garonne
Fronton - is famous for the wine of the name
Luchon - famous for healing waters and 23 pistes available at nearby SuperBagnères,
Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges has a prehistoric cave with paintings nearby at Garges
Toulouse -this lively city is the departmental capital. It has many, many Spanish immigrants whose culture enhances the way of life in the city. Gastronomically famous for its many restaurants, Toulouse. There are many beautiful houses from the century built by the wealthy pastel merchants in the Renaissance period.
In Haut Pyrénées
Argelès-Gazost is so beautiful that it has frequently been used in film making. It is surrounded by mountains and has a natural spa.
Bagnères-de Bigorre is a spa town and has many Roman artefacts and a casino
Barèges - this is famous for its spas which are supposed to have particularly healing qualities especially for the aches and pains of rheumatism. A road from Lourdes to the town was built in 1736. It is the highest location of a spa in France being at an altitude of 1250 metres. It is surrounded by forests and there are 70 pistes available plus the proximity of La Mongie ski station.
Lourdes - in the 19th century, a teenage girl, Bernadette Soubirous, claimed to have frequently seen the Virgin Mary, in a small cave. The spring in the cave is supposed to have miraculous healing properties. Lourdes is so famous that there are pilgrimages to it. It is commercialised as a result of the many visitors but is a beautiful place.
Saint-Lary is the main ski resort with 15km of pistes
Tarbes is a skiing base. Napoleon created an equestrian centre in Tarbes which was historically a garrison town
Cahors famous for the Valentré bridge which is also known as the Devils' Bridge and has a Devil carved on the centre tower of 3 square towers each over 40m tall. There are 6 gothic arches.
Figeac is in a hillside and is a fascinating little town with a myriad winding streets and a blend of Roman, Medieval and Gothic architecture
Puy-L’Évêque - a hilly village full of interesting old houses
Rocamadour - so called because it was the refuge of a hermit Amadour. Benedictine monks discovered what was said to be his mummified body in 1166 and the town became a mecca for pilgrims which made it prosper. It is spectacular and appears to be carved out fo the cliff face. It is much visited.
Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is a perfect medieval village. It has spectacular views down to the River Lot which is 100 metres below the high point of the village
Souillac is close to the caves of Cognac with their prehistoric cave paintings. It has a Robotics Museum with over 300 working models.
Albi - a delightful little town on the River Tarn however it once the centre of much fighting and disent and was the site of a famous siege.
Castres - was once a Protestant town and there was much discord with its Catholic neighbour Albi. It is very beautiful and famous for the Jardins de l’Evêche designed by LeNôtre the creator of the Versailles gardens.
Cordes - a town with many medieval buildings which is the location for a medical festival each July. Cordes is situated on a hill
Gaillac - produces the wine of its name which is considered the oldest wine in France There is a wine festival in August each year
Lacaune has a lake close by with a weird looking rock and many menhirs in the region. The quarries are used to pave the Champs-Elysées in Paris.
Lautrec is well known for its pink garlic and also has fantastic views of the mountains. It has a beautiful lake.
Lavaur made a fortune from pastel production years ago. There is a legend that a Protestant was ordered to ring the bell of the Cathedral of Saint-Alain each hour but he escaped by building a wooden statue of a man to do this and following this traditionally a wooden man rings the cathedral bell.
Auvillar due to its high position was a military strategic point and the views are spectacular. The English destroyed a great deal of it in the 100 years war but many really old buildings still remain
Lauzerte a very beautiful village with many old buildings
Moissac is the location for an ancient abbey which it is said - according to legend - was built where Clovis threw his spear and it landed. The spear actually landed in a swamp which has led to various problem with damp. The town is also full of Roman artefacts.
Montpezat-de-Quercy has a 14th century medieval gate.
- another of the many medieval towns
and again the visitor is spoilt by the beauty of the old town
Gaillac - Tarn Department - reds and whites and considered excellent
Madiran - Hautes-Pyrénées Department - mainly red
Côtes de Saint-Mont from the Gers Department
Marcillac - Aveyron Department
Cahors - Lot Department
Armagnac - brandy matured in oak barrels
Roquefort which is ripened on oak shelves in underground cellars or caves made from the rock of the area and has been produced since the middle ages.. It is said that the cheese resulted from a shepherd’s discovering that a piece of cheese he had left to go mouldy on a slice of bread tasted excellent!
Bleu de Causses - this is also ripened in underground caves
Rocamadour which is a goat's cheese.