Prefecture : Pau.
Sub-prefectures : Bayonne, Oloron-Sainte-Marie
Population : 643 000 habitants
Website : www.cg64.fr
Between the Gascony Gulf and the Pyrenees, Pyrenees Atlantiques is the 10th biggest department in France. In the south, the Pyrenees stand as high as the eye can see while the North is covered in valleys. Pyrenean rivers – the “gaves” – shape narrow valleys through the mountains which widen into large plains. The Bearn province was extremely wealthy up to the Revolution and declined in the 19th century. The discovery of natural gas in Lacq created a new petrochemical industry while thermal waters and good wines have been known for a very long time.
Prefecture : Tarbes
Website : www.cg65.fr
Hautes Pyrenees has a population of 220,000, split between the three distinct sectors which form the department, mountains, valleys and plains. In the south, the Pyrenees are a high barrier marking the Spanish border – 35 peaks reach 3,000 metres or more. Tourism is the main activity, especially thanks to Lourdes, the world’s second pilgrimage centre, and the Gavarnie Circus, a World Heritage site. Another important site is the Pic du Midi, which can be reached by a lift leading to the 600 m2 panoramic terraces revealing a breathtaking view on the summits. Ski resorts are plenty – 12 in all including Luz-Ardiden, Hautacam and St Lary, familiar to Tour aficionados. Hydrotherapy is also a tradition in Argeles-Gazost, Bareges-Barzun or Beaucens. An ideal Pyrenean meal always starts with a garbure, a soup made of beans, ham bone, bits of duck and goose confit, cabbage, carrots, turnip, onion and garlic.
Km 26 : Bielle
On the left bank of the Ossau gave, the town is the capital of the Ossau valley. Its St Vivien church was built in the 15th and 16th centuries in a Gothic style.
The vultures cliff
On the communes of Bielle, Aste-Beon, Bilheres and Castet is a natural reserve of vultures created in 1974. The reserve is run by the National Park of the Pyrenees. Two sites on a 1,000-metres-high cliff are protected to favour the reproduction of vultures, who need perfect tranquillity and plenty of food to survive. The reserve also hosts five or six couples of Egyptian vultures.
The Gave d'Ossau is the torrential river flowing through the Ossau Valley, one of the three main valleys of the High-Bearn. It is formed in Gabas from the confluence of two gaves coming from both sides of the Pic du Midi d'Ossau. From Pau, the Ossau massif is the mountain chain that can be seen in the distance.
Portadores de maillots al final de la etapa 9
Diario de la etapa
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