On the road
Sub-prefectures: Saint-Gaudens, Muret
With Toulouse as its prefecture, the Haute-Garonne department is by far the biggest in the Midi-Pyrenees region with1.13 million inhabitants. The Garonne rivers runs through it over 200 kilometres. Urban in Toulouse, authentic in the surrounding countryside, it is also a mountainous department with four ski resorts (Luchon-Superbagneres, Peyragudes, le Mourtis and Bourg d'Oueil) and high summits at the Spanish border. This explains why tourism is such an important activity, employing more than 10,000 people. Foie gras, magret and of course cassoulet, with its Toulouse sausage, are the best known local specialities. The air and space industry is the department's main employer.
The department, with a population of 356,00 owes its name to the coastal river which flows through it. It is located between two mountain chains, the Pyrenees to the South and the Montagne Noire to the North but its is also popular for its 47-kms coastline with the famous seaside resorts of Leucate, Fitou, Lapalme, Sigean, Port-la-Nouvelle, Peyriac de Merc, Barges, Narbonne, Gruissan and Fleury d'Aude. The former Cathar area is scattered with castles while the spectacular walls of the medieval prefecture of Carcassonne are a world treasure. There is plenty on offer for tourists from beaches to rides along the Canal du Midi or treks in open nature. Wine, with a great emphasis on quality in recent years, has always been a major asset with appellations such as Minervois, Corbieres or Limoux's blanquette.
Sub-prefectures: Saint-Girons, Pamiers.
Nestled in the heart of the Pyrenees, its back to Spain and Andorra, Ariege is an area of mountains, valleys and lakes, which has been inhabited forever. Twelve painted caves are invaluable testimonies of our far past while the Middle Ages have left a treasure of castles and roman churches in the former land of the Cathars. Water, sun, snow and fresh air: everything is combined to make Ariege the ideal place for nature lovers. Food is as tasty and copious as it used to be while catering has kept its authenticity.
The construction of a new motorway, the A66, has made Ariege much more accessible while the department keeps true to Napoleon's saying which went: "Ariege produces men and iron".
Km 30 : Revel
A royal bastide (fortified town) founded in 1342 on the Via Tolosane, Revel keeps numerous traces of this past, like its streets set along an orthogonal plan, and its old medieval house like the House of the Seneschal. A stronghold of the Huguenots during the Wars of Religion, the town was deeply transformed in the late 17th century by the construction of the Canal du Midi by engineer Pierre-Paul Riquet and by the dam giving birth to the St Ferreol lake. The lake is now one of the tourist attractions of Revel. The birthplace of former French president Vincent Auriol also lived for long years in the sweet smell of Get 27, an aperitif conceived and made in town and which remains one of Revel's prides.
The town hosted nine Tour de France stages, the last one, in 2010, won by Alexandre Vinokourov. Earlier, Eddy Merckx had won a time-trial in 1969 while Charly Mottet took his first stage win in 1991.
Wood and marquetry museum
In the museum you can discover the secrets of wood, the crafts required to work on it and a workshop allows children as well as grown-ups to test their talent for woodwork.
Canal du Midi museum and gardens
From 1660 to 1680, Revel hosted the headquarters of Pierre-Paul Riquet, the Canal du Midi builder. A museum is dedicated to this immense work and the history of the canal.
With eight departments and 45,000 km 2 in surface, Midi-Pyrenees is the largest region in France. It is more spacious than Denmark, Belgium or Switzerland. The huge region between the Massif Central and the Pyrenees is extremely diverse even though the sun, the love of gastronomy and rugby are common values throughout.
The economy is dominated by the vitality of Toulouse the third student town in France and the French capital of aeronautics (Airbus). Arms industry in Tarbes or pharmacy in Agen and Castres are other major sectors but the region remains the second in France for its agriculture. Tourism is also thriving.
Tour de France of the Monuments Nationaux
Carcassonne: Castle and ramparts
An exceptional, fortified site.
Carcassonne was settled as early as the 6th century BC and later became an important Roman town. It was fortified in the 4th century and was a strategic site in the Middle Ages. It took on its definitive shape in the 13th century with the king's decision to construct the distinctive double-walled ramparts and extend the castle. The city was restored by Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th century and is a testimony to 1,000 years of military architecture and 2,500 years of history.
See a 12-minute film combining 3-D images and close-up footage; walk along the galleries, the fortified walls and the north ramparts; discover the museum of masonry and many other attractions.
Designated world heritage site by Unesco.
Jersey wearers after the stage 21
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These five riders have won sprint stages of the 100th Tour de France. Of these five, who do you think will win in Paris?
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- Simon Gerrans1.08%
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- André Greipel5.5%
- Peter Sagan24.28%