On the road
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".
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.
Hautes Pyrénées (65)
Sub-prefectures: Argeles-Gazost, Bagneres-de-Bigorre
Hautes Pyrenees has a population of 230,000, 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 10 : Audressein
The village took part in a local 19th century revolt known as "la guerre des demoiselles" (the young ladies war). While its parochial church is the 13th century St Martin, the Notre-Dame de Tramesaygues church is the one worth a visit. Built and improved from the 13th to the 16 th century, it is a World Heritage site thanks to its campanile, its medieval frescos and its painted porch. A pilgrimage existed as early as 1139 and the original chapel was extended gradually to hold the pilgrims. The pilgrimage gained momentum when a congregation settled in the chapel in 1315.
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
Montmaurin: Archaeological site
Important remains of a luxurious Gallo-Roman villa.
The villa was built around the middle of the 1st century AD and modified in the 3rd and 4th century. Today, the site offers its visitors traces of the vestibule, temple, nymphs' grotto and several courtyards and dwelling areas.
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