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NEW AQUITAINE REGION

Departments: Charente, Charente-Maritime, Corrèze, Creuse, Dordogne, Gironde, Landes, Lot-et-Garonne, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Deux-Sèvres, Vienne, Haute-Vienne.

Population: 5.9 million

Prefecture: Bordeaux

Surface area: 2 011 km2

Specialities: Bordeaux wines, Cognac, Armagnac, Espelette chilli pepper, Périgord walnuts, Marmande tomatoes, oysters from the Arcachon basin, Salers meat, Aquitaine cows, Bayonne ham, Pauillac lamb, Bordeaux canelés. Goose, duck, pommes sarladaises, poulet basquaise, garbure, lamprey. Black truffle.

Sports clubs: Girondins de Bordeaux (football), Stade montois, Union sportive dacquoise, Aviron bayonnais, Union Bordeaux Bègles Atlantique, Stade rochelais, CA Brive Corrèze Limousin, Section paloise, Biarritz olympique, SU Agen (rugby union), Elan Béarnais Pau-Orthez, CSP Limoges (basketball).

Competitions: Tour de France, surfing at Lacanau (Lacanau Pro) and Biarritz. Tour du Limousin.  

Festivals: Bayonne festival, Dax festival, Madeleine festival in Mont-de-Marsan, Francofolies festival in La Rochelle, Angoulême comic book festival, Brive book fair, Nuits de nacre in Tulle, Grand Pavois in La Rochelle, Garorock in Marmande, Cognac crime film festival.

Economy: Bordeaux wines, Cognac and Armagnac, aerospace industry, biotechnologies, chemicals, scientific research. Image and digital sector. Agri-food industry. Port of Bordeaux. Tourism. Universities.

Sights: Bordeaux, Saint-Émilion, La Rochelle, Biarritz, Bassin d'Arcachon, Dune of Le Pilat, Lascaux caves, Futuroscope Poitiers, Lacanau beaches, Biarritz, Biscarosse, Hourtin, Carcans, Soulac-sur-Mer, mouth of the Gironde, Bordeaux vineyards, Dordogne châteaux, Château de Pau, Pyrenees, Ile d'Oléron, Ile de Ré.  

Websites and social networks: www.nouvelle-aquitaine.fr

PYRÉNÉES-ATLANTIQUES (64)

Region: Nouvelle-Aquitaine

Population: 679,354

Prefecture: Pau

Sub-prefectures: Bayonne, Oloron-Sainte-Marie

Number of communes: 546

Surface area: 7,645 km2

Specialities: piperade, madiran (wine), pacherenc (wine), poule au pot (hen in the pot), garbure, jurançon (wine), axoa, piment d'Espelette (peeper), poulet basquaise (chicken with vegetables), gâteau basque, Irouléguy (AOC wine), Bayonne ham.

Sports clubs : AS Bayonne, RC Lons (women's rugby), Aviron Bayonnais, Biarritz Olympique, Section Paloise (men's rugby union), Elan Béarnais (basketball), Hormadi Anglet (hockey), Pau FC (football), Billère HB (handball).

Competitions: Pau automobile Grand Prix, Pau eventing competition, Pau canoe-kayak World Cup.

Festivals: Fêtes de Bayonne, Festival Hestiv'Òc

Heritage: Château de Pau, Pic du Midi d'Ossau, summit of La Rhune, ramparts of Bayonne, Rocher de la Vierge in Biarritz, Basque coast road.

Economy: agropastoralism, hydroelectricity, agri-food, aeronautics, thermal baths, petrochemicals.

Websites and social networks: http://www.le64.frhttps://www.facebook.com/pages/D%C3%A9partement-des-Pyr%C3%A9n%C3%A9es-Atlantiques/720037604708106https://twitter.com/departement64https://pro.tourisme64.com

Km 17.3

COARRAZE (POP: 2,170)

Nestling in the heart of the village of Coarraze and the seat of one of the four most important baronies in Bearn, Coarraze castle is worthy of the wealth and power of its lords. It stands in a strategic location, close to the border with Bigorre. All that remains of the medieval construction is a pentagonal keep. This was built around 1350, with another part dating from the 16th century. It was here that Henri IV, King of Bearn, spent his childhood. The castle was destroyed during the 16th century and rebuilt as it stands today in 1755.

Km 23

LESTELLE-BÉTHARRAM (POP: 850)

Worth seeing for its listed old bridge over the Gave de Pau, as well as its important listed religious heritage. Driven out of Spain with his family by the civil war of 1936, writer Jorge Semprun took refuge for a time in Lestelle-Bétharram.     

Caves of Bétharram

Asson is the starting point for a 2.8km walk through the Bétharram caves, which have been open to the public since 1903 thanks to the work of Léon Ross, a pioneer of electricity in the town of Lourdes. The caves are still run by Léon Ross's great-grandson, Albert.

HAUTES-PYRÉNÉES (65)

Population: 229,570

Prefecture: Tarbes

Sub-prefectures: Argelès-Gazost, Bagnères-de-Bigorre

Surface area: 4,464 km²

Specialities: Black Pork of Bigorre (AOC), Tarbes beans, Wines (Madiran and Pacherenc du Vic Bilh AOC), Barèges-Gavarnie AOC mutton, Onions of Trébons, Gascony hen, Garbure, Foie gras, spit cake...

Sports clubs: Tarbes Pyrénées rugby, TGB (basketball).

Competitions: Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup (Lourdes), La Montée du Géant du Tourmalet, Grand Raid des Pyrénées, Pyr'Epic...

Festivals: Gavarnie Festival (Theatre), Tarbes en tango, Equestria festival of equestrian creation (Tarbes), Sacred Music Festival (Lourdes), Jazz Festival (Luz St Sauveur), Piano Pic in the Grand Tourmalet, Small Mountain churches Festival (Louron valley ), Fête of the Mariolles, Cheese Fair, Wine Fair in Madiran, Pyrenees Hounds Show, Chops Festival in Luz St Sauveur, Traditions Fair in Loudenvielle.

Major tourist attractions: Pic du Midi de Bigorre, Cirque of Gavarnie (UNESCO World Heritage site), Pont d'Espagne waterfalls (Cauterets), Pyrenees National Park, Lourdes pilgrimage.

Economy: agri-food, rail industry, aeronautics, hydroelectricity, 4-season tourism, spa...

Websites / FB / Twitter: www.hautespyrenees.fr www.facebook.com/DepartementHautesPyrenees  / https://www.instagram.com/departementhapy  / https://twitter.com/DepartementHaPy  / www.pyrenees-trip.com  / www.facebook.com/hautespyrenees  / www.instagram.com/hautespyrenees  / https://www.tiktok.com/@hautespyrenees

Km 28.2

SAINT-PÉ-DE-BIGORRE (POP: 1,160)  

Abbey and church of Saint-Pé-de-Bigorre

Founded: 11th century

Style: predominantly Romanesque.

History: the abbey was founded by monks belonging to the Cluny order, and quickly grew in importance as it was located on the route to Santiago de Compostela. The monastery suffered during the Wars of Religion: it was ransacked in 1569, then seriously damaged by the earthquake of 1661.

Characteristics: all that remains of the Romanesque building are two apsidioles in the eastern section, a section of wall in the southern aisle, a medieval porch to the west of the aisles and some parts of the southern transept. A few capitals from the cloister and the church, as well as parts of the destroyed eastern portal, have survived.

Special feature: bought back in May 2017, it has become the "Maronite House of the Mother of Mercy" and has been restored to welcome pilgrims on their way to Compostela.

Listed as: historical monument since 1977

Km 37.6

LOURDES (POP: 14,400)

Every year, Lourdes welcomes millions of visitors from every continent. Since 1858, they have come on pilgrimage to the place where Bernadette Soubirous met the Virgin in a grotto near the river Gave. In 2018, Lourdes celebrated 160 years since the apparitions. A stage of the Tour de France set off from there towards Laruns, where Primoz Roglic won his second stage victory in the Grande Boucle. It was not until 1948 that a finishing line was drawn for the first time in Lourdes for the victory of Gino "The Pious" Bartali. On that day, the national hero of Italian cycling, tasked along with Fausto Coppi with boosting his country's morale, took his winning bouquet to the grotto and attributed his miraculous victory in the Tour, ten years after the first, to Our Lady of Lourdes. He would return to the shrine each time he visited the region. Other stages have taken place in the hills, in the nearby resort of Hautacam, but in 2011 the last finish in the town went to Thor Hushovd, who was wearing the world champion's jersey at the time.  

Sanctuary of Notre-Dame de Lourdes and Torchlight Procession

Separated from the rest of the town by a loop in the Gave, to the west of the town, the Grotto estate, also known as the Notre-Dame de Lourdes Sanctuary, is a 52-hectare private estate. It is open every day of the year. From April to October, every evening at 9pm, a torchlit procession brings together thousands of pilgrims and tourists from the Grotto of the Apparitions to the esplanade of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary.  

Lourdes Castle

Restored in 1590 by Henri IV, then in 1828 by the State and acquired in 1894 by the commune. Transformed into a prison under Louis XIV and until the mid-19th century. Listed as a Historical Monument in 1995. A remarkable testimony to the development of fortifications in the Pyrenean foothills from the early Middle Ages to the 19th century, it dominates the town and its sanctuaries. Its strategic position at the entrance to the seven valleys of the Lavedan has always made it an impregnable fortress. There are many outdoor areas, from the keep to the ramparts. In 1921, the castle became home to the Pyrenean Museum, a museum of popular arts and traditions and regional history.

Km 52

ARGELÈS-GAZOST (POP: 3,400)

It is the capital of the Lavedan region, at the confluence of the Gave de Pau and Gave d'Azun rivers. The gastronomic speciality is pastis, which here is a cake. This picturesque old town with its steep or staircase lanes, formerly known as Ourout, then Argelès, added Gazost to its name for its thermal waters. It is in fact a climatic and spa resort (phlebology and ENT) with a thermal establishment in the English park (sulphurous, sodic and iodobromide waters). Argelès-Gazost is also the home of René Billières (1910-2004), former Minister of State for Education, Youth and Sport, and Clément Dupont (1899-1993), a French rugby union international (16 caps). After Adolphe Jauréguy (1898-1978), he was the second Frenchman to beat the four British Nations before the war. In 1996, Argelès was the starting point for a stage to Pamplona, won by Swiss rider Laurent Dufaux.

Km 55.5

SAINT-SAVIN (POP: 340)

This pretty village perched high above the Argelès-Gazost valley, opposite Hautacam, is famous for its former abbey, the main feature of which is a beautiful listed abbey church. It's also a meeting place for cycling fans, thanks to its seven-generation gastronomic restaurant, Le Viscos.

Abbey of Saint-Savin

Construction: 10th century.

Style: Romanesque.

History: the monastery was built by Charlemagne on the site of a Gallo-Roman fort formerly known as Palatium Æmilianum ("Emilian Palace"). Very powerful until the 13th century, the abbey fell into decline from the 16th century onwards and was saved from ruin by Prosper Mérimée, the founder of the Historical Monuments Commission.

Characteristics: the abbey church dates back to the 12th century and was raised in the 14th century, but nothing remains of the abbey apart from the abbey church and the chapter house. Adjacent to the chapter house is a treasure trove containing sacred art pieces that recall the wealth of this monastery and, in particular, its devotion to St. Savinus. The abbey church houses a rare Renaissance organ dating from 1557, the case of which has been listed as an object since 1904 and the instrumental part since 1975. The sarcophagus of St Savinus serves as the base for the high altar. The terraces adjoining the church have also been listed since 1956.

Listed as: historical monument in 1840. 

Km 56.2

 ADAST (POP: 250)

Journalist, writer, producer and Tour de France lover Jacques Chancel owned a beautiful residence here, Château de Miramont, built in the 18th century and modified in the 19th century, which dominates the village. The Notre-Dame-de-Piétat chapel is a listed historical monument. 700 metres from the abbey church of Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption, it dominates the entire valley. The oldest known mention of it dates back to 1493. Until the French Revolution, it was a place of worship and prayer for the Brotherhood of Notre-Dame-de-Piétat. In the 18th century, a large number of extensions and embellishments transformed the site: 1740, construction of a chapel and sacristy; 1754, extension of the nave and construction of the bell tower. The superb painted wooden vault in the nave (18th century) is also known as the "bird vault".

Km 70.6

LUZ-SAINT-SAUVEUR (POP: 1,200)

In 1985, the town was the starting point for a half-stage won by Stephen Roche. Luz-Ardiden has seen nine finishes, the last in 2021, when Tadej Pogacar won here. Much earlier, Victor Hugo stayed here and Napoleon III had a monumental bridge built over the Gave de Pau in 1861.  

Napoleon Bridge

Construction: 1859 to 1963.

History: Napoleon III had this bridge built (1859 to 1863, height 65 m) to thank the people of Saint-Sauveur. In fact, the Napoleon Bridge was built during the visit of Empress Eugénie, who was treated for infertility at the Saint-Sauveur thermal baths. This bridge opened up the Gavarnie valley. This is what Victor Hugo had to say about his visit to this little "town of light": "Three great rays of daylight enter through the three embrasures of the three mountains. When the Spanish miquelets and smugglers arrived from Aragon via the Breech of Roland and the black and hideous Gavarnie path, they suddenly saw a great light at the end of the dark gorge, like the door of a cellar for those inside. They hurried on and found a large town, brightly lit and alive. They named this town Luz, Light.        

Museum area

Visit a place steeped in history, a space evoking the holiday home of Napoleon III and his wife Eugénie in Luz-Saint-Sauveur. A pictorial look at the Second Empire décor painted on stretched canvas. No historical re-enactment, just the evocation of an era marked by the prestigious figures that were Napoleon III and Eugénie. A small sitting room and adjoining library, where conversations between Eugénie and Napoleon III during their stay in Luz, in the period of prosperity and abundance of the Second Empire, can be heard. The Empress's devotion to charitable causes was one of the realities of this reviled regime. The museum's period pharmacy bears witness to the Imperial couple's support for philanthropic organisations.

Km 71

 ESTERRE (POP: 190) 

Château Sainte-Marie

Construction: 10th century.

Style: fortified castle.

History: it was built in the 10th century by the Counts of Bigorre. In the 14th century, it passed into the hands of the Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem, and later to the Knights of Malta. The English held it until 1404, when the Count of Clermont, with the help of the valley's inhabitants led by Aougé de Coufitte, drove them out. The castle was then abandoned.

Characteristics: perched at the top of a rocky hill, it served as a fortress for the valley and also as a place of refuge for the local population. Now in ruins.

Special feature: restoration work began in the 1980s, saving one of the valley's most significant historical relics.

Listed as: Historical Monument since 1930.

Km 75.4

BETPOUEY (POP: 80)

The village of Betpouey, with its wash-house and pretty church of Saint-Sébastien (12th and 14th centuries), is the birthplace of Louis Armary, left-arm prop who won 46 caps for the French rugby national team between 1987 and 1995. "Louisou", who played his entire career for FC Lourdes, took part in the first three editions of the Rugby World Cup and won the Five Nations Championship three times. He became a departmental councillor in 2015. 

Km 77

BARÈGES (POP: 230)

The highest spa in France, it specialises in the after-effects of joint trauma, sprains, fractures and dislocations, as well as rheumatology. In 1675, Madame de Maintenon and the infant Duke of Maine came to Barèges to treat the child’s claudication. Indeed, ever since some farmers had noticed that their cattle wading in the water of certain springs healed their wounds easily, the waters of Barèges were reputed to heal wounds. Despite the uncomfortable facilities, the frequent flooding of the Bastan and the landslides, and despite the harshness of the place and the people, Barèges became a fashionable spa resort. Before 1730, the road from Lourdes to Barèges was built, much to the admiration of contemporaries. The arduous diversions via the Tourmalet became unnecessary in 1744. The military flocked here. They built a barracks and a hospital with austere facades in 1732, rebuilt by Napoleon III in 1859. And on 6 May 1860, the Emperor signed a decree ordering the construction of spa routes, thus rehabilitating the route from Bagnères-de-Bigorre to Barèges via the Tourmalet. The thermal baths were built between 1861 and 1864. A simple spa hamlet for many years, Barèges became an independent municipality in 1946. From 1920, Barèges turned its attention to winter sports. The Ayré funicular was opened in 1939. Barèges has seen the Tour de France pass through on numerous occasions due to its proximity to the Tourmalet, and even had the right to see its name attached to the grand pass during a stage finish in 2019, won by Thibaut Pinot.

Km 89.6

TOURMALET PASS

There was one big absentee at the summit of the first ascent of the Tourmalet in 1910: Henri Desgrange himself. The creator of the Tour had hesitated for a long time about including the pass on the route, a climb that had put off many riders, and the 1910 edition set off with just 110 participants. The Perpignan-Luchon stage and its first Pyrenean passes confirmed the boss of L'Auto in the idea that the Tour's programme was decidedly too copious... Already, before the start, he had suffered the wrath of certain competitors. After the finish in Luchon, he sensed that the morale of the troops, starting with that of leader Octave Lapize, was not very high. Claiming to be indisposed, Desgrange stayed in Luchon to take the waters and handed the reins to Victor Breyer. A great boxing fan, Breyer would know how to use his fists if need be. Desgrange was right to slip out of view. After arriving at the top of the Tourmalet, and then as winner in Bayonne, Lapize was furious: "Criminals!” Desgrange was not there to hear the insult. And the crime has remained unpunished for more than a century! Since then, riders have crossed this giant of the Tour 84 times and will once again pay tribute to Henri Desgrange's successor, Jacques Goddet, at the foot of the stele dedicated to him. In the course of its long love-hate relationship with the race, the Tourmalet has already hosted three stage finishes, in 1974 (victory by Jean-Pierre Danguillaume), 2010 (Andy Schleck) and 2019 (Thibaut Pinot). The Tourmalet was also the venue for the Tour de France Femmes with Zwift in 2023, where Demi Vollering secured her overall victory.

Km 93.2

LA MONGIE

The resort has hosted three stages of the Tour (1970, 2002, 2004) and was the venue for ski world cup events in 1985. In 1970, a young rider by the name of Bernard Thévenet made a name for himself by winning his first stage in the Tour. Eight more were to follow, including two overall victories in Paris. The cable car that takes you up to the Pic du Midi de Bigorre (2,872 m) allows you to visit the observatory.

Km 104.4

CAMPAN (POP: 1,500)

At the foot of the Tourmalet and the administrative centre of the canton that bears its name, Campan was the third most populous town in the Hautes-Pyrénées department at the beginning of the 11th century, with almost 4,500 inhabitants who made their living from the forest, green marble and livestock farming. Today, tourism is one of the main resources of a town that has preserved a beautiful 16th-century market hall, evidence of an important livestock market, and several remarkable religious buildings, including the 16th-century church of Saint-Jean-Baptiste and Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption in Sainte-Marie de Campan. Famous Campan residents include Dominique Gaye Mariolle, a grognard in Napoleon's armies who stood over two metres tall and was renowned for his antics. A statue of Eugène Christophe stands in the square that bears his name in front of the village church, in tribute to his exploit in 1919, when the Old Gaul was forced to repair his pitchfork at the forge in the neighbouring hamlet of Sainte-Marie-de-Campan.  In 2016, a stage finish was held at Lac de Payolle, in the commune of Campan, won by Briton Stephen Cummings.

Km 106.3

SAINTE-MARIE-DE-CAMPAN

It was in this hamlet of Campan that Eugène Christophe, the first Maillot Jaune, was forced to repair his fork at the local blacksmith's. A statue in front of the church commemorates this historic moment in the 1919 Tour de France.

Km 123.4

HOURQUETTE D'ANCIZAN (1,564 M)

This pass links the Payolle and Aure valleys. Hourquette is a Gascon feminine name derived from hourque, "fork", from the Latin furca. It is frequently used in Pyrenean toponymy to designate passes, by analogy with the shape of a fork. The pass has been ridden five times by Tour de France riders between 2011 and 2022. The last rider to lead at the top was Thibaut Pinot on a stage finishing in Peyragudes, where Tadej Pogacar beat Jonas Vingegaard.

Km 137.8

BOURISP (POP: 150)

A pretty village with a population of just under 150, Bourisp is famous for its 15th-century church, which features some fine 16th-century frescoes, and for having had as its mayor for 24 years the very active former senator and Secretary of State Henri Caillavet, founder of the Digital Freedom National Commission (CNIL).

PAU

Embraced by the Pyrenees, Pau is a city filled with regal elegance, offering a perfect blend of cultural richness and natural splendour. Explore the majestic Boulevard des Pyrénées, where the Château de Pau frames breathtaking mountain views, setting the stage for your adventure.

Immerse yourself in local markets, a sensory feast of Béarnese flavors. Indulge in local cheeses and savor the aromas of freshly baked pastries, or stop for a while in one of the many vibrant bistros and cafes, each offering a unique gastronomic experience.

At any time of day, Pau's parks and gardens offer a tranquil haven in the heart of the city. Enjoy a leisurely stroll through Parc Beaumont or be transported with a visit to the Kofu Japanese Gardens. Meanwhile museums and sights like the Musée des Beaux-Arts and the birthplace of Henri IV offer plenty to inspire.

Discover vibrant nightlife in Pau's squares, where locals and visitors gather, creating a convivial atmosphere, or delve into the city's artistic heritage at venues like the Zenith de Pau. Where royal grandeur meets rugged mountain beauty, Pau has plenty of unforgettable experiences to offer.

Find out more on lastminute.com

SAINT-LARY-SOUPLAN PLA D'ADET

Perched in the heart of the French Pyrenees, Saint-Lary-Soulan Pla d'Adet is one of the area's largest ski resorts, and has plenty to offer both winter sports enthusiasts and summer adventurers alike.

When the snows fall, the slopes of Pla d'Adet transform into a winter wonderland, inviting skiers and snowboarders to carve through pristine powder against a backdrop of breathtaking peaks. While in the summer, Saint-Lary-Soulan Pla d'Adet reveals a different kind of magic. Explore hiking trails that meander through mountain meadows, revealing panoramic views of the Pyrenean landscape. The town's charming chalets and mountain lodges offer a cozy retreat after a day of exploration.

Among the region's unique experiences are the historic iron springs, waiting for you to explore. Or you could just relax and treat yourself in the resort's extensive spa facilities instead.

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