On the road

HAUTES-PYRENEES (65)

Population: 228,868

Prefecture: Tarbes

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

Surface: 4,464 km²

Specialties: Tarbais beans (IGP, Red Label), Bigorre's black pork (AOC), Madiran (AOC), Pacherenc, Barèges-Gavarnie sheep (AOC), Black hen of Astarac Bigorre, Garbure, Pineapple cake, cheeses

Major sports clubs: Tarbes Pyrenees Rugby, (Bagnères-de-Bigorre, Lannemezan). Tarbes Gespe Pyrenees Basketball in Women's Basketball League.

Major competitions: Pyrenees Cycl'n Trip (22 to 26 July), Velo for kids (charity event-23 June), Patou Trail (June), Grand Raid of the Pyrenees (August), Pyr'Epic (September, mountain biking), Pyrenees Bike Festival (September), BalneaMan and BalneaKid (September, Triathlon)

Festivals: Sacred Music Festival Lourdes, Gavarnie Festival (Theater), Equestria Tarbes, Luz St Sauveur Jazz Festival, Piano Pic, Small Mountain Churches Festival, Loures-Barousse Cheese Fair, Madiran Wine Festival, Tarbes in tango, Feast of the dogs of the Pyrenees-Argelès-Gazost, Lamb chops Fair Luz Saint-Sauveur, traditional fair in Loudenvielle

Economy: "HaPy 2020-2030" territory project, Hapysaveurs collective approach for the valorisation of short-circuit food.

French Energetic Transition label.- Tourism: 1 ° economic activity - innovative and dynamic companies especially in the aeronautical sector.

Websites and social networks: www.pyrenees-trip.com / www.facebook.com/hautespyrenees / www.instagram.com/hautespyrenees

Tourmalet, Aspin, Peyresourde are names that evoke fantastic landscapes. Yet not everyone has the mental and physical abilities of a bike hero, an ace climber or a king of the mountains. When it comes to tackling passes, peaks and miles of mountain roads, many prefer to take their car. Who can blame them? It is for them that the Hautes-Pyrénées department emulated famous roads like Route 66, the Silk Road or the Trans-Amazonian highway, and created a tourist route known as Pyrenees Roadtrip.

On the menu: 2 countries (France and Spain); 8 mythical passes; 3 sites featuring on the UNESCO World Heritage List; 4 natural parks and secret corners that only the Pyrenees are able to offer. In brief, an authentic and unforgettable adventure but especially an original holiday with friends, lovers or family.

In terms of logistics, the Pyrenees Boutique, a tailor-made holiday specialist, takes care of everything: excellent accommodation, access to the Grand Sites, tickets to the spa centres, guided walks, good restaurants. A once in a lifetime experience.

Ibos (Pop: 2,800)

Remarkable for its beautiful 14th century collegiate church, Ibos is also the hometown of former rugby union international Roland Bertranne.

Pyrenees-Atlantiques

Population: 674,00  

Prefecture: Pau

Sub-prefectures: Bayonne, Oloron Sainte-Marie

Surface: 7,645 km²

Specialties: foie gras, confit, duck breast and other dishes derived from duck, piperade, Espelette pepper, Basque cake, Irouléguy, Itxassou black cherry, Bayonne ham, hen, Jurançon, AOC Mellow, Madiran, farm sheep cheese, salt of Salies-de-Bearn, lamb of the Pyrenees, Blonde of Aquitaine

Sports Clubs: Section Paloise Béarn Pyrenees, Rowing Bayonnais, Biarritz Olympique Basque Country, Billere handball, Elan Bearnais Pau Lacq Orthez, Anglet Hormadi Elite, Pau Football Club. Events: Surfing World Championships, Biarritz Quiksilver Maïder Arosteguy Surfing, Equestrian Three Day Event "les Etoiles de Pau", Tour de France, World Slalom and Descent Canoeing Championships, Pau Grand Prix

Festivals: International Surf Festival, Festival Emmaus Lescar-Pau, Festival A Tant Rêver Du Roi, Music Festival in the Basque Coast, Festival Des Rives & Notes in Oloron, Occitan Festival Hestiv'Òc, Biarritz Dance Festival ”Le Temps d'aimer “ (Time for loving), Transhumances musicales in Laàs, Biarritz Latin America Festival, International Film Festival of Saint-Jean-de-Luz

Economy: third economic and demographic area of the greater South-West. First national producer of sheep cheese, second for corn grain. It is the first department of Aquitaine for the number of farms. In the industrial sector, the Total group and its network through the Lacq basin, as well as Safran (Turbomeca, Dassault or Messier-Dowty) in aeronautics. Several companies specialised in precision mechanics, metallurgy or electronics like Exameca, MAP, PCC France, Rexam and others ...

Websites and social networks: www.le64.fr / www.tourisme64.com / www.facebook.com/Département-des-Pyrénées-Atlantiques/720037604708106 ; twitter.com/departement64 ;

Km 11.5

Pontacq (Pop: 2,930)

Worth a visit for its old tower and the vestiges of its ramparts, Pontacq gave birth to two Empire generals, Guillaume Dauture and Joseph Barbanègre, and is also a rugby stronghold. Four native sons were French internationals, including Jean-Pierre Garuet, one of the best props France ever produced (42 caps). The Lacaze brothers, Claude and Pierre, also born in Pontacq, were internationals both in rugby union and rugby league. Jean Estrade, four times French champion with Lourdes, was the town’s mayor for 30 years (1965-1995).

Km 25.5

Coarraze (Pop: 2,170)

Nestled in the heart of the village of Coarraze and home to one of the most important baronies of Bearn, the castle of Coarraze is worthy of the wealth and power of its lords. It was built at a strategic position, close to the border with Bigorre. From the medieval building, only the 1350 pentagonal keep is preserved. This is where future King Henry IV spent his childhood. After several destructions, the castle was rebuilt in its current state in 1755.

Km 31.5

Asson (Pop: 2,050)

Caves of Betharram
Asson is the starting point of a 2.8-km stroll in the caves of Betharram. The caves opened to the public in 1903 thanks to the works of Leon Ross, a pioneer of electricity in Lourdes. The exploitation of the caves is still run by the Ross family. Asson is also home to a zoo with rare species like tamarins or red pandas.

Km 60.5

Col du Soulor (1,474 m)

Often ridden on the Tour de France, Soulor was not always rated as it was considered the first part of the Aubisque, which prolongs it. At 1,474 metres, it links the valleys of Arrens and Ouzom into Val d’Azun, noted for its picturesque villages and chapels. The last time the Soulor was rated was in 2010 and Marcus Burghardt was first at the top.

Km 76

Arras-en- Lavedan (Pop: 500)

For its historical St. Martin church and the restored ruins of the small castle of Castet-Naou.

Km 79.5

Argeles-Gazost (Pop: 3,400)

The capital of Lavedan, at the confluence of the Pau and Azun gaves (rivers) is a lovely little town with steep and narrow streets. First called Ourout, it then became Argeles and added Gazost to its name to outpoint the presence on its soil of thermal waters. Argeles is a climatic and thermal centre recommended for ear, nose and throat affections and phlebitis.

The town gave birth to a number of celebrities. Rene Billieres was a former Education and sports minister while Clement Dupont was only the second French rugby union international to beat all four British nations before WW2.

It was also the start of a Tour de France stage in 1996: the stage winner in Pamplona was Laurent Dufaux.

Km 84

Adast (Pop: 250)

Late writer, producer, journalist and Tour de France lover Jacques Chancel owned the 18th century Miramont castle overlooking the village. On the hill also stands the Notre Dame de Pietat chapel, mentioned for the first time in 1493. It was widely restored in the 18th century.

Km 98.5

Luz-Saint-Sauveur (Pop: 1,200)

In 1985, Luz-Saint-Sauveur was the start point for a very short road stage won by Stephen Roche. There have also been eight stage finishes at the nearby Luz-Ardiden ski station. Victor Hugo lived in this town and in 1861 Napoleon III built a monumental bridge over the Gave de Pau.

Km 99

Esterre (Pop: 190)

Château Sainte-Marie
Perched at the top of a rock, it served as a fortress to protect the valley but also as a shelter for the population. It was built in the 10th century by the counts of Bigorre. In the 14th century, it became the property of the Templars and later went to the Knights Hopspitaller and the Order of Malta. The English seized it in 1404 before being turned away by the count of Clermont. The castle was then abandoned. Listed as a historical monument since 1930, it has been restored in the 1980s.

Km 105

Bareges (Pop: 230)

The Bareges valley, one of seven valleys in the Lavedan county, once was a small independent Republic with its own customs. It was called the valley of the Toys, inhabited by mountaineers who proudly defended their freedom and were never subdued. The thermal baths were revived in the 18th century – after the visit of Madame de Maintenon – and the small thermal village became a commune in 1946. Its waters are used in traumatology, dermatology and to cure rheumatisms.

In 1675, Madame de Maintenon, mistress of King Louis XIV, went from Bareges to Bagneres de Bigorre by the Tourmalet in a Sedan chair. It was at the time, in spite of the altitude, the safest way to go since the valley road was often flooded or littered with stones. Francoise d’Aubigne, who was then 40, was looking after the Duke of Maine, the King’s son, who had come to Bareges to cure articular problems preventing him from walking normally. He would be a limp his whole life. Her nurse, who was made a marquise that year, always treated “the little duke” as her own son. The Duke of Maine spent most of the summer in Bareges and made some progress. “The Duke of Maine walks and even though it is not very vigorously, there is ground to hope that he will some day walk like us”, Madame de Maintenon wrote in October.

The marquise returned to Bareges twice and always recommended the baths to her friends. She became the King’s mistress that same year and married him secretly nine years later.

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