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Prefecture of Hautes-Pyrénées

Population: 42, 500. 127,000 for the 86 communes of the Tarbes-Lourdes-Pyrenees agglomeration.

Celebrities: Théophile Gautier (poet and novelist), Isidore Ducasse aka  Lautréamont (poet), Marshal Ferdinand Foch (born in Tarbes in 1851), Paolo Coelho (Brazilian writer, honorary citizen of Tarbes), Yvette Horner (accordionist), David Fray (pianist), Lionel Beauxis (rugby), Mathieu Crépel (snowboard), Bastien Montès (speed skiing world champion) Gaël, Damien and Anne-Lise Touya (fencing Olympic and world medallists)

Specialties: foie gras, garbure, Tarbais beans, spit cake.

Sport: 16 750 members in 187 clubs. Clubs: Tarbes Gespe Bigorre (TGB, basketball), Stado TPR (rugby union), Amicale tarbaise fencing, Parachute Tarbes Bigorre, Pilotari Club tarbais (two world chalmpions), Badminton Athletic tarbais. Events: Petits As tennis tournament (January), shooting French champiosnhips (Feburary 2018 and 2020), international chess tournament (March), rescuing world championships 2018, International pelota tournament (May), Fêtes de Tarbes criterium (cycling, June), junior French swimming championships (July), Tarb’elles (October, women(s running), Lourdes-Tarbes semi-marathon  (November), Sabre d’Or (Fencing, November). Cycling club: Tarbes Cycliste Compétition

Economy: Alstom Transport, Daher (aeronautics), Tarmac (plane dismantling company). Former Giat Industries site rehabilitated. Military: 35th paratrooper and artillery regiment and first regiment of Hussar paratroopers (2,000 soldiers). 2nd university of Midi-Pyrénées (6,000 students)

Festivals: Pic d’Or (chanson, May), Tarba en Canta (traditional singing, June, Fêtes de Tarbes (June), Equestria (July), European festival of equestrian creation (July, 25th édition), Tarbes in Tango (August, 22nd édition), Terro’Art (art and gastronomy, September), Flowers Fair (October)

Websites and social networks: www.tarbes.frwww.tarbes-tourisme.frwww.pyrenees-trip.comwww.laregion.frwww.tourisme-occitanie.comwww.facebook/mairiedetarbeswww.facebook.com/tarbestourismeanimationswww.facebook.com/hautespyreneeswww.twitter.com/mairietarbeswww.instagram.com/mairie_de_tarbeswww.instagram.com/hautespyreneeswww.youtube.com/user/TourismeTarbeswww.youtube.com/user/Tourisme65

Small champions turn 37

The Petits As (Small champions) tournament has come of age. Turned in nearly four decades into the unofficial under-14 tennis world championship, the event created in 1982 in Tarbes, celebrates his 37th edition in 2019.

Since 1983 and its first international edition, Petits As revealed young champions destined to a bright future like Michael Chang, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters or Martina Hingis.

The project came to life in 1982 when three tennis players and coaches from Tarbes, Hervé Siméon, Jean-Claude Knaebe and Jacques Dutrey decided to launch a tournament for youngsters involving the best under-14 French players and a few foreigners. The idea from the start was to try and promote the event like a professional tournament while keeping it popular by keeping it admission free. They called the competition Petits As and the success was such that the number of entrants increased to reach 50 participating nations today. Throughout the years, new courts had to be built, stands had to be enlarged while a village for partners was created as local authorities became more involved.  

The 8th edition was marred by the sudden death of Hervé Siméon at 35. It was also a reminder for the organisers to stay true to his passion for tennis and young players.  

In 2017, the tournament became even more international with the organisation of qualifiers in the U.S. to attract the very best young American players.

Rafael Nadal au tournoi Petis AS - 1999 © Presse Sports / HERBAUT GUILLAUME

In 1951, when he was wearing the yellow jersey on the road to Tarbes, Wim van Est plunged into a ravine soon after crossing the Col d’Aubisque. The fall cost him the overall lead, but not his life. “Was God watching over Wim van Est?” L’Équipe asked with incredulity. The next day, between Tarbes and Luchon, Hugo Koblet took possession of the jersey and never let it go. But Wim van Est has gone down in history as the first Dutchman to wear the yellow jersey, and also the Giro d’Italia’s pink jersey. He went on to win another two stages of the Tour and passed away in 2003 at the age of 80. Two years prior to his death, a monument was erected on the Aubisque in memory of his fall. His then sponsor, Pontiac watches, did not miss the opportunity to use the incident to its advantage, with the slogan: “I fell 70 metres, my heart stopped beating, but my Pontiac still worked...” The man on the end of a miracle on the Aubisque was a colourful character. He had been involved in smuggling cigarettes in his youth and spent several months in prison. Cycling was his redemption.

Tour de France 1951 - AGEN/DAX - Wim Van Est © Presse Sports

Tarbes national stud farm
The friendship between man and horse in the Pyrenees dates back more than 20,000 years, as evidenced by the painted horses in the Niaux cave (Ariège), which are very reminiscent of the Mérens horses that are the best known breed in the region. It was, however, the Hussars who transformed Tarbes into a garrison town and to whom the national stud, created in 1806 by imperial decree, owes its existence. For many years it provided mounts to the army’s most skilled horsemen. Located in a nine-hectare park, this stud was one of the few to receive a visit from the emperor, two years after its creation in 1808. It now offers a harmonious and remarkable collection of Empire style, which includes examples of local traditions such as wooden frameworks, solid oak stalls and floors laid with pebbles from the Adour. Since the restoration carried out in 1995, the Maison du Cheval has housed a museum. In addition to traditional activities, the Tarbes stud, which hosts the annual Equestria festival, offers guided tours and themed entertainment. The best aspect, though, is that the stud’s heritage is being well maintained, nurturing regional breeds like the Mérens horse and the Pyrenean donkey, but especially the Anglo-Arab breed that the stud has been largely instrumental in developing over the past century. In 2016, the stud farm was taken over by the municipality, who launched a vast renovation campaign.

The Massey Garden and its museum
This 11-hectare park, which is officially classified as a remarkable garden, is an oasis of green in the heart of the city. Placide Massey, former director of parks at Versailles, Trianon, Sèvres and Saint-Cloud, gifted it to the city in 1853. There is a 14th century cloister from Saint-Sever-de-Rustan Abbey, a greenhouse and the Massey Museum, which is dedicated to the fine arts and the Hussars.

Birthplace of Marshal Foch
Near the Cathedral de la Sède, the 18th century Bigourdane house where Tarbes’ most famous son was born in 1851 is of interest both for its architectural style as well as his historical status and importance.

Notre-Dame de la Sède cathedral
Like a fortress built on the square where power traditionally shifted from the bishops to the prefects, the ND de la Sède cathedral keeps several religious treasures. The building may look rough from the outside but reveals its charms once inside. Built in Romanesque style, it was constructed on a Gallo-Roman site later turned into a Merovingian graveyard. From the Middle Ages, it retained its name, Sede meaning the seat of the bishop, and the two apses in the choir.  The 14th century brought the Gothic nave while the 18th century imposed its baroque views reflected by the splendid marble baldachin topping the altar.

© pixbynot - Mairie de Tarbes
© Antoine Bassaler
© Mairie de Tarbes
© Mairie de Tarbes
© CC BY 2.0
© BNF / Domaine publique
© CC BY-SA 3.0

Tarbais beans

The white beans of Tarbes (Tarbais) were among the first products imported from America in the 16th century by Christopher Columbus. A tale goes that when Catherine of Medici landed in Marseille in 1553 on her way to marry French King Henry III, she took from her basket a bag of fagioli, later known in French as “haricots” (beans). The beans were planted in the plain of Tarbes in the early 18th century, in the same time as corn, by the bishop of Tarbes, François de Poundex. Since starvation was frequent at the time, the alliance of beans and corn came as a miracle especially as they found a perfect environment and soil in the Bigorre region. The white beans being a vine, they were associated with corn as they grew around it. In 1881, the production area covered 18,500 ha and gave 3,000 tons. It became a local favourite used in daily meals and ideal to feed the military as Tarbes was a garrison town. In the 1950s, the introduction of new more productive hybrid breeds bore a fatal blow to the Tarbais. The beans were however preserved locally in gardens and families. In 1986 the Chamber of Agriculture of Tarbes and a few local farmers decided to revive the breed. They chose and protected a selected breed in 1998 and created a cooperative to sell their products in 1988.

The Tarbais beans hold exceptionally well when cooked and their qualities make them a favourite for some of the best chefs in France and in the world.

© cc-by-2.0 / J. Spengler
© Mairie de Tarbes
© Mairie de Tarbes
© Mairie de Tarbes
Musée Massey, Tarbes © Service Communication/Mairie de Tarbes

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