Two previous stages
Summit of Hautes-Pyrénées
Population: 180 in Barges and 15,556 for the 46 communes of Pyrénées-Vallées des Gaves.
Celebrities: Urbain Cazaux (1st mayor of Bareges and former president of the French Skiing Federation), Rolland Mouret (fashion designer), Annie Famose (Olympic and work ski medallist), Pierre Marcou (skiing), Louis Armary (rugby)
Specialties: Mutton of Bareges-Gavarnie (AOP), garbure, black pork of Bigorre, Tourmalet beehives, onion of Trébons (AOP), beer of Pays Toy
Sport: Derby du Pic (free ride, April), Marmottes Grand Fondo, Montée du Géant (June), Trail des Fleurs (Juillet), Grand Raid of the Pyrenees (August, ultra trail), Tourmalignes (paragliding), Bareges-Pic-du-Midi-Barèges (trail, September), PyréPic (mountain bike, October), Bareges Mountain Vibes Festival.
Economy: Tourism (Grand Tourmalet, largest skiing domain in the French Pyrenees), thermal baths.
Festival: NightScapades Festival (July, photos and films on astronomy)
Websites and social networks: www.mairie-bareges.fr / www.grand-tourmalet.com / ete.valleesdegavarnie.com/ete / www.hautespyrenees.fr / www.tourisme-hautes-pyrenees.com / www.pyrenees-trip.com / www.laregion.fr / www.tourisme-occitanie.com / www.facebook.com/hautespyrenees / www.facebook.com/departementHautesPyrenees / @mairiebareges / www.twitter.com/hautespyrenees / www.instagram.com/hautespyrenees / www.youtube.com/user/Tourisme65
A day at the top at Pic du Midi
A day at the Pic du Midi begins with a memorable climb by cable car from La Mongie. A first section leads to the intermediate station of Taoulet. Change platforms, another cabin awaits you for the second, most spectacular part of the trip, with a maximum flyover of 320 meters. Then you reach the top and gain direct access to the panoramic terraces with a breath-taking view of the chain of the Pyrenees stretching over 300 km. With the help of panoramic tables you will learn to identify the summits while the interpretation tables help discover the environment of the Pyrenees. Enrich your knowledge of the mountain with the long views installed on the terrace. Enjoy a presentation of the panorama explained by guides. You can even watch the sun without danger with our coronograph.
The brand new "Experience Space" is another spot to discover, through funny experiences, the main research themes at Pic du Midi: the sun, cosmic rays, the stars, the atmosphere, meteorites
A stop at the planetarium makes the change of scenery even more spectacular.
In a planetarium, there is no screen but a huge dome above your head. Sitting in comfortable reclining chairs, you will be swept away on a journey to the stars and beyond.
The Planetarium of Pic du Midi is located under the Baillaud dome, a place full of history and science. It is the oldest astronomical installation of the observatory. It was transported to the Pic on the back of men and mules for two years, in 1907 and 1908. After a century of research and astronomical discoveries, the Baillaud dome has a found a new life by housing the highest planetarium in Europe.
To relax, everything is on the spot: if you opt for the restaurant, you will be facing the Pyrenees while you enjoy the chef's menu. The reservation of a table is only possible when arriving on the site, at the reception of the restaurant. A bistro menu is also available. Finish your stay with a coffee on the terrace or a moment of relaxation before taking the cable car back to La Mongie. The bravest have a last challenge to accomplish: hanging over the void, a 12-mettres-long metal walkway leads to a see-through glass platform in the middle of the clouds for a unique and dizzying point of view. Hang on the horizon because under your feet, emptiness calls you.
Someone was missing at the top of the Tourmalet on its first ascent in the Tour de France in 1910 – Henri Desgrange himself. The Tour de France founder had been in two minds about putting the climb on the Tour route and its presence had frightened quite a few riders, as the race took off with only 110 starters. The Perpignan-Luchon stage and the first mountain passes of the Pyrenees confirmed his impression that the course was perhaps a little bit too hard. Before the start, he had already been seriously attacked by some riders. After the finish in Luchon, Desgrange could sense that the peloton’s morale was not very high. He suddenly fell ill and stayed in Luchon for treatment, leaving the Tour keys to Victor Breyer. A keen boxer, Breyer was not afraid of a fight if needed. GC leader Octave Lapize made it to the top and won the stage in Bayonne, but was furious all the same: “Criminals!” he shouted but Desgrange was not there to listen. The crime has remained unpunished for over a century now.
Since then, riders have gone up the Tourmalet 80 times and will pay homage to Desgrange’s successor Jacques Goddet at the plaque in his honour at the summit. During his long love-hate relationship with the Tour and its riders, Tourmalet hosted two stage finishes, in 1974 (victory by Jean-Pierre Danguillaume) and 2010 (Andy Schleck).
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.
La Mongie et le Pic du Midi de Bigorre
La Mongie is a haven for both cycling and skiing. The resort hosted three Tour de France stages and World cup ski races in 1985. The cable-car going up to Pic du Midi de Bigorre (2,872 metres) makes it possible to visit the observatory.
The history of Pic du Midi de Bigorre was meteorological before it was astronomical. As early as 1774, Monge and Darcet climbed up the mountain to study atmospheric pressure and in 1873, general De Bansouty installed a station from which were measured pressure, temperature, humidity and other values affecting the weather. The first astronomy activities started in 1884. Progressively, the observatory became a haven for astronomy and sciences like botanical science and cosmology. Briefly threatened with closure, it was final saved in 1996 and open to the public.
Sainte-Marie de Campan forge
A plaque on the sport recalls the day of 1913 when Eugene Christophe broke his fork and tried to repair it in the local forge.
The Viscos, in Saint-Savin (15 km from the Tourmalet) has become a hangout for Tour de France followers (TV journalist Jacques Chancel was a regular). The Saint-Martin family have run the place for generations, keeping faithful to their traditional and tasty recipes.
Here is the recipe of mushroom Tastou with foie gras and truffle:
For 4 people:
4 canapés carved in a beautiful and healthy porcini mushroom (sliced in the height of the mushroom)
4 70 grams slices of duck foie gras
4 beautiful slices of truffles (summer or winter)
1 dl of duck juice with butter
Duck fat - Salt and pepper
Take a non-stick pan, heat a little duck fat and colour the porcini canapés (on each side) then 3 minutes in the oven. Keep them warm.
Cut four 1 cm thick slices in the foie gras and cook for 3 minutes on each side. Salt and pepper.
Arrange the porcinis in the centre of a plate, put a foie gras slice on top of it, and top with a slice of truffles. The truffle cut into strips should remain in the raw state. Do not cook it!
To be served warm and lightly topped with poultry juice.