Sub-prefectures: Argelès-Gazost, Bagnères-de-Bigorre
Surface: 4,464 km²
Specialties: Bigorre black pork (AOC), Tarbes beans, wine (Madiran and Pacherenc du Vic Bilh AOC), Barèges-Gavarnie AOC sheep, Trébons onion, Gascon hen, garbure (soup), foie gras,
Sports Clubs: Tarbes Pyrenees Rugby, TGB (basketball)
Sport: skiing, nordic activities, ski touring, sledding, dog sledding, snowmobiling, biathlon, mountaineering, hiking, climbing, mountain biking, angling, horseback riding, cycling, paragliding, water sports, canyoning, golf. Events: Downhill mountain bike World Cup (Lourdes), Giant Tourmalet, Grand Raid of the Pyrenees, Pyr'Epic
Festivals: Festival of Gavarnie (Theatre), Tarbes in tango, Festival of equestrian creation in Tarbes, Festival of Sacred Music (Lourdes), Festival of Jazz (Luz St Sauveur), Piano Pic in the Grand Tourmalet, Festival of small churches (Louron Valley), Festival of the Mariolles, Fair of cheese, Wine festival in Madiran, Festival of the dogs of the Pyrenees, , Tradeshow in Loudenvielle.
Economy: food industry, railway industry, aeronautics, hydroelectricity, tourism 4 seasons, Pilgrimage to Lourdes, hydrotherapy centres, winter sports, mountain hikes, Pic du Midi de Bigorre, Cirque de Gavarnie, Pont d’Espagne (Cauterets), Pyrenees National Park, more than 300 lakes, 35 peaks over 3,000 m, Tour de France passes (Soulor, Tourmalet, Aspin, Val Louron Azet, Peyresourde, Ancizan)
Websites and social networks: www.tourisme-hautes-pyrenees.com / www.hautespyrenees.fr / www.pyrenees-trip.com / www.instagram.com/hautespyrenees / www.facebook.com/hautespyrenees - / www.facebook.com/departementHautesPyrenees
BAGNERES-DE-BIGORRE (8 700 hab.)
The Tour de France stopped in Bagneres-de-Bigorre 11 times, the latest in 2013 with a victory by Dan Martin.
d’Aspin. Gem was used to win stages after rest days and he said he owed these victories to his wife, who came to visit in those one-day breaks. Eleven years later, Jacques Anquetil, with three Tour victories behind hilm, did not have much to prove on the Tour. However, in a stage between Pau and Bagneres-de-Bigorre with the Aubisque and Tourmalet on the day’s profile, the Frenchman made it a point to show the opposition, and especially Federic Bahamontes, that he was still the boss. Anquetil even sprinted to earn his first stage victory which was not a time trial. Bagneres-de-Bigorre was also the haven in which Laurent Fignon had settled towards the end of his life creating a training centre bearing his name.
The “Grands Thermes”, in the heart of Bagneres-deBigorre, date from the late 19th century and display the typical thermal architecture of the period, using noble material such as the marble of the Pyrenees. Spacious and equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, including three thermal water pools, the establishment is specialised in cures for rheumatology and respiratory problems.
Caves of Medous
The caves of Medous are natural caves without any trace of prehistoric human presence. They were dug by an underground river and are famous for their beautiful natural decoration of stalagmites and stalactites looking like petrified waterfalls. They attracted pilgrims since the 18th century and inside was built a chapel, in which the Virgin Mary appeared to the Lloye widow, warning her that plague would hit the town.
Réintroduction du Bouquetin ds le parc des pyrénées
Parc national des Pyrénées
SARRANCOLIN (Pop : 670)
Sarrancolin, a medieval fortified village, was long reputed for its marble. The town developed around a Benedictine priory known as early as the 11th century. The priory depended from the Simorre abbey and made it the capital of the Four Valleys (Aure, Neste, Barousse and Magnoac). The 12th century St Ebons church is contiguous to the ruins of the priory.
The industrial vocation of the town came from the extraction of marble from the 17th century on the sites of Beyrede, Ilhet and Sarrancolin. Already exploited by the Romans, the marble was used by architect Mansart to build the Petit Trianon in the Versailles castle, but also in several castles of the Loire, the Paris Opera House or the main entrance of the Empire State Building. Afterwards, the town saw the implantation of glassworks and mills.
In 1890, the railway to Arreau led to the installation of metal-works. In the 20th century, the main source of wealth became the abrasive corundum, which played a major role in the development of the area.
ARREAU (Pop: 820)
A turning point in the St James Way, Arreau was an important drapery centre until the French Revolution. The 12th century Notre Dame church was used for the defence of the village and even included a fencing room. The St Exupere chapel, with elements from the 11th to 16th century, was named after a 4th century Arreau-born farmer, who became Toulouse bishop and died in 418. His sanctuary was first built on the spot where the chapel now stands.
The Nestes Castle (15th to 18th century) is a summary of 10 centuries of history in the Aure valley. Used to protect the nearby St Exupere sanctuary, it was restored in 1989 and its museum holds an intriguing exhibition on the “cagots”, the French equivalent of the untouchables in the Middle Ages.
Le château des Nestes
The 15th and 16th century castle stands at the junction of two Neste rivers: Neste d’Aurz and Neste de Louron. It served as a protection for the nearby sanctuary dedicated to St Exupere. It was restored in 1989 and listed as a Monument Historique. A former Templar commandery, it houses an intriguing museum on the “cagots”, a sort of medieval untouchables who were plenty in the region.
SAINTE-MARIE-DE-CAMPAN (Pop: 1,450)
Sainte-Marie-de-Campan forge: Eugene Christophe, known as the old Gaul, repaired his bike’s fork in this forge in the 1913 edition. A plaque reminds the feat.
Marbres (Sarrancolin, Campan)
Some rocks, when polished, offer an undeniable aesthetic aspect. They are then sought in decoration. The Pyrenees are known for offering a wide variety of marbles that adorn the most prestigious palaces (Versailles, Opera Garnier) and today the Emir's palaces. Among these prestigious rocks are the marbles of Sarancolin and those of Campan.
MNHN – Patrick De Wever, professeur
Halfway up the Tourmalet pass, La Mongie is a hotspot for cycling and alpine skiing alike. Frequently crossed by the Tour, the resort also held alpine skiing World Cup races in 1985. At the foot of the Pic du Midi de Bigorre, La Mongie forms with Bareges the most important skiing domain in the French Pyrenees with 69 pistes and 42 lifts. The village was named after monks who lived there in the Middle Ages. In the beginning of the 20th century, when the Tour rode through here for the first time, only a few shepherd houses existed. Skiing made a discreet start in 1920 but really took off in 1945 when the first lift was installed thanks to Pierre Lamy de la Chapelle, the resort founder. The domain is spread from 1,400 metres to 2,500 metres with La Mongie on the East side and Bareges on the West side. The link between the two resorts became effective in 1973.
La Mongie held three Tour stages in 1970, 2002 and 2004.
BARÈGES (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.
LUZ SAINT-SAUVEUR (Pop: 1,200)
In 1985, the town was the start to a half-stage won by Stephen Roche. Eight finishes took place in the resort of Luz-Ardiden. Many years before, Victor Hugo stayed in the village and Napoleon III ordered the construction of a monumental bridge over the Gave de Pau in 1861. During his stay, Hugo wrote that the village had earned his name Luz, meaning light, because it was a sudden ray of sunshine after the dark and narrows footpaths used by the Spanish smugglers.
LANDSCAPE OF THE DAY
Pic du midi de Bigorre and surroundings
Listed as a natural heritage site on 7 November 2003, the summit of Pic du Midi and the surrounding area has a magnificent lookout point over the Pyrenees, located at an altitude of 2,877 metres. It was at this site, at the end of the 19th century, that a procession of men and mules carried building materials to the summit to construct a meteorology and later astronomy observatory at the heart of a rich and diverse mountain landscape, still shaped by farming activities.
ADAST (Pop: 250)
Writer, producer, journalist and Tour lover Jacques Chancel owns 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.
ARGELÈS-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 roads. 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.
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 2017, 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
EAUX-BONNES (Pop: 425 hab.)
On the right bank of the Gave of Ossau, the commune is merged with Aast, Assouste, Gourette and several hamlets. The thermal baths were known since the 16th century and were rejuvenated by the works of Theophile de Bordeu in the 18th century. Empress Eugenie made it her favourite spa in the late 19th century. In the Renaissance period, its waters were said to cure musket wounds. The casino of Eaux-Bonnes is set since 1873 in a lovely castle.
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