08/29 > 09/20/2020

Commune of Pyrénées-Atlantiques (64)

Two previous stages

Population: 1,200

Celebrities: Empress Eugenie used to visit the spa, Paul Andreu (architect of Roissy airport), Cardinal Eyt (1934-2001, former archbishop of Bordeaux), Robert Paparemborde (rugby union, 55 caps)

Specialities: lamb, garbure (soup), Ossau cheese.

Festivals: transhumance of the Ossau valley (July), « Nousté Damo de Laruntz » (traditional fair, August 15), Cheese Fair (October, 15,000 visitors).

Sport: 16 clubs including Olympique Ossalois (rugby), Ossau Handball club, Ski club of Artouste. Events: Ossau Challenge regrouping 4 running races, Ossaloise (June) and the Aubisque (August), Grand Trail of the Osau Valley (July), Tour du Piémont pyrénéen (cycling, August, Tour du Pic du Midi d’Ossau (cycling, September).

Economy: Hydroelectricity, tourism (Artouste ski resort, Eaux Chaudes thermal spa), commerce, building (carpenters, painters), pastoralism.

Labels: Town of Art and History. Tourism resort. Accueil Vélo.

Websites and social networks:
http://www.ossau-pyrenees.com/admin/php#.UNVwzOQsBGY, http://www.laruns.fr/index.html, https://www.facebook.com/Laruns.Artouste/, https://www.instagram.com/jaimelavalleedossau/https://twitter.com/ossau_info?lang=fr
http://www.le64.fr/accueil.html

Le village de Laruns © Getty/by-studio
Les Eaux-Chaudes © Getty/Proformabooks
Le fromage d'Ossau © Getty/barmalini
L'impératrice Eugénie © Peintre Franz Xaver Winterhalter

Living pastoralism
Laruns is one of France’s largest commune as it stretches over 25,000 ha, mainly pastures, and it is still inhabited by several shepherds who preserve ancient pastoral traditions: transhumance, cheese making… This local vocation never stopped since the early days of cattle breeding and the local youth, dearly attached to their land and its preserved environment, keep making a living from their dairy products. The local festivities reflect this love of their trade especially on August 15 and during the cheese fair on the first weekend of October. In early July, the transhumance sees 5,000 sheep, 1,200 cows and 400 horses cross the village on their way to the pastures.

Small train, big success
In 1924, the Railway Company of the Midi decided to use the water resources of the valley to operate its trains. A dam was built on the lake Artouste as well as hydroelectric power stations. A small train was also installed on the hillside to take workers to the building site. When the works were completed, the small train was preserved and turned into a tourist attraction. From Spring to Fall, the train takes visitors over the Soussoueou valley into a remarkable natural environment to Lake Artouste, at an altitude of 2,000 metres. More than 100,000 visitors take the train every year.

Le Pic du Midi d’Ossau © Getty/philipimage
Les lacs d'Ayous et leurs nombreuses brebis © P.Guilbaud
Le petit train d’Artouste © P.Guilbaud

LARUNS AND CYCLING

On the 2018 Tour de France, Laruns had crowned, the boldest and most skilful of the peloton in the descent after Aubisque. The Slovenian was aiming at the final podium that finally eluded him.
Close to the Spanish border, Laruns was in 1985 the start of half-stage on a great day for team La Redoute. Their leader Stpehen Roche won at Col d’Aubisque in the morning, challenging La Vie Claire joint leaders Bernard Hinault and Greg Le Mond. In the afternoon, Roche’s teammate Regis Simon, beat breakaway companion Alvaro Pino on the road to Pau.
The ancient history of the Tour retains the memory of a Laruns-born rider, Jean-Baptiste Camdessoucens, who took part in the 1910 edition. The son of a customs officer, he was thrilled to ride in front of friends and relatives in the long 326-km stage between Luchon and Bayonne. But his fans, who only received the press days after the publication date, waited for him in vain. Involved in a crash in the previous stage from Perpignan to Luchon, he injured his hand and was forced out of the Tour two days before the stage he had been dreaming of.

Bernard Hinault lors de l'étape 18 Laruns-Pau du Tour de France 1985 © Presse Sports/Pichon

SIGHTS

Artouste ski resort
The Artouste resort stretches from 1400 m to 2100 m in altitude. Facing the Pyrenees National Park with a superb panoramic view of the Pic du Midi mountain range from Ossau, the ski resort of Artouste welcomes visitors in an authentic family atmosphere.

Artouste train
The Artouste train celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2012. Created to transport the men and equipment needed for the construction of the Artouste lake dam in 1920, it became a tourist attraction in 1932. Starting from the Fabrèges Lake, a vertiginous climb of 1,250 m to 2,000 m aboard a gondola lift provides an exceptional panorama over the Pic du Midi d'Ossau. Once at the top, it is time to board the mythical Artouste Train. At a peaceful pace along the mountainside, the 50-minute ride offers a splendid view of the Soussouéou Valley and Lake Artouste.

Saint-Pierre church
The fifteenth century church was washed away by a flodd and a new church was built in 1892. Inside can be admired the beautiful late-medieval font. It is the most remarkable in Bearn and certainly one of the most beautiful in France. See also the two bells (1465 and 1610).

Castle Espalungue
It dates from the sixteenth century. The castle is famous in the region for hosting Musketeer Aramis, who lived there for some time.

Eaux Chaudes thermal baths
The fame of Eaux Chaudes rests on more than twelve centuries of history and experience. The springs are rich in sulphur, sodium, calcium and silicate and are used to treat respiratory tract and rheumatology. Several royal visitors who came to take the waters in Laruns: the Prince of Prussia, the Duke of Montpensier, the Duke and Duchess de Nemours, Infant of Spain Don Enrique and his sister Dona Josepha. In 1854, Empress Eugenie came for two weeks for a stay at the Eaux-Chaudes spa. Today, the establishment welcomes between 600 and 700 patients per year.

Vulture cliff
At the heart of the small village of Aste-Béon, at the foot of the Nature Reserve of Ossau, the Vulture Cliff invites you to discover the great Pyrenean raptors and the life of the local shepherds. Two species of vultures are present in the Ossau valley, the griffon vulture and the Egyptian vulture. They can be observed live by cameras placed on the cliff or through a guided tour or in a museum space dedicated to them.

Lake Castet
The lake is located in the lower valley of Ossau, to the north of Laruns. This totally flat area is very popular for family outings, even small children in strollers can be taken there thanks to the arrangements made on the trails. The lake is also a haven for trout fishing.

Cirque d’Arneou
At the heart of the Pyrenees National Park, just before reaching the Col du Pourtalet, the Cirque of Anéou marks the border with Spain. This vast grassy plateau, located at an altitude of 1,700 m, offers a very clear view of the Pic du Midi d'Ossau. It is the starting point for many hikes, such as the Pombie refuge, the Pic de Peyreget or the Pic de Canaourouye.

Les pistes de la station de ski d'Artouste © Getty/olegmit
Le train d’Artouste © Getty/philipimage
Les Thermes des Eaux-Chaudes © Getty/Proformabooks
Un percnoptère d’Égypte © Getty/Jah
Col du Pourtalet © Getty/Barbara Cerovsek
La fontaine du rond point de Laruns © Creative Commons 3.0/France64160

TO EAT

Cheese fair
Traditionally, the Laruns Cheese Fair takes place on the first weekend of October, accompanied by its old-fashioned market and various activities. The village then dresses for the occasion in its festive clothes to revive the traditions: straw on the floor, old crafts, costumes, dances and traditional songs, chicken in the pot in restaurants. The laruns, a cheese produced from sheep's milk in the Ossau Valley, is the star of the fair and is also included in the ossau-iraty production area.

La foire au fromage de Laruns © P.Guilbaud

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