Favorite Midi-Pyrenees Towns
Of all the events dedicated to the sport of cycling, perhaps none is as exciting and prestigious as the annual Tour de France. Each year, thousands of fans, spectators and cycling enthusiasts from all over the world flock to the hillsides and villages along the race route to watch and cheer for the elite participants as they compete fiercely for the coveted winning spot. The race consists of 20 stages and covers an incredible total distance of 3,497 kilometers, as it weaves and winds its way through various cities, towns and villages. Of those towns, three that are located in the Midi-Pyrenees are particularly noteworthy. Here’s why.
Located south of Toulouse, near the borders of Spain and Andorra, the quaint and friendly town of Foix has served as the starting and ending point of several stages of the Tour de France. It is the capital of the Ariège department, a fact that is belied by its surprisingly small population. Despite its smaller size, however, there is plenty to do and see in this lovely French village. For instance, the Foix Castle, which sits high on its rocky perch, dominating the town below, provides a fascinating glimpse into the area’s long, sordid past. Constructed in the year 1000, over the centuries the imposing structure has served as home to a number of famous counts and eventually became shelter to the area’s three main symbols of power: the garrison, the archives and the prisons, the last of which remained there until 1862. The Foix Castle is presently a museum that serves as a testament to its incredible history.
Another small, but active town is Argeles-Gazost, which is particularly nice because of its central location. It is ideally located nearby several lakes and mountains, perfect for skiers and nature-lovers. For those who prefer to stay in town, there are still plenty of activities and options available. Argeles-Gazost features a compact yet charming downtown that offers everything a visitor could want – from shopping and dining to luxurious thermal spas and hot springs, and even a casino. Outdoor adventurers delight in the ample opportunity for hiking, biking, climbing and water sports. It’s a fantastic place to get a little taste of what France has to offer, from friendly locals to delicious cuisine and enough activities and adventure to keep you busy for weeks!
The capital of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department, the town of Pau offers more than just a quaint and cozy French feel – it also features some of the most breathtaking views on earth. Surrounded by the mighty Pyrenees Mountains, the panoramas are nothing short of spectacular. Home to the Université de Pau et des Pays de l’Adour, Pau boasts a high population of students, whose youth breathes life into the town and provides an underlying atmosphere of energy and excitement, yet it still maintains its old-world charm. In the town’s center rests the magnificent Chateau de Pau, which once served as the vacation home for Napoleon while he was still in power. Today the castle is open to the public and contains a selection of exquisite tapestries that were hand crafted over the centuries.
Part of the thrill of attending the Tour de France is getting the opportunity to visit many of the little villages that the route winds through along the way. Of them all, these three unassuming towns offer the perfect blend of French hospitality, history, culture and adventure. If you’re planning to explore some of the TDF towns, these three should be at the top of your list.