Midi Pyrenees Places To Visit On Holiday

Auch

Auch, Gers, Midi Pyrenees, France

Enjoy museums, shops, art galleries and riverside market in this medieval city, high above the River Gers.

Don’t miss the last great Gothic Cathedral of Sainte Marie with its exquisitely carved oak choirstalls, magnificent organ and red and gold stained glass windows which glow in the sunlight. Tour d’Armagnan, 40m high, was an ecclesiastical court and fourteenth century prison.

A statue of Gascony’s most famous character, Alexandre Dumas’s mercenary musketeer, d’Artagnan, stands on a terrace above the river. The real life count lived at Chateau de Castlemore nearby and his heavily fictionalized memoirs were Dumas’s inspiration.

Toulouse

Known as ‘La Ville Rose’ due to the rosy hue of many buildings built with the local red bricks, Toulouse is a treasure house of architectural splendours such as the fortified churches of Les Jacobins and St-Sernin.

Once famous for its troubadour culture, Toulouse remains a vibrant city with a Mediterranean atmosphere. It has a lively café culture, food, clothes and flea markets, museums and golf at Seilh and Teoula.

An aviation centre from the beginning - Concorde was developed here - the outskirts of Toulouse now house a high-tech amusement park devoted to space travel, ‘Cite de l’Espace’. Try ‘saucisse de Toulouse’ - a special Toulouse sausage.

Albi

Spanning the River Tarn, Albi is a town where art and heritage meet. Birthplace of the painter Henri Toulouse Lautrec and a must for art lovers is a visit to the museum holding over 1,000 of the works of Albi’s most famous son.

Amongst the many architectural splendours, the mighty Cathedral of St Cecilia is a masterpiece of southern Gothic art.

Musee de la Prehistoire, Grotte de Niaux and Pech-Merle

Some of the first evidence of human habitation was discovered in a cave near Le Mas-d’Azil, and the Musee de la Prehistoire holds exciting finds - engraved weapon and tools and beautiful carved antlers.

History and art lovers must see the paintings of horses, ibex, stag and bison worked by our ancestors 13,000 years ago in one of the rare decorated caves still open to the public as part of a vast network at Grotte de Niaux. The viewing chamber is an 800m walk along a subterranean river bed. Tour reservations are essential - often several days ahead in high season.

Discovered in 1922 by two 14 year old boys, Pech-Merle is one of the finest pre-historic sites in France. A larger complex than Dordogne’s famous caves of Lascaux, which can now only be viewed as exact copies, the original 20,000 year old wall paintings of animals and humans at Peche Merle are still accessible to visitors.

See the rare drawing of a cave lion and beautiful stalactites and stalagmites. Tours last about 45 minutes but numbers are limited so do pre-book.

Millau Viaduct

Once a Roman ford crossed the river Tarn here; now travellers marvel at the Millau Viaduct, an exceptional piece of civil engineering with masts reaching 340m - higher than the Eiffel Tower. It even has its own weather forecasting system.

Designed by British architect Norman Foster to compliment the magnificent landscape, it is best viewed from the spectacular viewing area at one end; there is also an exhibition area about the bridge’s construction.

Nearby, the picturesque old tanning town of Millau, previously a major glove producer, has shady squares, cafes and restaurants.

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie

Lovers of architecture should visit this gem of a perfectly preserved medieval village perched 100m on a cliff above the River Lot.

Post-Impressionist and Surrealist artists came to live and work here along with poet Andre Breton. Discover half-timbered houses, a fortified church, castle ruins, gardens and art galleries.

Designated one of the most beautiful villages in France, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is popular with tourists and you will have more of the cobbled streets to yourself by arriving early or late.

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