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Pyrenees France

In Southeast France the Pyrenees stretch from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean in a natural boundary line between France and Spain. On the coast of the Bay of Biscay is Biarritz, a famous beach resort made fashionable by the Empress Eugenic. There are luxurious hotels, a casino, excellent restaurants and a wonderful beach nearby. Not quite so fashionable but smart in its way is St.-Jean -de-Luz which is less expensive. Biarritz is expensive,if it's the de luxe you want. There are also moderately priced accommodations. Pelota is a favorite local sport; or you can see a bullfight at Bayonne, nearby.
If you are heading eastward to the Mediterranean, you will go to Lourdes, home of the famous vision of Bernadette. There are many hotels and pensions here. The grotto is a national shrine and the Cathedral is composed of three churches, built one above the other with hundreds of memorial chapels donated by pilgrims to the shrine. The baths are nearby where each year thousands of afflicted come to bathe in the holy waters. It is estimated that more than a million people make the pilgrimage to Lourdes each year. Luchon in the Pyrenees looks into Spain. It has excellent ski runs and thermal baths. There are dozens of hotels, best of which are the Pyrenees Palace and the Sacaron. Skiing is excellent on Superbagneres, a 6,000 foot peak with a wonderful hotel at its summit.
Pau is an interesting city with a fine bridge, public squares, a famous castle in which Henry IV was born, and a renowned boulevard with a gorgeous view facing the Pyrenees. It is a starting point for tours of the Pyrenees.
Nimes and Arles, old cities where Roman ruins may be seen, are on the route to Marseilles and the Riviera from the Pyrenees or Carcassonne.
This is the far SW. of France, marked by Spanish influences, where the people speak with the twangy accent of the Midi. At the Atlantic end of the Pyrenees, the land of the French Basques (four of the seven Basque provinces are in Spain) keeps its own local culture and its puzzling ancient language. This is a delightful, unusual region. The Basques play their own special ball-game, pelota, and perform (mainly for visitors) their own highspringing folk-dances. They live in neat white villages amid verdant hills. Their capital is Bayonne, a graceful city of arcades, with a fine cathedral and a Basque museum. Nearby is the big resort of Biarritz. St Jean-de-Luz, to the S., is smaller and more attractive as a family bathing resort, with a charming little port. Basque cuisine includes ttoro (a fish soup), chorizo (a strong peppery sausage), and piperade (a kind of omelette). There are some good local handicrafts and pottery.
To the East, the elegant city of Pau is a sort of inland Cannes, full of smart shops, and with fine views of the Pyrenees. Pau's former large British colony has left it with one of the best golf courses in France. Nearby are the modern industrial complex of Lacq (the site of France's largest natural-gas deposit), and the new skyscrapers of the dormitory town of Mourrenx. Lourdes has the Church and Grotto of St Bernadette. The Pyrenees here are dotted with thermal spas and mountain resorts, such as Cauterets and Luchon. There is glorious mountain scenery, notably the Cirque- de-Gavarnie.
Toulouse, all built of rose-red brick, is the capital of the whole Pyrenees district, and the fourth largest town in France. It is bustling and industrial, with a huge aircraft factory where Caravelles and now the Concorde are made. It is also a city of the arts, with some superb museums, churches, and public buildings. The university is the largest in the provinces. Auch, to the W., has a cathedral with a marvellous interior. At Albi, the famous Cathedral is rose-red, like Toulouse. Albi has one of the best modern art museums in France, full of the works of Toulouse Lautrec, who was born nearby. Cordes, perched on a hill, is a town worth visiting; so is Carcassonne, with its vast medieval walled city, and Foix with its high castle.
The eastern stretch of the Pyrenees has thermal resorts such as Ax and Amelie, and one or two good spots for skiing. Down on the coast, Collioure is a colourful little port and bathing resort, popular with artists. Perpignan is the graceful capital of this rich agricultural region of French Catalonia.
Finally, the Languedoc - the coastal plain around Montpellier that links the Rhone Valley with Toulouse and Spain. It is an ancient province, in which the word for `yes' was oc, and it had its own language, the langue d'oc, which still
appears in various local dialects. For quantity, though not for quality, this is the foremost wine-growing region of France. The climate is mild. The Government has embarked on large development schemes - for a new irrigation network, and for turning the whole flat, marshy coast into one long lido. Montpellier, however, is still a slow, delightful university town. The port of Sete, where Valery wrote Le Cimetiere Marin, has canals enlivened by coloured fishing-boats and lined with excellent shellfish restaurants. The drawback to Languedoc is that in summer the traffic along the one main through-road is dense.

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