|World Europe France Pyrenees|
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.
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.
|2007 travel guides|