MIDI PYRENEES – WHY GO?
Magnificent mountains and sunny southern climate make the Midi Pyrénées region a winner. Stretching from the wooded hills of the Dordogne to the peaks of the Pyrenees, it’s a tapestry of mountains, valleys, ancient towns and Romanesque churches.
This is the place to come for the world’s best cassoulet, foie gras and Roquefort cheese – not to mention fine local red wines and Armagnac brandy.
If you’re staying at lovely Cuq en Terrasses, you are just 2km from the tiny hamlet of Cuq-Toulza in the aptly named Pays de Cocagne (Land of Plenty). Toulouse Airport is 42km away and there is plenty to do in this wonderful region.
Don’t miss historic, happening Toulouse – capital of the Midi Pyrénées. Dubbed the ‘ville rose’ because of its pink buildings, Toulouse sits astride the Garonne river and the Canal du Midi, midway between the Med and the Atlantic. This handsome city ranks as France’s fourth-largest metropolis.
Toulouse has a rich architectural heritage and thriving aerospace industry. Add to this a burgeoning student population and some high-profile modern art and you have a place with its finger on the cultural pulse.
Everything in Toulouse starts with the vast, arcaded place du Capitole, whose grandiose town hall takes centre stage. Crowds meet here on the terraces of Toulouse's best-known cafes, and a massive market is held in the courtyard. From here, wander south into the winding streets of medieval Toulouse, with its gothic churches, fountains and pretty squares.
Former medieval merchants’ houses open to the public include Hôtel de Bernuy and Hôtel d’Assézat, hung with paintings by Monet, Matisse and Pissarro. The magnificent St-Sernin Basilica, with its wedding-cake spire, is another must-see. Modern art fiends should make tracks for Les Abattoirs, across the Pont Neuf.
Big attractions in Toulouse don’t come better than the Cité de l'Espace (Space City) - an amazing planetarium three miles from the centre, where you can discover the mysteries of space through interactive animation. There are also life-sized replicas of Ariane 5 and the Mir space station.
Within striking distance of Toulouse is the pilgrimage mecca of Lourdes. The town’s water is reputed to have miraculous healing qualities, and the processions of modern-day pilgrims – many having flown across the world – making their way to the cathedral at night is an awesome sight.
The red city of Albi, with its giant cathedral, is another not-to-be-missed old city in Midi Pyrénées. Be sure to walk round the Musée Toulouse Lautrec, where over 1,000 works, paintings, posters of the great man are hung, as well as works by Matisse and Degas.
Other pretty old towns include medieval Cahors and the aptly named hilltop city of Cordes-sur Ciel, to the north. For sweet-tooths, Lisle sur Tarn (37km from Cuq-Toulza and Cuq en Terrasses) even has a Chocolate museum.
You’re also within easy reach of the Tarn river gorges and Lot valleys. Make a detour to the incredibly beautiful villages of Rocamadour and St Cirq Lapopie in the Lot – some of the most photogenic in France.
Getting to Midi Pyrénées:
Budget airlines fly from various points in the UK to Toulouse and Rodez, as well as Carcassonne and Montpelier in neighbouring Languedoc-Roussillon.
ROMANTIC HOTELS IN MIDI PYRENEES
Cuq en Terrasses