Holiday Homes In France
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Holiday Homes In France
The Midi-Pyrénées region of South West France
Toulouse is both the regional capital and the centre of the aerospace industry in France. A lively, southern, cosmopolitan city, rich in art and architecture with a fine old quarter and an ancient university.
The oak woods and walnut groves, river valleys and high limestone plateaux topped with ancient fortified towns and villages of the Lot and the Tarn-et-Garonne, give way to the beautiful Aveyron and the Tarn, then to the gentle hills of Gascony and into the Ariège and the foothills of the Pyrenees.
The old town of Cahors lies on a bend of the River Lot, a relaxed southern town with good shopping and an excellent market. Cahors wines have been made there since the Romans and most of the vineyards stretch along the river valley to the south of the town.
Albi lies above the Tarn Valley, dominated by its vast red brick cathedral. It is the birthplace of the painter Toulouse-Lautrec and the museum there houses many of his works. About 24 km northwest of Albi, is Cordes, a medieval hilltop town dating from 13th century that rises out of the plain like a mirage. Many artists have settled there and it is well worth a detour.
Auch, the former capital of Gascony, lies in the heart of the Armagnac region, an old town built high above the River Gers. From Auch, the main roads and country lanes in every direction, take you through lovely unspoiled villages in this deeply rural part of the Midi.
Life in the mountain villages and farms of the Pyrenees has remained largely unchanged. The southern climate means that it can be warm and sunny from as early as February. Roads are good and generally well sign-posted, although snow lies on the higher peaks until May and some of the highest passes may be closed.
The food of the Midi is hearty and generous and makes full use of the great variety of local produce farmed and grown here. Soup is a traditional starter with walnut oil, truffles and wild mushrooms, garlic and chestnuts and an abundance of vegetables, form the basis of many dishes together with freshwater fish, goose, duck and chicken fed on maize and corn and lamb roasts and game casseroles.
Further south, the cooking of Gascony is based on goose fat or oil flavoured with garlic, shallots, and spices. Goose and duck farms produce foie gras, which is then sold fresh or made into pate and terrines. Nothing is wasted, and the rest of the bird is made into confits, preserves used to make stews and soups. Other dishes include pot-roasted beef and pork, civet of hare and goat from the Haute-Pyrenees. There is a wide range of fish from the mountain lakes and streams and farm cured hams and sausages.
There are a variety of blue cheeses, the most famous of which is Roquefort. The mountain cheeses from the Pyrenees are made from goat, ewe or cows milk. Cabacou is a small soft cheese made from a mixture of the three.
Good fruit tarts, juicy Chasselas grapes, mounds of apricots and cherries, plum and apple pastries and cakes, fritters and thick pancakes filled with fruit. Excellent chocolates. Marrons glacés.
Cahors, Gaillac, Madrian, Béarn and Irouléguy are the wines of the Midi and the Armagnac brandies are produced in the area between Auch and Condom. Floc is a delicious brandy-based wine, usually served as an aperitif. The great armagnac brandies are produced around Eauze and are distilled and aged in much the same way as they have been for centuries, although there are numerous small producers throughout the south of the region who welcome visits, each one distinctive in their own way.
The Midi Pyrenees is wonderful for cycling holidays and you can find cycle hire places in larger towns and cities. The Pyrenees are ideal for mountain biking, walking and trekking and there are white water rafting and rock-climbing centres. Excellent downhill and cross-country ski stations and facilities for the winter months that also cater well for children. Flying, gliding and microlighting are available at several small airfields and there is a good choice of golf courses throughout the region, easily accessible and inexpensive.
If you enjoy riding, there are numerous riding stables and organised treks that can be taken through the mountains accompanied by experienced guides, stopping for lunch and ending each day at a different chambres d'hotes bed and breakfast.
Rugby is a passion and international matches are played regularly in Toulouse.
Mediterranean. Early springs, long hot summers, often long into the autumn and short mild winters. Good snow cover in the higher Pyrenees until May.
Toulouse International is the main airport. Other regional airports are: Rodez, Carcassonne or Pau.
From Paris, take the A10, A71 and A20 which runs straight through the middle of the Midi Pyrenees.
Daily TGV services from Paris Austerlitz to Toulouse and Cahors. Fast connections to Albi, Rodez, Millau, Auch, Tarbes and Pamiers with stops at other places along the way. Car hire at most main destinations.