THE PYRENEES, FROM THE SEA TO THE OCEAN


Pyrenees

These are the mountains which present, between France and Spain, an astonishing scene of culture, of history and of beauty. Let us leave the Mediterranean landscapes and set off for the Pic du Canigou: dominating and grandiose, it has some marvelous sights... steep mountain passes, abbeys and villages clinging to the mountain - here we are in Roman territory. Impressive settings for the beautiful abbeys of Saint Martin du Canigou and of Saint Michel de Cuxa and, close to the latter, Prades celebrates that immensely popular Catalan violinist, Pablo Casals. You have arrived at Villefranche de Conflent, a fortified town, its citadel and its fort linked by 1000 underground steps.

And then comes the Cerdagne, a beautiful valley. Mont Louis and its ramparts and, up there, a picture of delight: Font-Romeu, where the preparations for great sports take place, is surrounded by some very fine resort where you will practice cross-country or downhill skiing in a magnificent environment.

The Summer and Winter Delights of Spa Towns

Pyrenees Luchon is typically "thirties". Here, an immense area opens out before you, a place where hydrotherapy and skiing combine to put you back into great form. Among other resorts, you will find: Piau-Angaly, the highest, with superb snow quality. Bareges-Tourmalet and la Mongie, the largest skiing area in the Pyrenees, Gavamie-Gedre where you will discover the wild cirque of Gavamie, and its great cascading waterfall : at 3000 meters this is an incredible wall. discover Gourette, one of the most sporting resorts in France and Somport-Candanchu in the heart of the National Park of the Pyrenees. On leaving Luchon, you simply must visit Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges and the sumptuous Roman remains of its cathedral, an essential stopping place along the Route de Compostelle.. Another town to explore, Pau, English, saw the birth of Henry IV. Its boulevard des Pyrenees offers an exceptional panoramic view over the mountain range, from the peak of the Midi de Bigorre to the peak of Anie..

Now you find yourself in basque territory; land of unique people with mysterious origins.. Saint Jean Pied de Port, a pretty town on the Nive, at the foot of the Roncevaux which thousands of pilgrims pass through along the route of Compostelle. The houses here are constructed of white cob and timber framing. For centuries pelote has been played here against the frontons; there is much dancing and the men's leaps are amazing. Now the basque coastline opens out in front of you, with its bays and its long beaches, its cliffs and creeks, its colonies of birds. Biarritz, with its extreme elegance, offers ideal beaches for surfers. Bidart with its typical vaulted church from which is suspended the model of a sailing boat.. Ciboure where Ravel was born, linked by a bridge to St Jean de Luz, so basque, so beautiful. See also Bayonne on the Adour, an exceptional stopping place on the route of Saint James, the large museum Bonnat exhibits works by Rubens, Greco and Ingres.


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