All About the Pyrenees
Hiking. Cycling. Skiing. Snowshoeing. Cathars & local history. Birds & Wildlife.
Family holidays & walking with children. Restaurants & fetes. Swimming. Canoe & Kayak.
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mobile: 00 33 6 16 22 66 53
Discover with us a fascinating, unspoilt area
rich in history, culture & natural wonders.
Since the last Ice Age, the Pyrenees, the Languedoc region and the Ariege have provided a haven for mankind and wildlife alike. A rugged wilderness that has proved hard to harness & tame, nevertheless it has always provided nourishment and shelter. The Romans recognised its strategic value; 10,000 souls lived at Lugdunum, now even more famous as 'Saint Bertand de Comminges'. In the 12th Century, the independent, free-spirited will of the region allowed the Cathar faith to flourish in peaceful co-existence until the Catholic church & the King of France intervened with devastating effect. Toulouse itself was the early medieval 'capital of tolerance' & defeated many Crusader siege attempts only to finally to succumb to France & the Church through political intrigue & Royal marriage.
In more recent times the local population has continued to welcome and help those seeking refuge; many lost their lives guiding Allied airman and others desperate to escape the Nazis over the Pyrenees to the relative safety of Spain & Andorra. Many students from the late 1960's found peace in the Ariege; they remain here to this day. Although there have many terrible, difficult times over the last millennium, it is the natural accepting openness & stubborn principles of the region and the Ariege in particular that still endures. Join in their culture, history and traditions and there is no warmer place to be. Discover more of this fascinating area for yourself.
South of now thriving-again, cosmopolitan, cafe-cool Toulouse, the centre of high-tech, ever-expanding commercial aircraft, space & medical enterprises, lies the Ariege. Rolling hills, woodland, pretty villages and traditional farmland eventually give way to the towering peaks of the Pyrenees mountain chain, unbroken from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. Ariege weather is largely influenced by the Atlantic systems; the climate is temperate, warm with enough sporadic rainfall to keep the area lush & green, even in high summer. Snow lies on the high summits until July, indeed sometimes all year. Thousands of Orchids adorn the cattle pastures each Spring. Sunflowers provide a blaze of colour by early July. Aside from the medieval castles perched high on crags & all the associated tales & legends of Cathar history, there are also numerous caves, with fabulous Prehistoric paintings, Mammoth bones, underground boats and cathedral-sized chambers. The mountains finally rise to 3000m (10000 feet), dotted with some excellent, family-friendly alpine & cross country ski 'resorts', yet the high peaks themselves remain entirely untouched, offering a formidable challenge to mountaineers.
Wildlife is diverse & spectacular; the iconic Griffon Vulture soars along the ridges, kites swoop over the fields, Bee-eaters nest in the river banks and Marmots can be seen sunning themselves on the path-side. Rivers & lakes provide fun & cooling relaxation. Forests give shade & for the more adventurous, tree-climbing fun.
The towns & villages are pretty, full of local history, with genuine daily markets offering home-grown, home-made products. Restaurants serve simple, tasty meals of the Region. Art & music are everywhere...fetes & exhibitions are a weekly ritual.
Numerous red-brick medieval villages dot the landscape.
You can follow all or part of the treacherous escape routes to Spain used during World War 2. Contact us for more information on professionally guided 'Chemin de la Liberte' tours.
Refuge Estagnous on the 'Chemin de la Liberte', Mont Valier.
mobile: 00 33 6 16 22 66 53
Le Courtal Apartment sleeps 4