The French Pyrenees are a natural paradise, especially in the Parc National des Pyrénées Occidentales, a haven of beautiful scenery and wildlife stretching for 100km along the mountain range. Serene hiking trails will lead you through magical forestland to fantastic vistas, such as the Cirque de Gavarnie, one of the “Grand Sites” of France, with the highest waterfall in Europe. In winter, skiers of every level of skill flock to Gavarnie and Cauterets. The rugged mountain foothills are full of spa towns; the most famous of all is Lourdes, a worldwide religious pilgrimage site for those seeking the miraculous, with its unique combination of religion and business. Tarbes, the gateway to the Pyrenees, boasts some fine public gardens, the Jardin Massey.
Gascony nestles between the Garonne Valley and the foothills of the rugged mountainscapes of the Pyrenees, a sparsely-populated and very pleasant region of rolling farmland, producing some of France’s most distinctive culinary products. It is the home of foie gras, confit du canard, and some hearty local vintages – Madiran, Buzet, and St-Mont – as well as that most delectable of French brandies, Armagnac.
There are several of France’s “plus beaux villages” within a short drive of each other, making for very enjoyable days out. The walled fort/village of Larressingle features a realistic reconstruction of a medieval siege camp. The arcaded market town of Montréal-du-Gers, and Fourcés, with its distinctive round village square and world-famous annual flower market are nearby, while Lectoure and the regional capital, Auch, both have fine cathedrals. The Roman villa at Séviac provides a fascinating glimpse into the Gers’ distant past, with some lovely mosaics.