Pyrenees majestically dominates landscape
There is something hauntingly beautiful about snow capped mountains. After leaving Toulouse heading southwest to Pau right in the centre of the Pyrenees, you see the continuous range of these gorgeous peaks always present to your left and ahead. Travelling in winter they are almost completely snow covered - you have to blink a few times as it is hard to believe there are so many mountains and you aren't just seeing clouds - absolutely gorgeous!
On the way to Pau on our most recent trip, we stopped off at the religious tourist town of Lourdes. While it only has a population of 15,000, every year 5 million people visit there each year, making Lourdes the most visited destination in France outside Paris. Since the first vision of Mary in the mid 19th century, estimates are that over 200 million people have visited this Pyrenees town which does have other attractions besides the grotto and church including a fortified castle that rises up from a rocky escarpment in the centre of the town.
Pau is the main city in the area, dominated by its chateau, one time occupied by French kings and emperors, and views of the mountains beyond.
We stayed at the 19th century chateau on our website which has also had its fair share of ruling visitors. It sits on a ridge above Pau - as it was winter we could see the city skyline through the deciduous trees. The chateau can be rented in its entirety, often for weddings, or rooms can be rented individually on a B&B basis - ours had a bay window and a Pau view. It is run by the very friendly, French Alex and his wife who with their new baby have moved back from running similar venues in the UK to be closer to family. They live in a house on the grounds which used to be the hunting site for the local king. Alex makes you feel very at home.
The chateau's location was excellent being close to the mountains and ski fields. The picturesque road we drove on up to the slopes was the same one regularly used by the Tour de France and goes through the mountain spa town of Eaux Bonnes (good water) where we had lunch. The town has had many famous visitors to its waters since the 1500's.
If you are taken with the Pyrenees, Sarah has just told us about a new property she has for sale near Pau - a 3 bedroom renovated farmhouse with period features for 159,000 euro. It has outbuildings, country views and sits on an acre of land - see details and other Midi-Pyrenees properties for sale
More new places from our trip in March's newsletter.