Midi-Pyrenees, France

Midi-Pyrenees

Area: 45,348 km2 [30,247 square miles]

Population: 2,471,000

Regional capital: The largest of metropolitan France's 22 regions and traditionally an agricultural area, it has been affected by the exodus of its rural population.

Now in the throes of a pitched economic recovery, Toulouse is the main centre of France's aerospace industry (the Airbus is assembled there).

It also is the second most in importance for advanced technological activities, such as data-processing, computers, and robotics.

Midi-Pyrenees Towns

Cahors

Cahors, on the River Lot, can be discovered in southwest France along with some interesting, yet little known wines.

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Distinguishing characteristics yield a dark, heavy product (black wine) that present the following vintage interpretations: Clos Siguier 1999, Chateau St Didier Parnac 2000 and Chateau Pech de Jammes 1998.

Castres

Located in southwest France on the Agout River, Castres is world renown for its machine tools.

It has been a textile hub since the 13th century and currently also produces furniture and pharmaceuticals.

Figeac

Primarily a market town, Figeac can be found on the Cele River and claims as native sons: Jean-Francois Champollion, first translator of the hieroglyphics, and the actor, Charles Boyer.

The town lent its name to the undertaker in Camus' "The Stranger."

Lourdes

Comfortably situated in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains, Lourdes' quantity of hotels are said to be exceeded only by those in Paris.

At an altitude of approximately 1,400 feet the city is home to a major watershed, the Gave de Pau River.

Historically referred to as the shrine to the Greek Goddess of the Underworld, Persephone, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes-or more commonly, the Domain-is a grotto along the Gave de Pau containing "curative waters" that yearly attract multitudes of Christian faithful.

Lourdes' place in the sun in Christiandom was assured as a result of a series of apparitions featuring "Our Lady of Lourdes" in 1858 to a 14 year old girl, Bernadette Soubirous.

Moissac

Moissac, in the Midi-Pyrenees-Toulouse region, lies near the confluence of the Garonne and Tarn Rivers.

The town is known for its foie gras and an extremely, tasty gold grape, the Chasselas de Moissac AOC.

The Abbey Church has been honored as a World Heritage Site of the Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France.

Ancient and artistic wonders: St-Pierre church formerly associated with the Benedictine abbey founded in the 7th century A.D., Musee Moissagais (folk art), Canal du Midi, vineyards.

Montauban

The second oldest bastide (a medieval fortress or town), after Mont-de-Marsan, Montauban dates from 1144 A.D., though its fortifications were destroyed in the 17th century.

The present-day town of Montauban, constructed primarily of red brick, is located in southwestern France, 30 miles north of Toulouse, on the Tarn River.

Its varied economy includes animal husbandry, furniture manufacturing, plant nurseries, flour mills, agriculture, and more.

Montbard

Montbard is a small, industrial commune in eastern France on the Brenne River.

In the 1700's Montbard was at the seat of France's industrial revolution but today is precariously supported by only one industry, steel tube manufacturing.

Rocamadour

Known as one of seven most famous pilgrimage sites during the 10th through 12th centuries, Rocamadour borrows its name from Saint Amadour, whose well preserved body was uncovered there in 1166.

Today, the city lends its name to a goat cheese that has attained AOC designation.

Nearby are well recognized caves, such as Lascaux and Font du Game, containing prehistoric art etchings.

Rocamadour was constructed on the side of a precipice, thus demanding one's attention for its beauty and unique posturing.

Rocamadour still remains one of France's most sacred locales, ranking second only to Mont-St-Michel.

Rodez

Snugly embracing a hill above the Aveyron River, Rodez proudly displays its historical architecture that includes a fortress-like cathedral.

Aside from tourism, Rodez has an agriculturally-based economy.

Tarbes

Another offspring of the Roman Empire, modern Tarbes is an industrial and commercial center located in southern France.

Tarbes is situated on the Adour River within a large fertile plain. It is ideally placed for access to the Pyrenees National Parc and religious activities in Lourdes. Tarbes is well known for its legume namesake, the haricots Tarbais (Tarbe beans).

Toulouse

Sporting the 4th largest and fastest growing population in France, Toulouse lies in the south central part of the country.

Toulouse is the focal point of European aerospace activities and home to Airbus.

The community is a major center of the Occitan language and culture. This language is still alive in Monaco and parts of Spain and Italy, and has connections with the Catalan dialect, the Italian of Dante�s period, and earlier Latin usages.