Unlike many regions of France Midi-Pyrénées is actually a 20th century invention, created as a result of the "regionalisation" process that took place in the 1970s, I bet you did not know that!
Like the Pays de la Loire region further north, where I lived for 12 years until 2013, Midi-Pyrénées was established in order to create a region around a main town, in this case the fantastic city of Toulouse.
The large former provinces of Guyenne, Gascony, Languedoc and smaller areas, within these larger areas, such as Quercy, Rouergue, Albigeois and Foix are all either part or fully in the Midi-Pyrenees.
It is not too hard to understand that Midi Pyrénées is essentially a rural area; in fact, apart fromToulouse, it is a very rural area (just 55 inhabitants per km2, this is approx. half the national average), it is the leading agricultural region of France.
The Midi-Pyrenees region consists of 8 departments:
By train (TGV) from Paris Gare-Montparnasse or Gare-de-Lyon as well as the express train from Paris Gare-d'Austerlitz.
By car from the UK via any of the Channel ports, right across from Roscoff in Brittany to Calais.
Airports: Toulouse-Blagnac is one of the best served regional airports. Airports also at Lourdes and Rodez with frequent flights from London and other major cities.
Hearty casseroles from France meet with the spicy dishes from Spain, here in the Midi-Pyrénées we like our tasty gastronomy. A famous food loving region that boasts fresh products such as mountain cheese, truffles and walnut oil on tap. Being hot there are many red peppers, tomatoes as well as the famous Bayonne-ham.
The Pyrenean region is widely known for Aligot (Aveyron cheese and potato puree). We must always end with a exquisite sweet, the crunchy Croustade-aux-pommes is my recommendation.
Not forgetting some wine to go with your meal then visit Cahors which is a small town located 100 miles (160km) east of Bordeaux. In wine terms 'Cahors' is known for its deeply coloured reds made predominantly from Malbec (known locally as both Cot and Auxerrois), with small quantities of Merlot and Tannat. Cahors is the only red wine appellation in the south-west to use neither Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc grapes.
The Midi Pyrenees is good cycling country and is ideal for mountain biking and walking, for the more energetic why not try white-water rafting or rock-climbing, or combine the two!
Flying, gliding and micro-lighting is available at some small airfields. Horse riding is popular as is trekking through the mountains, always accompanied by an experienced guide if your are going off-piste. Golf courses throughout the region can be inexpensive as well. My passion is rugby and it is also a passion in Toulouse where important international games are played regularly.
One of the main attractions in the region is the Canal-du-Midi built under the reign of Louis XIV between 1666 and 1681, the Canal du Midi is home to 328 structures (locks, aqueducts, tunnels, bridges) and is a fine example of hydraulic engineering of the modern age. It is of course a fantastic tourist attraction now and messing about on the water is a fine way to relax and see the sites of the region at the same time.
Downhill and cross-country skiing is available in many resorts during the winter months.
There are many styles of property in the region but I have chosen my favourite three:
Bas-Quercy houses: the living areas are located upstairs, the entrance door often being flanked with two windows.
Rustic stone houses: these houses are full of charm, wooden beams and exposed stone walls, very cosy.
Terrefort houses: this name is given to the clay and chalky soils in Gascony which are heavy and yet fertile, houses are often built into the side of slopes, hills and mountains.
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