Hautes-Pyrénées

  • France’s craft beer boom has been building slowly for several years, but the impact of this hops revolution really struck me one summer evening while meeting a friend for a glass of wine. We had sat on the terrace of a bar across from the Marché de Carmes in Toulouse and ordered two glasses of red wine. As we waited for them to arrive, I noticed something odd as the waiter continued to take other orders. Young, old, middle age, they were all ordering beer. I craned my neck around and couldn’t see another glass or bottle of wine in…

  • High on our list of places to visit when we first moved to France in 2014 was the Pyrénées. On a clear day, one could see the snow-capped peaks from Toulouse, beckoning to those who wanted to escape city life. And so, on the first vacation for the kids, that’s what we did. Amid the frenzied weeks of settling in and getting the kids enrolled in schools, we were shocked to discover the details of the vacances scolaire. It seemed they had just barely started classes in September, and now loomed a two-week break at the end of October, known…

  • Producing a lavish musical like “Bernadette de Lourdes” would represent a massive risk no matter where it was being staged. It’s far from a sure thing that audiences would embrace a religious-themed story packed with power ballads and rousing songs about a 19th-century teenage saint who claimed to see visions of Jesus’ mother. But “Bernadette” faces other considerable hurdles. It’s a French musical premiering in a country that has never really shown much enthusiasm for the art form. (Don’t even get the French started on “Les Miserables.”). And it is being performed in Lourdes, the southwestern city that Bernadette made…

  • France’s Occitanie region is stuffed with visual and architectural delights. But the region highlights a select number of these gems with the label “Grands Sites.” During our winter holiday in Cauterets we had the chance to explore one of the more majestic ones on that list: Pont d’Espagne. Located at about 1,493 meters up, the Pont d’Espagne was once upon a time a trading route between France and Spain. Located in the Pyrénées National Park in the Hautes Pyrénées Departement, the valley now is pastoral wonderland in the summer that leads to Lake Gaube. But in the winter, it’s another…

  • During our visit to Cauterets over vacances, the decision to eat dinner at Le Brasero offered a reminder of a how even such mundane outings can still be an adventure. Even after four years in France, we can open a menu and understand the words without knowing what they actually mean. An onglet de bœuf? What is a “tab” of beef? (Answer: skirt steak). Google Images has often been our savior in such instances, helping us decode the culinary vocabularly, which essentially remains a third language to us. I’m not sure we could afford to eat out often enough to…

  • After a slow start, the snow has hit the Pyréneés with a vengance. And with more than 4 meters of snowfall, Le Cirque du Lys in Cauterets has the most snow of any station in France. Ski season can be short, and temperatures are already projected to start rising in the coming weeks. So best go now, if you can. For a last-minute getaway to Cauterets, here’s a few tips. Snow Skiing You can reach Le Cirque du Lys with a 12-minute gondolan ride from Cauterets. The summit offers a wide panoramic view. And its altitude makes it one of…

  • The snow has returned to the Pyrénées, much to the relief of tourists and the tourist industry alike. And so if you’re looking for quick getaway for the family to play in the white stuff, Val D’Azun is a great place to start. We made the long and windy drive from Toulouse up to the Station Val D’Azun. One passes through the town of Argelès-Gazost in the Hautes-Pyrénées Department before climbing the last few kilometers. But once there, we discovered a sweet, family-oriented station that offers three distinct experiences: Cross-country skiing (or “Nordique”) Snow shoe trails (“Raquettes”) Nordic Park, a…

  • With busy work schedules and kids’ activities, we had a hard time this year planning a weekend escape to the Pyrénées. Which was especially a bummer because the region was getting more snow than it had in several years. But we finally managed to pull it off, and decided to head to one our favorite regions, the valley that leads to Loudenvielle. We stayed near Loudenvielle for our first trip up here in 2014. So this time we decided to make camp in a different town situated just to the west: Aulon. From the highway, the drive took us up…

  • During our latest trip to the Pyrénées, I took the kids skiing for a day at Saint-Lary-Soulan. Having skied for many years in California’s Lake Tahoe area, one of the nice things about the Pyrénées is that the cost of lift tickets and equipment rental is much more reasonable. For instance, an adult lift ticket is about $50. On our way from Aulon to Saint Lary, we stopped at Kangri Sports to rent skis and boots for the kids for about $30 for the day. Saint-Lary-Soulan is a solid, medium-sized station with 100 km of slopes and thirty ski lifts. We had beautiful…

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