The Midi-Pyrénées is the largest French region, and is even larger than eight of the European Union states. Located between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, it is often referred to as « the region where the living is good » by its 2,550,000 inhabitants and the hundreds of thousands of visitors that come to every corner of the Midi-Pyrénées each year.
The Midi-Pyrénées is made up of 8 departments : Ariège, Aveyron, Gers, Haute-Garonne, Hautes-Pyrénées, Lot, Tarn and Tarn-et-Garonne. All except the Hautes-Pyrénées department owe their name to the river that crosses them. The region is predominantly rural, but also has a strong presence in aeronautics and the space industry, giving it extensive influence in Europe. As a key point on the routes through Europe, the Midi-Pyrénées is continually improving its transport networks. Toulouse-Blagnac airport is the fourth airport of France.
The Midi-Pyrénées is bordered to both the north and south by mountains, and the Pyrenees form a natural frontier with Spain. The Pyrenees National Park, one of the seven national parks in France, covers a 45,700 hectare protected-nature site. The region also boasts three regional nature parks. In the north, in the foothills of the Massif Central, are the Aubrac and Causses mountains, limestone plateaux formed by the water. The caves of Padirac, in the Lot, are considered to be one of Europe’s greatest geological curiosities. The Ariège, meanwhile, has an abundance of caves that tell stories about the life of Homo sapiens.
The Midi-Pyrénées has endless attractions to explore. Rocamadour, in the Lot, is among the most visited places of interest in France, second only to Mont Saint-Michel. If you are interested in insects and nature, be sure not to miss Micropolis in the Aveyron. If you prefer flying objects, the Cité de l’Espace, the space experience in Toulouse, is a must-see. And, of course, you could also join us for a snowshoe hike, some cross-country skiing, or a snow board run. The region is home to 23 of the 38 winter sports resorts in the Pyrenees, which also represent a popular place for fishing.
The economy of the region is based on a number of key sectors. Aeronautics and the space industry are at the top of the list in terms of both reputation and jobs, with some 80,000 employees. The global headquarters of Airbus are in Toulouse. The first flight of the A380, like that of the Caravelle and Concorde before it, took place in the skies over Toulouse. Agriculture and the food processing industry are also among the region’s assets. What were once considered handicaps – very varied produce and small farms – are now seen as advantages that guarantee high-quality products for consumers. The vineyards of the region are also highly regarded : the Gaillac vineyard is one of the oldest in France, while the Armagnac vineyard is world famous.
The countless markets in the region represent an opportunity to discover new things and meet the stallholders, the people who make the Midi-Pyrénées what it is. They are all proud of their expertise, like the Laguiole cutlers who work in the heart of the Aveyron to forge the famous knives bearing the bee symbol, and the artisans of Martres-Tolosane who can still decorate earthenware in the same way that their ancestors did. Each summer, the shepherds follow the same paths to take their sheep to pasture. The seasonal movement of livestock to pastures in Aubrac and in the Pyrenees is an occasion for fairs, which offer not only a warm welcome, but also a great sense of celebration. Even the modern movement of people that is the Tour de France cannot overlook our region, as each year the event travels through the Midi-Pyrénées, lingering on the way…
The Midi-Pyrénées is a history book waiting to be opened. In Montségur, the tragic events of the Cathar faith can be relived, while there are many places that bear witness to the bloody crusade against the Albigeois. Conques, Toulouse and Saint-Bertrand de Comminges bring to mind the thousands of pilgrims who set off for Santiago de Compostello, while Lourdes welcomes visitors from the world over. The history of the region is inextricably linked to the people who have left their mark on it. Without their dedication, the Pic du Midi would have remained a natural panoramic viewpoint exclusive to the most daring. Moving in the opposite direction, it is possible to enter the heart of the earth – like the black-faced miners of yesteryear – to visit the mines that have now been converted into museums. It was here that Carmaux and Jaurès made one of the most important contributions to the history of the labour movement.
Occitan, a language which was once banned, is now a subject examined as part of the baccalaureate ! As you walk through the village streets, for each enthusiastic hello that you hear in Occitan – adieu – there is a friendly bonjour… And Occitanie, the home of Occitan, is also the home of rugby ! The culture of the region is supported by a rich heritage. In Albi, the hometown of Toulouse-Lautrec, the work of the painter is on display. Montauban is not to be missed by lovers of Ingres, who was born there. You can visit our fortified towns with their unique appearance and special charm. You can look at the dovecotes in fields and farm courtyards. You can admire both the warmth of the omnipresent red brick around Toulouse and the tough tilestone roofs in the Lot and Aveyron.
The Midi-Pyrénées offers you a great feast of food, and its menus are packed with local products with an international reputation. Foie gras comes top of the list, while truffles, mysterious and too rare, are often associated with the region. We have many products with appellation d’origine contrôlée (guaranteed origin) status, and distinguished brands including Rocamadour goat’s cheese, Quercy lamb, Lautrec garlic and Moissac chasselas grapes. Even nature offers its treasures to passers-by, with cep mushrooms to be found in the undergrowth in autumn and bryony along the paths in spring. Cassoulet, aligot (mashed potatoes with cheese), garbure (soup with cabbage and confit of goose), stockfish and gâteau à la broche (spit-roasted cake) are just some of the traditional recipes that make the Midi-Pyrénées a region of culinary delights.
CONSEIL REGIONAL MIDI-PYRENEES
22, boulevard du Maréchal-Juin
31406 Toulouse Cedex 9
Tél : 05 61 33 50 50
Fax : 05 61 33 52 66