Autumn                 2017
VOL. 21                NO. 4


FRANCE On Your Own banner
  The Independent Traveler's Newsletter


A Visit to  Occitanie & the Pyrénées  . . .
  ~ the Ariège, Haute-Garonne & Hautes-Pyrénées


          Twisted Tongues
             ~  Challenging French phrases 
Ici et Là

          Sant Joan de Caselles Romanesque church, Andorra.  Wikipedia

Andorra's Romanesque Architecture
Sant Joan de Caselles church

Pyrénées Mountain Adventure
            ~ with Paul Williams

In our next issue:

promised for this issue, but definitely in the next
  • Little Gems off the Beaten Path
  • Celts in France
  • Pyrénees Orientales
and more!

  This newsletter is best viewed with a Firefox browser with a full screen.  It is not formatted for printing.

  " If people want to do some big outdoor thing  for their ego, have them climb snowy mountains rather than shoot animals." 
                                               Conrad Anker  -  American mountaineer and author

A Visit to Occitanie & the Pyrénées ~  the Ariège, Haute-Garonne and Hautes-Pyrénées

The vast region of France formerly known as the Midi-Pyrénées and Languedoc-Roussillon was renamed nearly a year ago and is now Occitanie.  It takes in 8 départements of the former Midi region and 5 départements of Languedoc-Roussillon.  We would like to focus this edition of our newsletter on three of the four départements that border the Pyrénées mountain range:  Ariège [09], Haute-Garonne [31] and Hautes-Pyrénées [65].  With winter approaching soon, travelers to France may find this area, with its resorts and winter sports, an appealing destination, although it is well worth visiting at any time of year.

The capital of the new Occitanie is Toulouse in the Haute-Garonne.  This bustling city has a fine airport and rail station making your arrival to the region quite easy.  Airbus Industrie's main civil airplane business is based in Blagnac, France, a suburb of Toulouse, with production and manufacturing in five locations, but final assembly in Toulouse.  Tours of the facility are possible.

The Pyrénées

This rugged mountain range separates the Iberian Peninsula from the rest of Europe extending 305 miles from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean.  The highest point is 3404 meters (11,168 feet) at Aneto in Aragon, Spain.  Located in the mountain range between France and Spain is tiny Andorra, a principality (also known as a diarchy) headed by the President of France and the Catholic Bishop of Urgell, Spain.  The official language is Catalan.

Andorra has an interesting history; we visited the capital, Andorra la Vella, several years ago, and we found a tax-free town filled with shoppers from Spain and France.  At that time it was truly a tax haven, but the European Union has since pressured Andorra to institute some taxes.  However, it has never been a business tax haven, and that hasn't changed.  It had no income, capital gains, sales, gift or inheritance tax, and becoming a resident was a simple process.  There is now a VAT of 4.5% and a residency requirement of an investment of not less than €400,000.  A capital gains tax was added in 2016 that taxes profit from the sale of real estate at a maximum rate of 15%.  Most other investment income is still tax free.  The income tax implemented in 2016 is 10% for anyone earning over €40,000 per year if taxes were not paid elsewhere.

Returning to its history, following the fall of the Roman Empire Andorra came under the influence of the Visigoths from the Diocese of Urgell who remained in the valley for two hundred years.  Christianity spread during that time, but when the Muslim Empire conquered the Iberian peninsula, they replaced the ruling Visigoths.  Andorra was spared from this invasion by the Franks.  Tradition has it that Charlemagne (Charles the Great) granted a charter to the Andorran people for a contingent of 5,000 soldiers in return for fighting against the Moors. 


The Ariège département can seem rather remote.  Its dramatic terrain leads south the the jagged Pyrénées at its southern border.  Its rugged landscape mirrors its history ~ one of conflict, religious persecution and turmoil.  Today, it is an area of tiny villages, dedicated sheep herders and peace.  It is important as a natural museum of paintings depicting the spirit of prehistoric man ~ the canvases are the cave walls and the art work is beyond value.

Cathars (also known as Albigenisans) left their mark on Ariège and Languedoc as well: physically in their fortresses perched precariously on the summits of craggy outcroppings, and historically for their willingness to oppose the Church, the Pope and the King to practice their religion of sexual abstinence, vegetarianism and nonviolence.  Considered heretics for believing in the duality of good and evil, nonviolence did not protect them.  More than 20,000 were massacred in Languedoc and 225 died in defense of Monségur in the Ariège in 1244.

This, however, does not fairly portray the region.  The Ariège, geographically, is stunning.  Once called the 'Comte de Foix', the Ariège has frontiers with Andorra and Spain beyond the Pyrénées, and it is situated  between the former Languedoc and the area to the west of greater Gascony.  It is not a land for the faint of heart, but probably well suited to those who thrive on outdoor life and are seeking a place for hiking, exploring and studying prehistoric sites.

Known, as we noted earlier, for its plethora of caves, the Ariège will not disappoint those who are fascinated by early man and his artistic endeavors.  Aside from the wonders of the Upper Paleolithic Niaux, the caves around Tarascon-sur-Ariège are worth one's attention.  Also famous in the Áriège are the mérens horses, a hearty breed of black horses reaching back to Magdalenian times ~ horses that today are available to take you on mountain treks.  Lesser known, but nearly as interesting, is the meek mole called the desman, which is web-footed, aquatic and lives in the rivers of the département ~  rivers found to be quite unique in that they are the last in France where one can pan for gold!

                                                                                                                                                                           continued on page three


. .
  with a click  

>  and perhaps find an event or activity that interests you in the US or France in our Ici et Là column ~ and be sure to see our newest Ici et Là feature:  Did You Know? 


to read about an organization that will take you into the Pyrénées, tracing the route taken by people during World War II to escape from France into Spain ~ a risky endeavor for them, but much less so with your expert guides from Pyrénées Mountain Adventures.


>  to continue our visit to three départements of Occitanie that border the rugged Pyrénées mountain range ~ destinations for those who admire the beauty of nature, hiking, prehistoric sites, and just visiting areas of France not on the tourist route.  Beautiful, historic and not to be missed ~ Ariège, Haute-Garonne and Hautes-Pyrénées.

FRANCE On Your Own is always happy
 to receive articles from our readers
about their experiences in France.  We
can't guarantee when we will publish
 those we receive, but we will do our best to
include them for our other readers to enjoy.
[No payments are made for submissions used,  but
 we will promote your France-related book or project.]

                                                                                                                                                                                                contributed by Arthur Gillette

Welcome to Twisted Tongues, a French word game everyone can play.  Can you come up with the correct translation of the phrase in question?  You'll be surprised by how it differs from what you first thought it meant.

Answer from our Summer issue:   "Faire gaffe" does not mean "to make a mistake".  The slang meaning is "Watch out; take care!" 

Phrase:    "A la vache!"  Does it mean "To the cow?" No.  What do you think the slang meaning is?

Look for the correct translation in our Winter 2018 newsletter.  Have fun!

 We will continue to include Arthur Gillette's "Twisted Tongues" in our newsletter
until we exhaust the selection he kindly provided.  We hope you enjoy them as much as he
enjoyed the French language.  We are sure he would want us to continue the game . . .

                                                                                                               SPONSORING THIS ISSUE                                                                                                                      

Château de Garrevaques
Château de Garrevaques

Château de Garrevaques is an historic family home occupied by the 15th generation of the family who built it in 1460.  It offers
guests a five-bedroom apartment with five bathrooms, a salon and a modern kitchen perfect for a self-catering holiday.
The château also has a swimming pool and tennis court and is situated on 8 acres in the magnificent Tarn département of Occitanie
 ~ just northeast of Haute-Garonne.  The château is not far from the Airbus plant in Toulouse for interesting tours
 [which your hostess will be happy to schedule], the great city of Albi occupied by humans since the Bronze Age,
 and the amazing Millau Viaduct over the Tarn River Gorge  ~ the world's highest bridge. Fine restaurants are on the property,
and guests will find this château the perfect destination for a rewarding holiday in France. 

Click here or  on the photo for more information and reservations.

                                                                                                                                                                                         next page page 2
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