VOL. 21 NO. 4
Independent Traveler's Newsletter
IN THIS ISSUE:
A Visit to Occitanie &
the Pyrénées . . .
~ Challenging French phrases
Ici et Là
Andorra's Romanesque Architecture
Pyrénées Mountain Adventure
~ with Paul Williams
In our next issue:
promised for this issue, but definitely in the next
newsletter is best viewed with a Firefox
browser with a full screen.
It is not
" If people want to do some
big outdoor thing for their ego, have them climb snowy mountains
rather than shoot animals."
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
border the Pyrénées mountain
range: Ariège ,
Haute-Garonne  and
Hautes-Pyrénées . With winter
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.
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
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
LOOK INSIDE . . 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.]
TONGUES . . .
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.
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!
will continue to include Arthur
Gillette's "Twisted Tongues" in our newsletter
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.
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Recommendations are not guarantees of satisfaction and are made only
to assist travelers with suggestions and web sites that we have found very useful.