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Cities in the southwest France: history, tourist sites, activities.

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Eight suggestions for touring the southwest of France.

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Traditional dish recipes from southwest part of France.

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Tourist Sites in and around Foix

Tourist sites and attractions within a radius of km* from the city center

* The distances are point to point and not driving distances!

At around: 0 km

Foix Castle "Touche-y si tu oses" - "Touch it if you dare!"
Gaston Fèbus, Count de Foix motto, an allusion to his impregnable castles, including Foix Castle .
The Castle of Foix dominates from its rocky promontory the town of Foix and the Valley of Ariege River. According to some legends a sanctuary dedicated to Abellio - the sun God of the Iberians - was situated on the castle cliff.
The first mentions of the existence of the castle date from the 10th century AD. In the 11th century the fortress became the power hub of the newly created Foix earldom.
During the centuries the castle that was never abandoned (for 2 centuries starting from the 18th century it was used as a...

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At around: 13.77 km

Lombrives Cave The Lombrives Cave belongs to a network of caves of the valley of Vicdessos in Ariege.
With its length of 40 km is recorded in The Guinness Book of Records for more than 20 years.
The cave combines outstanding speleothems with the mysterious aura that different legends have given it.
The cave that has 7 level, from which only 2 are accessible to the tourists, was inhabited- as attested by a multitude of artifacts found inside - during the prehistoric times.
In antiquity the legend wants that the lost love of the legendary hero Hercules, Pyréne found her death in the cave and was buried there - hence the name "Tombeau de Pyréne" given to a stalagmite.
In the middle ages the cave was...

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Grand Site d'Ariège At around: 16.46 km

Niaux Cave Situated in the Ariège department of the south west of France, 5km south of the town of Tarascon-sur-Ariège, Niaux cave is one of the few original decorated caves still open to the public. Abbé Breuil (1877 –1961) the French priest / archeologist recognized as a world authority on North African and European Stone Age art - considered Niaux cave as being one of the 6 giants of the pre-history together with Lascaux and Altamira. On the walls of the cave one can admire no fewer than 111 high quality paintings representing animals: bisons, horses and deers and dating from Magdalenian era, some 13 thousands years ago. The cave can be visited only by appointment. ...
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At around: 19.27 km

The Rock Carved Church of Vals The rock carved church of Vals, a tiny village - population 86! - situated in the Ariège department of southwest of France, is a jewel of the religious architecture of the Middle Ages.
Dedicated to Sainte Marie the church is interesting for its three levels, partially stone carved, construction and for the frescoes that decorate the ceiling of its apse.
The oldest part of the church is its so called crypt (the hall after the entrance) dating probably from the 9th or 10th century.
The apse was built in the 11th century and beautifully painted in the beginning of the 12th century. The dating was done by style comparison with more famous frescoes in other Catalan churches - whose date is known. ...

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Cathar Castle At around: 21.18 km

Montsegur Castle Richard Wagner has celebrated it in Parsifal:"In a remote country, far from your steps//A castle exists that is called Montsalvat" and according to the legend the cathar Grail - a stone that fell from the sky and illuminates the whole world - is still hidden in the bowels of the mountain the castle sits on the top of.
This legend was taken to its face value - and it is maybe true! - by the German writer Otto Rahn, who spend several years in the '30s in the search of the Grail. He did not find it but his travels and actions seem to be, according to some, the inspiration for the "Indiana Jones" movies by George Lucas!
Montsegur Castle is...

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Grand Site de Midi-Pyrénées At around: 23.73 km

Mas d'Azil Village and Cave Mas d’Azil cave – in the Ariège department of south west of France - is the only cave in Europe that can be crossed by car.
The cave was formed some 2 million years ago and is now famous for the many artifacts found here that bear witness to a human inhabitance during the prehistoric times of "Magdalenian" period – some 17,000 to 12,000 years ago - and "Azilian" period – between 12,000 and 9,000 years ago.
The best known items found in the cave are the painted pebbles (see photos) now world renowned and that transfered the name of the Mas d’Azil village to the "Azilian" historic period.
In more recent centuries the cave became a gathering and prayer place...

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Grand Site du Midi-Pyrénées At around: 26.08 km

Mirepoix Mirepoix, a town of just above 3,000 inhabitants in the Ariège department of southwest of France, is nowadays the proud bearer of the distinction "Grand Site du Midi-Pyrénées".
Due to its urban design Mirepoix can be described as a "bastide" - a fortified town with parallel roads and houses located around a central square.
Mirepoix region was inhabited since the dawn of the time. During the Neolithic times a new population coming from the Iberic peninsula arrived here and marked its territory with megaliths and dolmens that can still be seen in Ariège.
It is only in the 10th century that the town of Mirepoix is born at the feet of a fortified castle overlooking the Hers River valley from the right...

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Mysterious At around: 27.5 km

The Intermittent Spring of Fontestorbes The intermittent spring of Fontestorbes is a natural wonder.
It was already famous during antiquity and throughout the centuries it was attributed magical or divine powers.
Its name Fontestorbes comes from the Latin "fons turbatus" which means "enraged fountain". During the dry periods between the middle of July and middle of November the spring becomes intermittent.
A cycle starts with the water gushing noisily from the bottom of the cave with an impressive speed, and then it calms down and flows normally during 10 minutes until it reaches the maximum level from where it forms a cascade that feeds the river l'Hers. Subsequently the water starts to recede to finally disappear through a breach in the right part of the cave.
The whole cycle...

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Plus Beaux Villages de France At around: 29.9 km

Camon Situated in Ariège department of the southwest, Camon is a fortified village listed as one of the most beautiful in France "Plus Beaux Villages de France".
The village was born towards the end of the first millennium of Christian era, on the banks of the River Hers, next to a Benedictine abbey founded in 778 by Charlemagne.
On June 18, 1279 the village - like all the other communities located on the Hers River valley - was completely destroyed by a flood.
During the next 30 or so years the village was rebuilt after the urbanistic plans of the time of a French royal fortress.
In 1494 the town was in large part destroyed again by...

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Grands Sites des Midi-Pyrénées, Plus Beaux Villages de France At around: 38.6 km

Saint Lizier The little town of Saint Lizier in the department of Ariège, region Occitanie is listed as one of the most beautiful villages of France ("Plus beaux villages de France"), as a major site of the region ("Grands sites de Midi-Pyrénées") and has its ancient church listed in the UNESCO's World Heritage along with all the other sites and monuments on the road to Saint James de Compostella.
This charming little town - population 17,000 - is situated at the feet of the Pyrenean Mountains in the picturesque valleys of Couserans. Its name, Saint Lizier, comes from the name, Lycerius or Glycerius, of the second bishop of the region who lived here in the 6th century AD and who after sanctification...

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At around: 42.62 km

Fanjeaux and Prouilhe Monastery Fanjeaux, Prouilhe and Montréal are three villages situated in the picturesque "Pays Lauragais", a mild hilled region that extends between the "les Corbières", Pyrenean Mountains and the Mountaine Noire in the southeast of Toulouse. The villages are historic sites closely connected to the life of Saint Dominic (or Dominique) the founder of the Catholic Dominican Order - also called the "Order of the Preachers".
Dominic de Guzman, the future saint, arrived in this region in 1206 in his way back to his native Spain but encountering the Catharism phenomenon, a heresy that was at the time on the rise in the southwest of France, decide to remain temporarily here and preach the Catholic faith.
While in Montréal no artifact remains from the...

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At around: 47.04 km

The village of Avignonet-Lauragais Avignonet-Lauragais is a small village -population a little over 1000 –situated in the department of Haute Garonne not far from the "Autoroute des Deux Mers" that links Toulouse to Carcassonne to Narbonne. It is also a village situated on the banks of the Canal du Midi. The site of the village was inhabited since 8,000 BC.
Arguably the most important event in Avignonet-Lauragais's history took place in 1242, during the last years of the crusade against the Cathars, when in May of that year the Inquisition set up a tribunal here. The village was at the time the turf of Raymond d’Alfaro one of the officers of Raymond VII Count of Toulouse, a known cathar supporter.
During the night of May 12,...

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UNESCO Heritage List At around: 47.27 km

Seuil de Naurouze Seuil de Naurouze was one of the 3 important parts _ besides the canal itself and the water reservoir - of the system called Canal du Midi. The water from the Saint Ferreol lake was channeled to this specific location "Seuil de Naurouze" that was established by Pierre Paul de Riquet as being the highest point - 189.43 altitude - of the Canal.
Water spilled on one side of the threshold flows towards the Atlantic while spilled on the other side flows towards the sea.
The threshold is physically represented by the water between the two locks called significantly "Ocean" and "Mediterranée" situated 5km from each other.
The complex of Naurouze was built between 1669 and 1673. It was initially a...

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At around: 48.27 km

Castelnaudary Castelnaudary, a town situated in the department of Aude on the route between Toulouse and Carcassonne is best known for its culinary specialty, the cassoulet, and its "Grand Bassin", the artificial lake created by Pierre Paul de Riquet during the construction of the Canal du Midi.
The Castelnaudary inhabitants - called "Chauriens- consider the Cassoulet of Castelnaudary to be the "father" of all the other cassoulet versions and dedicate it an annual celebration: "La fête du cassoulet". For more information on this celebration visit :
Beside the cassoulet, the other emblem of the town is the Grand Bassin. It is an artificial lake of 7 ha, part of the bigger structure of the Canal du Midi, that was inaugurated...

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