- 1 If you want to discover the best of the Midi-Pyrenees in France read on for our recommendations on safety, driving, weather, things to do and where to stay to make the most of your visit.
- 1.1 Is it Safe to Travel to France and the Midi-Pyrenees?
- 1.2 Where is the Midi-Pyrenees
- 1.3 Weather
- 1.4 Best Places To Visit in the Midi – Pyrenees
- 1.5 Getting In
If you want to discover the best of the Midi-Pyrenees in France read on for our recommendations on safety, driving, weather, things to do and where to stay to make the most of your visit.
With so many regions in France vying for the tourist $$$ how do you ensure that you have chosen the right French destination.
France ranks the #1 country to visit each year and its capital Paris ranks in the top #3.
When someone mentions France to you what images first come to mind? For us, it is the French cuisine, Champagne and Rose wine, hot summer days in the countryside sailing down the canals, smiling sunflowers fields as far as the eye can see, quaint sleepy villages and the most aromatic markets in Europe.
We ticked off all of these images on our time spent in the Midi-Pyrenees. To say it is a spectacular destination of France is an understatement.
The Midi-Pyrenees is famous for:
- the famous Pyrenees Mountain Range
- Canal du Midi
- Niaux and Peche-Merle Caves
- picturesque villages
- medieval fortified towns
- hiking trails
- Local cuisine
- Wines and Armagnac
With so much to offer the Midi-Pyrenees is a perfect destination summer or winter. You can spend your days’ sightseeing, biking, hiking or skiing and then in the evening relax over a glass or two of local wine and enjoy the seasonal delights of the local cuisine.
Is it Safe to Travel to France and the Midi-Pyrenees?
Over the past years, one of the most often asked questions travellers have been asking is whether France is safe to travel to these days?
In 2018 89 million tourists visited France. Yes, 89 million compared to 85 million back in 2013. It does seem that the recent terrorist attacks have not deterred the traveller.
Since 2013 we have stayed in Paris twice, sailed down the Canal du Lateral, enjoyed 2 weeks sipping champagne in the Champagne region, spent time in Nice, Cannes and Marseille and spent 3 weeks in the Midi-Pyrenees. Like those millions of travellers before us we were not put off by the terror threats or attacks.
Where is the Midi-Pyrenees
The Midi-Pyrenees lies in the South West region of France between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It is the largest region of France with Toulouse being its Capital. Toulouse is located in the Haute-Garonne department.
There are 8 departments. France is divided into regions first then departments. The 8 departments of the Midi-Pyrenees are:
- It has the largest number of farms in all of France numbering approximately 60,000
- The region is larger than Belgium or Switzerland
- The highest mountain is 3,000 metres and there are 38 ski resorts
- The Canal du Midi runs for 149 miles through the region with 63 locks
- The town of Lourdes lies in the region. It is the #2 visited site in France outside Paris. It is a famous religious pilgrimage where the Virgin Mary appeared to a peasant girl in 1858.
- The major aircraft corporation Airbus has its global headquarters there
- The first flight of the Airbus A380 took place over Toulouse
- It is famous for Foie Gras, Black Truffles, Roquefort Cheese and Cassoulet – the meat and bean casserole
- It contains the Gaillac Vineyard which is one of the oldest in France and is famous for its white wine
- It also contains the most famous Vineyard – Armagnac which is well known for its French Brandy
What You Need To Know To Make The Most Out of Your Visit to the Midi-Pyrenees
- Currency: France uses the Euro. Notes come in 500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10, 5 and Coins 2, 1, 50 cents, 10 cents, 5 cents, 2 cents, 1 cent.
- ATMs: In France ATMs are called ‘distributeur’. We would recommend only using ATMs that have a camera if it is an outside machine or otherwise during the week use the ATMs located within the bank building. If you are travelling through the country-side and visiting small villages we would recommend that you have some Euros with you as Banks may be limited. There will be a fee to withdraw cash from your cards – we would recommend that you source the banks where you are travelling to and find out the cost of cash withdrawals from their ATMs.
- Language: French is the official language, in the Midi-Pyrenees Catalan dialects are spoken. You will find most French people in the tourism industry speaks English but in Paris and regions you will need to know some French language basics.
- Voltage: Standard voltage is 230V. You will need a travel adaptor.
Why we were in the Midi-Pyrenees
We were on a housesitting assignment in a small village called Encausse in the Gers Region, 34km from Toulouse, during the summer months of July and August when the sunflower fields were in full bloom. Housesitting gives you the opportunity to enjoy living like a local. The homeowners gave us the use of one of their cars as the village was quite a distance from a supermarket.
Tips for Driving in France
- In France you drive on the right
- Most rental cars are manual.
- You will see speed limit signs on the major motorways. When you arrive into a small town or village as soon as you pass the Town’s Name the speed limit is 50km.
- In villages and towns you need to give way to the right when vehicles are coming out of side roads.
- If you are going to drive on toll-roads check with the car rental firm about payment.
- With effect from 1st July 2018 the speed limit on A and B roads have been reduced to 80km.
- Ensure that you know the regulations about drink driving. If you have held your license for less than 3 years the limit is 0.2 grams per litre and over 3 years it is 0.5 grams per litre.
The summer months between June and August are the busiest times to visit the Midi-Pyrenees. During this period accommodation costs will be higher than the rest of the year except for Christmas and Easter.
Summer temperatures can be very high and winter temperatures can be very low with snow on the Mountain Ranges. The Midi-Pyrenees’ weather is influenced by the Massif Central Mountains to the North and the Pyrenees to the South. The first snow is expected around October.
The Spring and Autumn months are ideal for travellers.
Best Places To Visit in the Midi – Pyrenees
Toulouse, the Capital of the Midi-Pyrenees is also known as “La Ville Rose” or the “Pink City” named because of the colour of the terracotta bricks used in many of its buildings.
Toulouse is an ideal location in South Western France being only 1 hour from the Atlantic Ocean and 1 hour from the Mediterranean Sea. Those who enjoy winter sports will be pleased to know that there are 47 ski resorts within a 3 hours drive from Toulouse.
If you have had a French dish called ‘cassoulet’ a bean and meat stew, this classic french dish originated in Toulouse.
Toulouse has 2 UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the Canal du Midi and the Basilica of St Sernin.
One of the top tourist attractions in Toulouse is the Capitole du Toulouse. It dates back to the 12th Century and houses the City Hall and the 1,256 seat Theatre Du Captiole. It is free to visit.
A great way of seeing Toulouse is travelling on the open-top bus. The journey takes about 70 minutes. Journey through the old town and admire the main churches of the Cathédrale Saint-Étienne de Toulouse (Toulouse Cathedral) and Basilica of Saint-Sernin. Pass the Renaissance façade of the Hôtel d’Assézat, where the art gallery of the Bemberg Foundation contains a stunning collection of 19th and 20th-century French paintings.
If you only have a day in Toulouse a private walking tour may be of interest. You will enjoy a history lesson and local tips when you wander the banks of the Garonne River with your guide as well as a visit to the Basilica of Saint-Sernin.
Best Hotels in Toulouse
There are 395 hotels listed in the Toulouse City Centre. You can choose from luxury hotels or smaller 1 and 2 star budget hotels. We would recommend staying close to the city centre of Toulouse. It is a very walkable city and you will be in close proximity to Toulouse’s two famous bridges – Pont-Neuf and Pont Saint-Pierre. The major boulevards – Boulevard de Strasbourg, Boulevard d’arcole and Rue de Metz are also close by.
For shopping the following streets are where you should head to:
- Rue d’Alsace-Lorraine,
- Rue Saint-Rome,
- Rue Pargaminières,
- Place du Capitole,
- Rue des Lois,
- Rue du Taur,
Some of the most popular hotels in Toulouse’s city centre are:
Address: 7 Place du Capitole, Capitole Toulouse
The Crown Plaza is close to Toulouse’s main retail and shopping areas. The terrace is popular for sun-worshippers or those who want to enjoy a glass or two of the local wines. French cuisine can be enjoyed at the hotel’s restaurant.
Address: 8-10 Rue Romiguieres, Capitole, Toulouse
Restaurants, cafes and nightclubs can be found located close by the Le Grand Balcon. The major shopping streets are just minutes away.
Address: 1 Place du Capitole, Capitole, Toulouse
A 4 star hotel located close to the major tourist attractions of Toulouse. The hotel offers a sauna and a Turkish Steam bath perfect after a day of sightseeing.
As you drive through the very small village of Lareole, you cannot miss the grand Chateau de Lareole. A Chateau built in the Renaissance style, using bricks alternating with local stone, started construction in 1579 and was finished 3 years later. The large quadrangle building with 4 towers was commissioned by a highly successful pastel merchant from Toulouse - Pierre de Cheverry.
Today you can visit free of charge, enjoy a meal or a coffee at the small Cafe, wander through the gift shop and enjoy various exhibitions throughout the year.
Driving Distance from Toulouse: 50 minutes
Lourdes has the most hotel rooms outside of Paris. It is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in France with on average 6 million visitors per year. The legend of Lourdes is that the Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubirous, a peasant girl, 18 times during 1858. Since that year miraculous cures have known to have taken place in Lourdes.
A day tour is available from Toulouse to Lourdes. You will enjoy a private walking tour with your own guide. The tour includes a pick up from your hotel in Toulouse.
Where to stay in Lourdes:
Over 4 million visitors visit the fortified city of Carcassonne each year. The UNESCO World Heritage Site looks like something out of Disneyland. Can you imagine a whole city that is a castle and the new town is located below it? If you visit in Summer you must expect the crowds we would recommend saving your visit time to Spring or Autumn.
If you are staying in Toulouse you can enjoy a private tour click here for more information.
Toulouse-Blagnac International Airport is located 8km out of Toulouse.
The Toulouse-Matabiau SCNF Train Station is located a 10 minute walk from the Place du Capitol - the heart of Toulouse.
The average train time from Paris to Toulouse is 5 hours.
The average train time from Toulouse to Barcelona is 4 hours 20 minutes.
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