Events in the Ariège

History

Ariège is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790. It was created from the counties of Foix and Couserans.

Foix is the administrative capital of the Ariege and 2 other major towns are Pamiers and Mirepoix. Foix is an ancient medieval town with a fine fortress perched on a hill above the town, called Chateau de Foix. The fortress has been attacked many times, including by Simon de Montfort, without anyone succeeding to capture it and it has also been used as a prison. The names of English Prisoners of War can still be seen on the old cell walls. Another famous chateau is Montsegur, spectacularly located on a rocky outcrop at a height of 1200 metres (3900 ft). The present ruin at Montségur is not actually the work of the Cathars. During the siege of 1244 the chateau was largely destroyed and the fortress was largely rebuilt in the second half of the 13th century. The chateau has a painful past for after the fall of the chateau in 1244, more than 200 Cathar priests were burnt at the stake as heretics due to their alternative Christian (Cathar)faith.

Of the other towns in the Ariege, Pamiers offers a large commercial centre and 3 fine churches, Mirepoix is a beautiful medieval town, Saint-Girons is a fine agricultural centre with one of the best markets (on Saturdays) in south west France. Saint-Lizier is a very picturesque medieval hilltop town with winding streets and fine views. The cloisters in the church are definitely worth seeing.

Close to La Hasta is the Cave of Niaux which contains many wonderful prehistoric paintings dating from between 11500 and 10500 years BC.

Some of the prehistoric paintings at the Cave of Niaux

Geography

The department is part of the current region of Midi-Pyrénées and is surrounded by the French departments of Haute-Garonne, Aude, and Pyrénées-Orientales, as well as Spain and Andorra on the south.

The geography is dominated by the Pyrenees mountains, which form the border between France and Spain. There are hundreds of miles of well marked paths which lead you to explore the magnificent Pyrenees mountains. The high mountains are easily accessible via good roads, cable cars or by foot.

There are also a number of fresh water lakes which provide a variety of activities including, walking, swimming, fishing, canoeing, sailboarding and also picnicing.

The Ariege has several of its own downhill ski resorts, the three largest being Ax-Bonascre, Les Monts D'Olmes and Guzet. There are many cross country ski-ing resorts, one of the best being at Plateau de Beille, near Les Cabannes.

The Pyrenees mountain range forms a fantastic backdrop to the entire Ariege Department, rising some 10000 feet (3000m) along the border with Andorra and Spain. The highest peaks are clearly visible visible from Toulouse in the Haute Garonne. It is one of the least populated and most unspoiled regions of France. The locals enjoy keeping old traditions alive, especially farming techniques. Consequently, as less insecticides, for example, have been used, the flora and fauna of the area are rich in diversity and number. Butterflies are seen in huge numbers, birds are numerous, particularly noticeable are the large birds of prey, including the magnificent Griffon vultures.

There are also many unspoiled villages and hamlets tucked away in the valleys close to the department's border with Spain, such as Seix, Cominac and Aulus Les Bain, and picturesque mountain villages, most notably Aleu which comes alive in the holiday season.


© La Hasta 2017