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Regions of France - Midi-Pyrénées

The Midi-Pyrénées is made up of eight departments : Ariège, Aveyron, Gers, Haute-Garonne, Hautes-Pyrénées, Lot, Tarn and Tarn-et-Garonne The largest region of France, it is bigger than many small countries such as Netherlands or Denmark.

An area of sharp contrasts, the capital is Toulouse, a bustling city which can reach 3,500 inhabitants per km² while the rest of the region is sparsely populated at just 12 to 60 folk per km², among the lowest densities in western Europe. Venture outside Toulouse and you can drive along the narrow winding roads without another car for miles, happily discovering the peaceful hilly countryside of Gascony or Lauragais.

Apart from the delights of Toulouse, (did we mention the Cité de l'Espace, the space experience in Toulouse?) there are other sights to add to your "must-see" list. Rocamadour, in the Lot, is among the most visited places in France, second only to Mont Saint-Michel. Perched on the rocky hillside in a gorge above the River Dordogne, its historical and religious monuments have, for centuries, attracted pilgrims, kings, bishops and lots of tourists from every country.

You could also drop in to Albi, the birthplace of Toulouse-Lautrec to see his paintings on display; Lourdes, the pilgrim town or Moissac with its medieval Saint-Pierre Abbey.

There are some unforgettable natural sites: Pic du Midi; Gavarnie; the Lot Valley; the Tarn Gorges... and if you're interested in insects, you'll love Micropolis in the Aveyron. Or simply enjoy nature yourself with a snowshoe hike, some cross-country skiing, or a snow board run.

Agriculture and the food processing industry are among the region's assets. However, while much of the region is rural, the economy relies heavily on the aeronautics and the space industry. The global headquarters of Airbus are in the capital with the first flight of the A380, as well as the Caravelle and Concord, taking place in the skies over Toulouse.

The Midi-Pyrénées offers you a great feast of food, and its menus are packed with local products with an international reputation. Foie gras is a specialty, while truffles, mysterious and rare, are often associated with the region.

Many products come with appellation d'origine contrôlée (guaranteed origin) status, and distinguished brands include Rocamadour goat's cheese, Quercy lamb, Lautrec garlic and Moissac chasselas grapes.

Cassoulet, aligot (mashed potatoes with cheese), garbure (soup with cabbage and confit of goose), stockfish and gâteau à la broche (spit-roasted cake) are just some of the traditional recipes that make the Midi-Pyrénées a region of culinary delights.

Midi- Pyrénées combines the excitement and bustle of Toulouse with the slower pace of life and special charm of country villages. Definitely a region to put on your list of places to visit in France.