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The Midi-Pyrenees region of France

The Midi-Pyrenees is located with the mountains of the Massif Central at the top and the Pyrenees Mountains at the bottom along with the regions of Roussillon to the east and Aquitaine to the west. The Midi-Pyrenees region is the biggest populated region in France, larger in size than Denmark or the Netherlands with a span of over 17,000 square miles in Southern France. Widely known as the origin of Roquefort cheese, the Airbus aircraft and the Catholic pilgrimage centre of Lourdes, the Midi-Pyrenees is a region of cultural opposites and varied contrasts represented by its people and contributions to its communities as well as the international world.

In contrast to the seemingly ongoing conflict before the 11th century in northern France, the Midi-Pyrenees region was enjoying a creative and peaceful existence. Good food, wine and song were freely shared from one chateau to another until northern France claimed the region and unified it with the French kingdom conclusively. Next, the Hundred Years' War between England and France came about and the people of the Midi-Pyrenees built a huge number of 'bastides' or secured villages in which 500 still remain in the region today. The English took over the region in 1154 and was then taken back by the French in 1453.

The city of Toulouse is located in the southwest of France on the edge of the Garonne River. Toulouse has the second largest population in southern France and it is the location of the European aerospace industry. Also located in Toulouse is the second largest university campus in France with the Universite Toulouse I, Unitversite de Toulouse Le Mirail and Universite Paul Sabatier as well as engineering schools. The architecture of Toulouse is aesthetically pleasing and is sometimes referred to as the 'pink city' because of its identifying brick architecture. Graffiti is a celebrated art form here led by the painter Miss Van. The Hotel du Grand Balcon features a gallery of the works of Antione de Saint-Exupery who is widely known for his book The Little Prince.

The town of Lourdes is most recognized for its connection to the Roman Catholic Church and its miraculous claims related to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Each year, people from all over the world make a pilgrimage to Lourdes where spring water from a grotto is thought to have healing powers. In fact, the Roman Catholic Church has formally acknowledged 66 miraculous recoveries associated with this grotto.

Gascony is in the southwest of France and is the home of a number of people known as Basques that are of an unknown origin. It is also where the famous d'Artagnan and the Three Musketeers originated. Gascony's food and Armagnac brandy have it often referenced as the 'sweetness of life' in the Midi-Pyrenees. It's medieval towns and villages nestled in between gently rounded green hills, graceful landscaping, bright weather and the periodic view of the Pyrenees Mountains makes Gascony one of the most visited areas of France. Because Gascony is one of the least inhabited areas in Western Europe, a number of people from northern Europe including France and England have taken to buying second homes in Gascony for holidays.

What is considered by some to be the most beautiful area by the western formation of Midi-Pyrenees is the Pays de Bigorre. The landscape is raw and wild featuring the Cirque de Gavarinie, which is a natural amphitheater created by glacial action of quick moving streams, and the Parc National des Pyrenees.

The region of the Midi-Pyrenees is famous for its distinguishing lore, ancestral theater, games, music and a vigorously active, light-stepping form of dance. The home of abbeys like the church of Sainte-Foy and Flaran, medieval homes, churches, chapels, the Montsegur citadel, the Cathedral of Sainte-Marie and many other architectural, artistic and natural, breathtaking panoramas, the Midi-Pyrenees is an area to be discovered over and over again.