Ariege - French Property
The department of Ariege is located in the central area of the Pyrenees, bordering Andorra to the south, Aude and Pyrenees Orientals to the east and Haute Garonne to the west. The geography of the region varies dramatically from flat arable land in the North, just south of Toulouse, to wild high mountains in the south. Still relatively 'undiscovered' Ariege has much to offer, especially those keen on outdoor activities.
The regional capital of Ariege, Foix is an attractive compact town offering all the usual conveniences, while being overshadowed by a fairytale castle. About 20 minutes drive south lies Tarascon-sur-Ariege, with the spar town of Ax-les-Thermes another 1/2 hour by car towards Andorra. Ax provides an excellent place to sit and steam after a hard day skiing in the winter, or walking, climbing or mountain biking in the summer.
Roughly 40km to the west of Foix, St Girons provides an excellent base for those keen on seeking to climb the elegant Mont Valier. Seen from as far away as Toulouse Mont Valier provides the centrepiece of the Reserve du Mont Valier, the oldest park in the Pyrenees, and one of the few places in the region where is might still be possible to see wolves or bears.
Although the climate is generally favourable throughout the year (it is regularly possible to sit and sunbathe on a December afternoon - even at fairly high altitude) Ariege is most popular at the two extremes of the season - either during July and August, where it can be difficult to find a place on some of the more popular campsites, with Gites requiring booking well in advance - or Jan-March when both downhill and Cross country skiing are popular. This clearly makes it an attractive proposition for those interested in purchasing property for the rental market.
During the summer most visitors to the department either walk on one of the many marked footpaths, which include the GR10 and Haute Route Pyrenees, both routes traversing the full length of the range, with the HRP taking in many of the mountain tops. For those keen on walking in a beautiful location and taking in some interesting history, the region provides fascinating footpaths, following routes taking by the Cathars escaping persecution in the 13 Centuary, (the Castle at Monsegur is well worth a visit); through to footpaths used during the Second World War by those escaping into Spain. If time is limited the Canton of Massat has provided walkers with a 16 waymarked routes, each graded by time and level of difficulty - but mainly taking 2-3 hours. (as against the 40+ days likely on the GR10)
For those keen to travel a little quicker, Ariege is a popular destination with road and off-road cyclists alike. With the Tour de France passing though Ariege for 3 days in July '05, expect many of the roads on route to be packed with spectators. For those keen on Mountain Biking Early November sees the Polaris challenge, a two day event combining mountain biking and navigation. It is of course possible to ride one of the many of road courses, in Massat alone there are 20 VTT courses of varying difficulty all waymarked.
Keen to see the countryside without punishing your legs too much? There are many horse riding centres scattered throughout Ariege where you can get lessons for a couple of hours, or take trips lasting many days through more remote areas of the Pyrenees.
For those keen on something a little more gentle, the Pyrenees offers excellent fishing on both rivers and the many lakes and mountain tarns. It is necessary to purchase a license, either for 2 weeks (tourist license) for €12 or annual for €27.