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5 times stage town – 45,000 inhabitants (Castrais) In the South of the Tarn, ideally situated between Albi, Carcassonne and Toulouse, Castres is a stop on the Pilgrimage Route of Santiago de Compostela and a town with a deep and subtle charm.
Suspended above the River Agoût, its colourful houses in pastel shades have lent it the nickname of Little Venice.
In medieval times, the river was the nerve centre of the city and these workers cottages were home to various trades in particular tanners, dyers and weavers.
An absolute must is a visit to the Jardin de l’Évêché, designed in the pure tradition of 17th century French classicism. Designed by André Le Nôtre, Louis XIV’s ‘gardener’ at the Château de Versailles it is made up of parterre gardens with ‘embroidery’ designs and its paths lead to the former episcopal palace that today houses the Goya Museum.
After the Louvre, it is the second most important French museum of Spanish art and you can admire a unique collection of works by Spanish painters.
Castres is also the birthplace of Jean Jaurès and his life and political journey can be retraced at the National Centre and Jean Jaurès Museum.
4 times stage town – 1,560 inhabitants at Ax-les-Thermes (Axéens) If Ax 3 Domaines, which groups together Bonascre, Le Saquet and Les Campels, has become the resort of choice in the Pyrenees, it is firstly down to the beauty of its landscape and the charm of the pistes that wind through the fir trees.
But it is also thanks to the constant evolution of the site that invests in the redesign of the pistes, modernises the ski lifts and offers the best welcome to skiers.
Seven hundred metres below, linked to the resort by cable car is Ax-les-Thermes.
Its medieval streets, the Lepers’ pond from the 13th century, the thermal spa, the water cure centre and the casino evoke at the same time both history and relaxation.
In the surrounding areas and the forty surrounding villages there are further points of interest for tourists : the mountain and the national wild fauna reserve in Orlu, local heritage marked by the Middle Ages (roman art, the Cathare epic), mountain farming (pastoralism, farm products) and a border with Andorra. All this contributes to make the Ax Valleys a major tourist destination in the Pyrenees.