Tarbes Travel Guide
Tarbes can accurately be described as a window on the Pyrénées, situated right on the doorstep of the mountain range, all but a stone's throw from such delectable Pyrénean villages as Argelès-Gazost and Lourdes, the latter a monstrously popular pilgrimage destination. And while Tarbes itself does have a few odds and ends to offer, such as a couple of pedestrianized streets, a few old buildings to poke around in and a couple of plazas to linger in, its greatest value to visitors is as a base for exploring the surrounding countryside. It is, after all, within easy reach of a dozen or so popular ski slopes – the likes of La Mongie, Barèges, Cauterets, Luz-Ardiden, Gavarnie-Gèdre and Piau Engaly – with abundant summertime opportunities for hiking, climbing and biking. Tarbes was also part of the Tour de France route in 2001 and 2009, and the starting point for a stage of the tour in 2006, giving cycling enthusiasts much to cheer about. Besides which, Tarbes has the best view of the Pyrénées – at least from the French side of the border!
Tarbes is situated in the Midi-Pyrénées region, at the foot of the Pyrénées mountain range, a short distance from both the Spanish border and the Aquitaine region of France.
In Tarbes, the most interesting of all places is the Musée Massey, off Massey Street, set upon 11 acres of landscaped grounds – the Jardin Massey – where peacocks roam freely. Other priorities include the city's neoclassical town hall on Place Jean Jaurès; the Cathedral of the Sède, which has a bell tower, apse and transept dating from the 12th and 13th centuries; a small museum on rue de la Victorie dedicated to Marshall Ferdinand Foch; Rue Brauhauban, a largely pedestrianized street where you can search out the birthplace of literary genius Théophile Gautier as well as the greystone St. John's Church; and Place de Verdun, where a jet fountain is the center of attraction. The National Stud on Avenue du Regiment de Bigorre, where the Hussars once stabled their horses, is worth a visit as well.
Tarbes' most famous sons are Ferdinand Foch, commander-in-chief of the Allied forces in World War I; and Théophile Gautier, literary figure, whose 19th-century travel writings include Voyage en Espagne (1843), Trésors d’Art de la Russie (1858), and Voyage en Russie (1867).
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