The Midi-Pyrénées: Where the Past, Present and Future Come Alive For All the Family
As a young South African archaeologist I was first attracted to the Midi-Pyrénées by Ice Age cave art. I came in search of prehistoric paintings of bison and mammoths, horses and ibex, a kind of mountain goat, painted deep in limestone caves. I found so much more.
Going underground into dramatic settings of dripping stalactites and growing stalagmites, and seeing for yourself paintings made many thousands of years ago, is a captivating experience - for the whole family. Young children are as mesmerized as their parents. After all, these are some of the finest examples of humanity’s earliest art.
Unlike elsewhere in France, here in the Midi-Pyrénées you still go into the original caves, not replicas. And the caves of Pech Merle, Cougnac and Niaux are without doubt amongst the best and most important in all of Europe.
Besides the truly spectacular geological setting of prehistoric images of great big Ice Age animals, it is the pits made by bears as they hibernated during winters many thousands of years ago that grab children’s attention. As they shine their hand-held torches into the hollows where cave bears once slept, vivid imaginations play out in their facial expressions. Allow your children to develop their imaginings outside the cave.
At the Parc de la Préhistoire the age of the Cro-magnon is brought to life in a series of activities aimed specifically for the children. And then, having seen the ibex painted on the cave walls by our Stone Age ancestors, today you can once again see these animals out in the open as they roam the rocky slopes of the Pyrénées. In one of many internationally recognised initiatives to protect and preserve natural landscapes, the Pyrénées Ariégeoises Regional Park has re-introduced the ibex to the wild.
Hiking the mountains in search of ancient mountain goats is one thing. The Parc Animalier des Pyrénées takes interacting with wild animals to another level. One of their more exciting family-oriented adventures is to spend the night in a log cabin that is itself set within a large wolves’ enclosure.
Getting up close to the animal kingdom is what is at the heart of Micropolis also - but as the name suggests on a 'micro' scale. That is because this is the world of bugs, bees and butterflies. Cleverly devised live insect displays, many devised with younger children in mind, provide activities the whole family can engage in, together.