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It is not all about adrenalin - Vanessa Fisher, Hautes-Pyrenees
Tuesday August 12, 2014 - Email this article to a friend

Summer in the mountains doesn't have to be about rock climbing, rafting and via ferrata. PlanetSKI discovers a gentler side with a visit to the Hautes-Pyrenees with our Top 10 family activities.

PlanetSKI reporter, Vanessa Fisher, has been in the Hautes-Pyrenees in SW France with her husband, Guy, and children; Wal 10-years old, Minnie 8-years old and  Zac 5-years old.

So, what are the Top 10 activities on offer for a young family?

1.  Summer Sledging - We were all excited about summer sledging. 

Climbing up to Hautacam, just after it had featured in the 2014 Tour de France, we overtook a few wavering cyclists climbing up and were stunned at the speed of some descending.

At the top at 1635m after 17km of uphill climb was the metal sledging rails.

Brilliant fun to go in pairs or solo controlling your speed with an easy brake system.

Sledging smilesSledging smiles













2.  High wires - I think of high wires as being a via ferrata for the vertigo challenged, altho the black level at Chlorofil Park was way too high for contemplation.

The kids loved the junior routes, labelled like ski runs from green via blue, red and on to black.

The black zip wires were accessible without doing the difficult rope sections and were a big hit with my ten and unders.

Getting highGetting high














3.  Markets - OK so all the kids wanted to buy on a visit to the local market in Argeles-Gazost were loom bands.

But in between hunting for the latest elastic band craze we were able to pick up peaches, strawberries, cooked chickens and local cakes, gateau de la brioche, cooked over an open fire and myrtle filled Torte des Pyrenees; little round cakes full of soft juicy fruit.

Market bargainsMarket bargains













4.  On a rainy day - weather in the mountains can be changeable, even in summer and a fail-safe activity for a rainy or chilly day is to hit one of the many spas.

Originally built to take advantage of the thermal waters, but now offering leisure spas/indoor pools and Jacuzzis for all, every main town has an impressive centre.

Cauteret's Bain du Rocher was more child-friendly than Jardin des Bains in Argeles-Gazost.

Spa specials Spa specials













5.  Animal Park - it's all about the brown bears. Follow the easy path thru the Parc Animalier des Pyrenees past the birds, insects, marmots, deer and smallest monkeys in the world but everyone loves seeing the brown bears.

They are trying to re-introduce them to the Pyrenees but for now these bears seem to be thriving in this park.

We loved them.

Bear necessitiesBear necessities













6.  Birds - The kids were mesmerized by the bird display at the old castle at Beaucens.

Groans of pain at the thought of going to an ancient castle were quietened by an incredible number of vultures and parrots (random) that the bird handlers bring out in this daily short spectacle.

Feathered friendsFeathered friends













7.  Pools -  Kids under 10yrs are happy if there is water.

Two pools stood out - Lau Follies by Argeles-Gazost with their selection of water slides and new young kids area and the outdoor pool at Luz St Sauveur. 

Both with lovely clean water, and pools to suit all ages. 

Fabulous café at Luz for snacks and coffee. Arrive early to both to bag a sunlounger.














8.  Voie Verte - running along the original train route from Cauterets to Lourdes.

This 17km route is now a lovely smooth path which is fun to cycle down, walk along or roller blade if you have room to pop the extra kit in your car (or rent). 

Lots of great historical info signposted along the way which the adults will appreciate.

Wildlife in the wildernessWildlife in the wilderness













9. Loving the lakes - young kids (unless they are well trained) don't like hiking far.

Two lakes in the area are easily accessible. Lac d'Estaing at 1163m you can drive right up to along the beautiful Val d'Azun.

Drive via pretty Aucan en route and Lac d'Gaube (1725m) is just a 15 minute walk from the top of a bubble and chair lift.

Fun experiences in themselves.

Spot marmot and wild iris along the way and walk down to save a few pennies and hear the stunning waterfalls at Pont d'Espagne.

Lakeside adventuresLakeside adventures













10.   Flying in to Lourdes - The airport which is in the Hautes-Pyrenees means a super short transfer time, ideal for young kids.

The hideously early outbound flight from the UK (Ryanair from Stansted) can be made less painful with an  overnight stay at an airport hotel.

With thanks to Radisson Blu for making this possible.

Smiles all roundSmiles all round















For the spirit of the mountains

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