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Spring is here and it is time for hiking and biking!
The GR 861 hiking trail connects the sites of Saint-Jacques de Compostelle between the stunning Basilica Saint-Sernin in Toulouse and the majestic cathedral of Saint Marie in Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges.
Known as ‘la Via Garona’, the route runs along the river Garonne for nearly 170km. It is the resurrection of an ancient, forgotten road on the Saint James Way that runs through Occitanie.
It crosses 41 communes, all in Haute Garonne, with various points of interest along the way.
Passing through Muret, where Clément Ader the aviator came from, the ancient episcopal city of Rieux-Vovestre and Martres Tolosane, known for its pottery.
Near Martres Tolosane, in the hamlet of Chiragan, there was an important archeological discovery. All of the works on the second floor of the Musée Saint Raymond, dedicated to roman history, came from this dig.
The museum of Saint Raymond is just next to the Basilique St. Sernin, with a nice little garden café.
After your starting of point, at the Basilica St. Sernin, the route takes you past the Hôtel Dieu Saint Jacques de Toulouse. It culminates at Saint Bertrand de Comminges. Here you will visit the Cathedral of Saint Marie, the Chapelle Saint Julien and the Basilica Saint Just de Valcabrère.
If you prefer to travel by bicycle, a good part of the GR 861 is accessible to you by cycle path.
The GR 861 is fairly easy and family friendly. Beyond the village you will be nearing the important peaks of the Pyrenees which is the terrain of mountain cyclists, not far from the famous mountain étapes of the Tour de France.
Visit www.randopedestre31.fr for more information.
Village of St Bertrand-de-Comminges
With 2000 years of tumultuous history, an imposing cathedral and roman ruins, the pretty little village in the foothills of the Pyrenees is a lovely place to visit. It gets very busy in the summer and I highly recommend visiting outside of the high season if you can.
Beneath the cathedral of Saint Marie are the ruins of the forum, the early Christian church and the basilca of Saint-Just de Valcabrère.
The communes of Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges and Valcabrère have become iconic tourist sites and are distinguished as grands sites en region d’ Occitanie and have earned their place in the classment of les plus beaux villages de France (the most beautiful villages of France).
Aside from the GR 861, it is the perfect stop on a visit from Toulouse to the central Pyrenees and worth the minor detour.
Voilà something to do whilst waiting for the rest of the snow to melt before the real mountain trekking begins…..
The Via Garona has a bit of everything: nature, historical and architectural monuments, sport and gastronomy. There are B&Bs, hotels, gites and restaurants alongside the Garonne leading to the lovely destination of St-Bertrand-de-Comminges.
If you arrive here and feel the call of the mountains, you can continue on to Bagnères de Luchon and seek refuge at Chez Jax, your ideal pied-a-terre in the Pyrenees.
I hope you have enjoyed this post on Via Garona. Follow me to keep up with me on my travels around beautiful Occitanie.