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River Garonne

Curling and drifting under the French and Spanish sun, the Garonne river is a true hidden gem. Arguably lesser known than other European waterways such as the Seine or the Danube, the Garonne enjoys an almost undiscovered quality, and it is this, as well as the serene and idyllic landscapes, which makes the Garonne a treasure worth uncovering. Beginning in the lofty heights of the green Pyrenees mountains, the Garonne descends through spectacular scenery into France where it passes through some exceptional towns, cities and regions on its way to its exit into the Gironde estuary and the Atlantic Ocean.

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The course of the Garonne

The Garonne's source can be found in the North of Spain, right up in the Pyrenees where it begins in the Aran Valley, amongst the low foothills and sloping valleys. From here, steady progress is made as the river plummets over waterfalls, down into sinkholes and underground, gradually making its way across the French border.  On its way, the Garonne passes by the grand city of Toulouse, the quiet town of Agen and past the famous Canal du Midi.

Highlights of the Garonne

A notable highlight of the Garonne is its source in the mountains. Densely forested, hiding mystical valleys and sparkling lakes, the Pyrenees and their surrounding regions are veritable fairy tale lands. The higher peaks are often crowned by a covering of snow, and many hiking trails around these parts grant spectacular views over one of Europe's best and wildest mountain ranges. It is not uncommon for many valleys to be inaccessible by car, lending a peace and tranquillity to the Pyrenees, unmatched across the continent. Often, these valleys are sites of introspective religious pilgrimage, with many Christians crossing hill and stream to visit the convents, monasteries and holy sites hidden amongst the hills.

Many cities sit on the banks of this proud river. Toulouse is one of the most well-known. Featuring grand squares, resplendent buildings and all the best parts of contemporary French cuisine, Toulouse is one of France's finest cities. The Capitole de Toulouse is a magnificent municipal building, built in neoclassical style and featuring many important governmental institutes such as the City Hall. Religious buildings and monuments also feature in the Toulouse skyline including the beautiful St Etienne Cathedral and the glorious Church of the Jacobins.

The Bordeaux lies at the end of the Garonne, where it flows out into the ocean. Likely the most famous aspect of Bordeaux is its exceptional viticulture. Much of the city's economy is based around wine production, and this is for good reason. The wines of this region come in a variety of different flavours but each is held to the highest quality requirements, with the wine production heritage dating almost all the way back to the Roman Empire. The town itself revels in grandeur, regal and refined, with its wealth reflected in the charming old town houses and extensive parklands.

Helpful tips

Both France and Spain use the Euro as currency. Naturally, Spanish is the main language of Spain and French of France, with English being spoken mostly in the tourist areas of large cities. It can be hard to find someone who speaks English in the smaller villages and towns along the river.

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