By far the largest opening of 2014 (and the most eagerly awaited) will be that of the Musée Pierre Soulages in Rodez, Aveyron on 24th May. Three years in construction, the new Musée Pierre Soulages was created in close collaboration with the artist, arguably the most internationally-renowned French painter alive today, and is located in the city of his birth. Keen to have an innovative building, the design was created by the Catalan architectural firm of RCR Arquitectes. Set in three hectares, the museum will house 500 of the painter and engraver’s works including paintings on canvas and paper, all of his engravings and his preparatory works for his stained-glass windows for Conques Abbey Church. Around 1979, Soulages began working almost exclusively in black (which he refers to as “light-black” and “beyond black”) and the first exhibition from 24th May – 5th October 2014 will be dedicated to his Beyond Black concept. The museum is also home to the Café Bras, a gourmet eatery designed by Sébastien Bras and his father, Michel, the Michelin-starred chef who runs a restaurant in the Aubrac.
To see Soulages’ stained-glass creations in situe, visit the Abbey of Sainte Foy, Conques, a gem of Romanesque design on the old pilgrims trail to Santiago de Compostela. This unique building houses a quite remarkable collection of contemporary stained-glass windows created especially for the Abbey by Pierre Soulages and this spring, will celebrate the 20th anniversary of their installation.
This year sees a cross-Atlantic co-operation with the opening of a dual retrospective for the artist Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant and his influences, a major practitioner of Orientalist art and a painter who was the darling of British high society in the late 19th century. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in collaboration with the Musée des Augustins in Toulouse, Haute-Garonne, has, as part of the Franco-American co-operation agreement, FRAME, just opened the first exhibition focussing on Oriental works of art created alongside Benjamin-Constant whilst this Autumn in Toulouse (4th October – 4th January 2015), the Musée des Augustins in Toulouse, where he trained, will centre its approach on the artist and his influences.
2014 has been designated The Year of Astronomy at the Cité de l’Espace in Toulouse, Haute-Garonne. A number of new attractions will be unveiled at the attraction including an observation dome for gazing at the planets and the sun in real time in the middle of the day and the chance to follow the adventures of the European Rosetta space probe, launched ten years ago to explore a comet. The layout of the 2,000 m² permanent exhibition pavilion was completely revamped in 2013 to fully immerse visitors in the history of man’s quest to explore the stars.
Discovered by chance in 1987, the site of Montréal-du-Gers (50 km from Auch) contains the largest fossil collection found in France in the 20th century and features more than 90 species – four of which were previously unknown. The site, which dates back some 17 million years, opened to the public in July 2013 following building work designed to both open the site to visitors and to improve the conditions for the archaeologists working there. The Montréal-du-Gers site is one of the destinations on the Origin Road, a joint European project designed to encourage scientific tourism on both sides of the Pyrénées. The six sites along the route give visitors the opportunity to explore their origins.
A new African savannah zone will be created this year in the Zoo des Trois Vallées, in the Tarn, has just been announced. The attraction will also unveil the largest aquarium in the Midi-Pyrénées and will allow visitors the chance to get away from it all for a night at the zoo’s very own lodge village. Situated in Montrédon-Labessonnié (30 km from Albi) in gorgeous rural surroundings at the meeting point of several valleys, the 58-hectare Zoo (which opened in June 2013) is already one of the largest animal parks in South West France and is in the process of expanding its space to cover an additional 10 hectares.
Something new has hit the streets in Moissac, Tarn-et-Garonne, with the introduction of the StreetStrider®, the first elliptical bike for outdoor use. This strange-looking three-wheeled bike is much more fun than the stationary version which might be found in a gym and exercises abdominals and arm and leg muscles while being gentle on the joints. Now tourists can try a StreetStrider® out on the Canal des Deux Mers Greenway making it possible to cycle from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean (250 km of cycle routes, 65 km of which is in Tarn et Garonne). En route, stop off at Moissac, a Grand Site of Midi-Pyrénées, and explore Grisolles, Castelsarrasin and Valence d’Agen.
Also available – Part two: Gastronomy – New for 2014 and part three: Hotels – New for 2014
Click here to see what else is new in 2014!
Key Facts & Figures for Midi-Pyrénées:
- Population: nearly 2.9 million
- Surface area: 45,348 km² making it France’s largest region
- Capital: Toulouse – population 437,000
- 8 departments – Ariège, Aveyron, Gers, Haute-Garonne, Hautes-Pyrénées, Lot, Tarn and Tarn-et-Garonne.
- Third most important interior (non-coastal) tourist region in the French market (after Rhône-Alpes and Ile de France)
- France’s 6th most important tourist region in the international market with 4.3% of the market share
- 15.7 million visitors per annum with 85.9 million bednights booked
- 33,500 salaried jobs generated by tourism