IT'S EASY TO think you're on the top of the world at the Pic du Midi, a snowy mountain lair high above the ski village of La Mongie, reached only by two long cable-car journeys. From the observation deck you can gaze 200 miles north into France (and watch Golfech's twin nuclear reactors sending steam into the pure blue upper atmosphere). To the south you look across mountain tops into Spain. To the east and west of you runs the entire Pyrenean chain.
Meanwhile, huge masts and telescopes thrust into the sky. If an evil genius were planning to take over the world this eyrie would be where he'd base himself. But, in fact, Pic du Midi is an astronomical observatory and has been one since 1884, Ever since, world-famous photographic images of the cosmos have been produced by the Pic's astronomers. And since last July, up to 19 members of the general public per night have been able to share the stunning night sky above this Pyrenean observatory.
Interiors are rendered in grey concrete with plenty of metal doors and steps. Single bedrooms have just a bed, washbasin and a cupboard. If you book a double room you get a chair thrown in. Showers are down the corridor.
Food and drink
Breakfasts are sustaining self-service fare. Dinner is in the Restauration au Sommet, where photos of astronomers celebrating new discoveries gazen at you. The 'dégustation' menu costs ¿35 and includes kir, rillettes d'oie, salad, lamb, tarte du jour, wine and chocolate truffles. You may be in one of the remotest restaurants in the world but you're still in France.
Wheelchair access to the main floor of the observatory, but not the accommodation.
Singles ¿195, doubles ¿295 for two per night, including breakfast and access to the astronomers. The author travelled with Ryanair (0871 246 000; ryanair.com), which offers return flights to Pau from £80, and Holiday Autos (0870 400 0010; holidayautos.co.uk), which offers car hire from £19 per day.
Pic du Midi, Rue Lamy de la Chapelle, 65200 La Mongie, France (00 33 5 62 56 71 14; picdumidi.com).Reuse content