Bagnères-de-Luchon is a lively spa town lying in a beautiful setting amidst the Pyrénées. It is the busiest and most fashionable cure resort in the region, and also a tourist and winter sports center with a wide choice of ski runs, climbs and excursions. In the winter, the town serves as a base for skiers attracted by the slopes at Superbagnères, the resort’s high altitude annex. Luchon’s first inhabitants arrived 4,000 years ago, during the Bronze Age. However, it was not until the Romans arrived that it was developed into an outpost which they called Ilixio after the goddess of waters, Ilixon. It was during this time that thermal swimming pools were dug. Legend has it that a Roman soldier with lesions on his arm discovered the healing properties of the thermal waters when he dipped his arm into a spring and soon after found his skin to be cured. Luchon’s fame arrived in 1759 when Baron Antoine Mégret d’Étigny, the Royal Steward of Gascony, Béarn and Navarre decided that the area should be restored. By 1762, a carriage road linked Luchon to Montréjeau in the north. The splendid avenue, which now bears Étigny’s name, was officially inaugurated and planted with rows of lime trees which still stand today. D’Étigny then replaced the original common pool with nine double troughs made of wood, each with a removable cover which had a hole for the bathers’ heads. This was a substantial improvement, though those taking the waters still had to undress in the open air, screened only by a board fence. D’Étigny was also the first person to think of appointing a regular doctor to a thermal spa. The next step was to advertise the town. He persuaded the governor of the province Maréchal Duc de Richelieu, to take a cure. The duke, enchanted by the Roman ruins, was delighted. He extolled the merits of the spa back at the palace in Versailles and returned for a second cure. From then on, the town’s success was assured and soon became well known amongst the rich who came to town to take the waters. Much of Luchon’s rich and beautiful architecture grew during this period, under Napoleon III. Luxurious villas, required by high society visitors were built and gave the town its elegant character. As you can see, some of them are quite grand while others are simply marvellous wood chalets. The mansion at number 18, built in the 18th century now houses the tourist office and local museum. In 1880 the Casino was built to add additional pleasures for visitors to discover. Several parks designed with fountains, ponds and statuary can be found throughout the town. Life in Luchon centers around les allées d’Étigny and the main avenue leading to the baths. The grand entrance to the baths, known as the “Chambert Thermal Baths” was built in 1848. The “Pavillion Impérial” was built in 1954 and the “Vaporarium,” unique in Europe was completed in 1970. In front of the Chambert Thermal Baths is a statue of d’Étigny. I stayed at Hotel d’Étigny which was just across the street from the thermal baths. Ski enthusiasts started coming to the area by 1911 when the construction of the Grand Hotel and the Cremaillère leading up to Superbagnères had begun. In 1993, the Cremaillère was replaced by cable cars. The cable cars now take people to the top of the mountain to an altitude of 1,800 meters. On the morning that I decided to take the cable car to the top, the mountains and the town were occasionally covered in clouds. How fortunate I was that there was no rain. The views were still spectacular from the top of the mountain. In the months when there is no snow, farmers let their cows wander the green slopes. In town, the weekly market was taking place in La Halle built in 1896. It is decorated with charming ceramic decorations of all sorts of food. These three men are dressed in their traditional costumes as mountain guides. In French they belong to a group of mountain guides that has existed since the early 18th century. Their role was to carry or aid people wishing to go on excursions through forests and lakes in the region. The right to wear the costume is passed down from father to son.