Institute for the Science of Origins

Navigation + Search

Pyrenees 2017

Join us in the Pyrenees in September 2017!

For more info on  2017 Pyrenean Origins Tours, please call Patricia at 440-478-5292
or email her at


Full Tour: SEPTEMBER 2017 Dates to be Announced -stay tuned!
Tour Subsets:
 Cave Art & Carcassonne 
& Pic du Midi Observatory
 Dogs & Mountains
Or create a custom segment of your own devising! Talk to us and see what works for you!
Special opportunity to spend a night overlooking the wolf or bear reserve at a nearby nature preserve. Inquire for details
Download: Brochure 2017 -coming soon!

CielHiverPic du Midi_sallez NASA

Gaube Shimmer 2014-06-18 11.46.54

horse head mas d'azil sm

Access to wonders only the ISO can bring you!

Pic du Midi dOssau photo Tomballe.

Activities this year include the Pech Merle cave paleolithic art site with spectacular images of horses and other animals, and the famous Lascaux II cave, plus the opportunity to walk along with the shepherds and dogs as they move the sheep from the high mountains to lower pastures for the winter on the ancient transhumance migration! Plus new valleys, landscapes, cultural opportunities and more.

Also new this year is the chance for a few travelers to spend a night in a great cabin with a big bay window overlooking the wolf or bear reserve at a nearby nature preserve while we are in Argeles. (Inquire for details; subject to availability)
Our annual Pyrenees Trip is an utterly unique, custom-designed tour -a bit different every year- that focuses on the prehistory, nature, geography and wildlife of the Pyrenees mountains plus a special emphasis on how the terrain, ecology and culture worked together to produce the indigenous Pyrenean pastoral breeds of livestock and dogs, and includes the Argeles Valley’s world-famous St Juste Valcabrere and St BertrandFestival of Pyrenean Dogs and Folklore (with National Specialty shows for 4 breeds!*) -with lots of incredible food, wine & fun along the way!



Horse with coat markings shown by hatched shading. Salon Noir, Niaux, Ariege. Length 30 cm

 The full trip looks further back, encompassing the prehistory of the region, especially the stunning examples of cave art from 12,000 to over 30,000 years ago. And features visits to some of the most significant medieval architecture –fortresses and churches that constitute some of the most amazing human creations in Europe.


Observing on Pic du MidiWe also look skyward with a night of telescope time with expert astronomers and an overnight stay in scientists’ quarters at the highest astronomical observatory in France, perched atop the Pic du Midi de Bigorre mountain from which sensational daytime views of the entire chain of the Pyrenees can be had -a great opportunity for spectacular photos- not to mention its stunning sunset & sunrise!



Hotel de la Cite Niaux bisonmudmap  Blonde dAquitaine en sonaille avec Pyr on collar      2014-09-20 19.22.39

About the dogs: For dog fanciers who take their hobby seriously, nothing is more rewarding than to see a breed in its natural habitat. Purebred dogs are vestiges of cultural history from ancient ways of life. Many of these ways of life no longer exist but, the Pyrenees dogs are an exception. The traditional lifestyle has survived -though necessarily somewhat modified in a number of respects- and the cultural use of the land remains strikingly similar to what it was a thousand years ago and well beyond.



dEstaing sheep dogs 2014-06-18 18.17.57 crop2

Hilking through boulder-strewn valleys with bubbling streams of azure blue glacial meltwater, one begins to appreciate the mountains that shaped these breeds through natural selection in response to both the physical and ecological environment as well as to human culture, and the original use of these breeds becomes poignantly clear. As breed expert Guy Mansencal summed it up years ago: “This breed is not the work of man. He was made by the wind and the rain and the mountain.”

2014-09-14 10.48.19

Gavarnie 2014-06-16 11.31.15

IMG_8778 Group Gavarnie crop

porc noir de Bigorre r34_9_20110601marmer_s4496-2

dEstaing sheep 2014-06-18 18.16.59 crop pails

2014-09-17 11.22.40 cheese wheels


Prieure soup 14609701410_de8fd834fe_o crop 2014-09-18 21.26.03 Viscos Gambis

2014-09-21 19.28.37 Rooding Domaine Le Chec dog wine

The Institute for the Science of Origins is very pleased to be able to bring this innovative experience to the fancy and offer a highly educational tour with lots of frills at a very reasonable price. For those accustomed to trotting the globe it’s a sweet interlude made all the more so by the diversity of canine enthusiasts and others along for the ride. For many American dog fanciers it is a once-in-a-life bucket list trip. For those with more general interests in nature, history, astronomy and  paleolithic art, it’s a unique opportunity to experience aspects of France that go way beyond the usual tours or vacations. 


Cheese farm Patou doorway 2014-06-19 10.45.05 crop Gaube 2014-06-18 11.10.07 2014-09-16 17.07.45 sheep Troumouse
Pont dEspagne Falls 14609739189_c4108ffc69_o crop Pont dEspagne Lomo lunch 14794029714_ac81f13984_o Col d’Aubisque 964474_10151746114599121_1712512313_o

*The French National Specialty for Great Pyrenees, Pyrenean Shepherds, Pyrenean Mastiffs, and Gos d’Atura Catala, with BIS judged among the 4 breeds like a group show. Judges education and ringside mentoring available. Travelers are welcome to bring their dogs and can enter and show them if they so desire but note that the show closes early in August


imagesTo register call Michelle Miller at 216.368.8745
Prices (double occupancy)
Full trip: $3995; Week 1 only: $TBA; Week 2 only: $TBA 
Dogs welcome (possible added fee tbd)
For additional information, call, text or email Patricia Princehouse at 440-478-5292 or
Brochure Coming Soon! 

Full Itinerary coming soon!

Note:  While much of the trip is fairly structured, you will also have the opportunity to spend time exploring on your own in various places, such as Toulouse and Carcassonne among others.


2014-09-16 17.28.19 Troumouse




Casual with perhaps one nicer slacks outfit.  Beige, khaki, grey and other neutral colors show less dust and stay better-looking in the caves and mountains. Laundry service is available, so don’t overpack. The temperatures can be cooler in the early morning and after sunset but can be very hot at midday, so the best approach is to dress in layers. Pack lightweight clothing of breathable fabric (e.g. special synthetics). For example, one can make do handily with 2 t-shirts, 1 camp shirt or polo, 1 lightweight long sleeved shirt, 2 pairs lightweight long cargo pants with zip-off legs that convert to shorts, one set of pajamas or sweats, and one light sweater or windbreaker. Good sunglasses and sun block (UVA/UVB) are essential. You may also want to bring swimwear, a ball cap, sun hat or cape hat, a compact lightweight pair of binoculars, and of course a camera!
The weather can be unpredictable in the high mountains, so it’s not a bad idea to bring lightweight long underwear such as silk or thermaskins turtleneck & leggings. These are indispensable for those planning to spend the night at the observatory, remember we will be outdoors observing the heavens at 10,000 feet! And it’s not much warmer in the observation domes although we’re at least out of the wind there (of course access to the scientists’ quarters and common areas is always available to go warm up!). Bring gloves or mittens, long underwear, and a wool sweater & socks. Make sure your safari jacket or windbreaker is large enough to zip up over the warm clothes.


scottevest go2-jacket-and-lightweight-vest

TravelSmith cape hat 79311_main

TravelSmith Moab womens ventilated hiking shoes 11485_main

sunscreen-clipart-comp-clipart-screenshot2 crop

Lands End Long Underwear and turtleneck

Safari vests and other multi-pocket clothing make it much easier to juggle cameras, electronic devices, binoculars, sun screen and all the other items you might want to have handy -as well as for navigating airports! CWRU alum Scott Jordan founded a company that specializes in such apparel. See especially the lightweight convertible cargo pants and super-lightweight “Tropiformer” jacket that converts to a vest: A broad selection of less specialized gear is available at many retailers, such as Orvis and TravelSmith..

Sneakers are sufficient, but you might want to consider a good pair of lightweight, breathable hiking shoes such as Merrell® Moab Ventilator Hiking Shoes. Open shoes are not recommended outside hotels.
Luggage space in tour vehicles is limited. Please keep your bags below 35 lbs total per person. It is important that you bring soft-sided bags only.
Most meals are included (see brochure for more specific info) and most special dietary needs and preferences are not a problem. Please let us know in advance and we should be able to accommodate. Snacks and alcohol are at your own expense, as is room service, etc.
TIME ZONE: Eastern +6 hours.

Pimsleur FrenchLANGUAGE

The lingua franca of France is, of course, French! Most hotel staff will speak English, but also many ordinary French people speak some English, and the dog show participants will come from all over Europe and you’ll find many speak excellent English. You will also hear a little Spanish and various local patois like Provencale or Ariegeois at times. You may enjoy your experience more if you develop some familiarity with French ahead of time. We recommend the Pimsleur language program very highly: 


1euro-2007-white euro

France is on the Euro. The local currency you may need during your stay should be obtained at authorised facilities such as banks and foreign exchange bureaus. US Dollars can be exchanged at the airport on arrival or through ATMs, but many banks are starting to charge a “foreign transaction fee” -for no particular reason other than that they can! If you belong to AAA, you can usually order foreign currency through them with no surcharge -but do so well in advance of departure for France since it may take a week for it to arrive at your local office. MasterCard and VISA are accepted at most places but increasingly the credit card systems use chips, rather than magnetic strips, so you will find some places where you may need to get money from an ATM if your credit card doesn’t have a chip. AmEx and Discover are, in general, not accepted.


Traditionally, restaurant and bar prices include the tip as “service compris,” so you need not tip. However, it is becoming common to offer a small gratuity to the wait staff. So feel free to recognize outstanding service by individuals at whatever level you like. Tipping is a very personal matter, but if you would like suggestions, you might consider: Server – 2 euros, Porter – 1 euro per bag; Cleaning staff – 1 or 2 euros per day; Drivers, guides- 5 euros per day – this is often paid on the last day of each leg of the trip but you may, of course, offer a gratuity at any time.


Be sure to check for visa requirements pertaining to your citizenship. All travellers must be in possession of a passport with at least six months of validity left beyond the intended departure date to go home from Europe and must have at least 4 blank pages in the passport when first arriving in France. Quick turn-around of new US passports and passport renewals can be had through organizations such as VisaRite  Rush service is available in as little as one day!


Southern France has a temperate climate. In September we can expect to experience warm days and cool evenings. It will probably rain at least one day. It is typically in the upper 70s during the day, falling into the 50s and 60s at night. While not as intense as the height of summer, the sun still gets quite hot and skin can burn easily. For those planning to spend the night at the observatory, there may even be snow!

In general, you can drink or brush your teeth with tap water with impunity. Public pumps in villages, however, are often only for livestock or washing. Make sure a pump is marked “eau potable” before drinking (avoid eau non-potable).

No vaccinations are required for entry if you are arriving from North America. However, the CDC recommends you be up to date on all routine vaccines. See:

WCFor those with special medical needs or conditions, such as diabetes, refrigeration is available 24/7 for insulin or other medication. Whatever your needs may be, let us know what you need in advance and we will likely be able to accommodate.

Restrooms in France might be marked “toilettes” or may simply say “W.C.” (pronounced vay-say), a remnant of the WWII Briticism “water closet” -still in use many, many years later!
Note: The price of the tour includes all hotel/lodging, ground transportation, expert guides (all of which will be English-speaking and/or with anglophone translation), all private receptions & behind-the-scenes experiences as well as admission to parks, museums and other attractions, and most meals except lunch (which at the festival is best chosen individually from the many possibilities on offer – we recommend the Garbure if you like duck!). It goes without saying that incidental personal purchases such as souvenirs, extra snacks, new puppies, etc, are at each traveler’s own expense. The price of the tour does not include airfare, tips, alcohol with meals (alcohol is included only at winetastings) or travel/trip insurance (which we highly recommend).

Also note: Some aspects of the final itinerary -especially Weds, Thurs and Fri of the dog tour- will be decided day by day while on the trip according to weather conditions, cloud cover, grazing location of the semi-nomadic flocks in the mountains (some places are simply not accessible), and to respond to last minute opportunities that often crop up spontaneously. The intention this year is to include a visit to Lac de Gaube -the spectacular high mountain lake where the picture of the dog in the top center of this page was taken, and visits to the homes of at least 2 breeders. But sometimes Lac de Gaube is inaccessible due to snow or completely obscured by clouds, so we’ll need to play it by ear a bit. The great thing about the Pyrenees, though, is that there are many micro-zones. So if one mountain is immersed in clouds, another equally wonderful mountain will be clear. It’s all part of life in the Pyrenees! We have informants monitoring conditions on the ground and each day we will take you to the places where you’ll have the best experiences!

Tour size is limited, so reserve asap.


Page last modified: November 1, 2016