Pyrenees 2018

Join us in the Pyrenees in September 2018!

For more info on  2018 Pyrenean Origins Tours, please call Patricia at 440-478-5292
or email her at


Full Cave Art, Mountains and Dog Tour: SEPTEMBER , 2017  
Dogs and Mountains Only: Sept 
Reserve your spot today!

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Access to wonders only the ISO can bring you!


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!

Weather permitting we will again have the privilege 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.

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

The full trip encompasses the prehistory of the region, especially the stunning examples of cave art from 12,000 to over 30,000 years ago. This year the excursion includes the charming medival village of Mirepoix, Niaux cave with its famous “black chamber” where bison seem ready to leap off the walls, the Tarascon Prehistoric Art Center, the Pech Merle cave paleolithic art site with spectacular images of horses and other animals, and Gargas cave, famous for it’s enigmatic hands that may encode an early forerunner to written language.

 The trip this year also features a visit to the stunning medieval mountain fortress of St Bertrand de Comminges where Pyrenean Shepherds run the streets and the astonishing Cathedrale de Sainte Marie towers over the village with spectacular Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance architecture, astonishing wood carvings, gorgeous organ, relics, and other rare embellishments. Nearby the lovely Roman church St Juste de Valcabere is a treasure that still retains traces of the original polychrome art.

 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.


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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.”

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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

Dogs & Mountains Only: $TBA (double occupancy); $TBA (single occupancy)
Full Cave Art, Dogs, and Mountains Tour: $TBA (double) $TBA (single)
Dogs welcome (possible added fee tbd)
For additional information, call, text or email Patricia Princehouse at 440-478-5292 or

Preliminary Itinerary

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. 

Thurs Sept 6  Full Tour begins!
Arrive TLS prior to Noon please.
Dinner and overnight in Toulouse
Fri Sept 7 Visit to Tarascon Prehistoric Art Center; lunch on own. Tour of Niaux Cave. Dinner and overnight in the medieval citadel of Carcassonne
Sat Sept 8 Tour of Carcassonne castle and lunch on own. Travel to Avignon, visit Palais des Papes and light show. Dinner and overnight in Avignon
Sun Sept 9 Tour of Pont d’Arc Caverne replica of Chauvet cave; lunch on own.
Visit to the sheep farm of Pyr Shep breeders Andre and Agnes Audibert (Oustaou de Padel)
Dinner & overnight Bouzies
Mon Sept 10 Visit to Pech Merle cave and museum.
Lunch and afternoon in St Cyrq-Lapopie. Optional early evening hike along the beautiful Lot river before dinner. Dinner & overnight Bouzies

(Dog and Mountains travelers please make your ticket to arrive at the Toulouse airport (TLS) by 6pm and take the hotel shuttle to the hotel. Dinner on own.)
Tues Sept 11

Dog and Mountains travelers join the group!

Visit to St Bertrand’s Cathedral of Sainte Marie, and lunch on own
Tour of Gargas Cave and museum
Visit to Great Pyrenees breeder Nadine Laffitte (Neouvielle).
Dinner and overnight at Domaine Le Chec, a B&B owned by Pyrenean Shepherd breeders Ron & Jo Rooding (Debut de Reve).

Weds Sept 12 Visit to Great Pyrenees breeder Richard Capel (les Bigerrionnes).
Walk with the flocks on the transhumance route.
Winetasting in Madiran
Overnight Hotel Gabizos, Argeles-Gazost
Thurs Sept 13 Visit the town of Gavarnie with spectacular view of the Cirque de Gavarnie. Hike or take horses to the foot of the Cirque -optional for those up for a physical challenge. Others may explore the delightful shops and cafes in the town.
Visit to Pyr and Pyr Shep breeder Benoit Cockenpot’s goat farm and creamery
Overnight Hotel Gabizos, Argeles-Gazost
Fri Sept 14 Visit to cow and sheep dairy farm that uses both breeds. Lac d’Estaing- relax on the terrace by the lake or hike with an international assortment of Pyrenean dog fanciers. Traverse the Col de Soulor looking for wildlife and dogs working the flocks, Lunch at the top of Col d’Aubisque. That evening our group hosts an international reception at the park. Overnight Hotel Gabizos, Argeles-Gazost
Sat Sept 15 Early morning visit to Pyrenean Shepherd and Anglo-Arabe racehorse breeder Marie Maillot (Pic d’Arbizon). Lunch on own and afternoon at Pyrenean Dog Festival -herding, agility, obedience, comportment tests. Club banquet dinner at Pierre d’Agos Restaurant in Agos-Vidalos; overnight Hotel Gabizos
  Sun Sept 16 Dog & Folklore Festival -herding demonstrations, folklore and music, market with local artisans and products, breed judging and ring d’honneur;  lunch on own.
Travel to Toulouse, overnight at airport hotel
Mon Sept 17 Return home via individual flights




2014-09-16 17.28.19 Troumouse




Casual with perhaps one nicer 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 warm 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 a safari jacket or windbreaker. Good sunglasses and sun block (UVA/UVB) are essential. You may also want to bring 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 if you feel cold easily, it’s not a bad idea to bring lightweight long underwear such as silk or thermaskins turtleneck & leggings. Make sure your safari jacket or windbreaker is large enough to zip up over the warm clothes.


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TravelSmith Moab womens ventilated hiking shoes 11485_main

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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: 


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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 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 Gavarnie with its spectacular cirque and waterfall, but depending on weather, it can be 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 place 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 please reserve asap.