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Foix, county seat of the Ariège département, sits in the crook of the confluence of the Rivers Ariège and Arget. Its 11th-century church and streets lined with medieval, half-timbered houses are watched over by the imposing Château des Comtes de Foix.

The composer Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) grew up in Foix, where his father was a teacher at the local lycée, which today bears the name of his son. There's a statue in Fauré's honour on the wide main boulevard, which also carries his name.

Though little or no evidence remains, minerals from the earth around Foix once brought wealth to some and great wealth to a very few. From medieval times until the late 19 th century, gold panners would work the Ariège downstream from Foix, seeking the flecks and grains of gold that the river flushed down. Iron-ore extraction has just as long a history and the lode was mined in almost as individual a way. Villagers would haul out their day's pickings (the maximum daily quota was controlled by a cooperative of miners) and sell it, on the spot and for cash, to muleteers, who would transport the load to Vicdessos, just off the valley, where it was sold on to the foundry managers.

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