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The most southwestern corner of France's sprawling "Southwest," the rolling hills of the French Basque provinces stretch from the Atlantic beaches of glittering Biarritz to the first Pyrenean heights: the hills and highlands of Gascony around the city of Pau. These are mere stepping-stones compared to the peaks of the Hautes-Pyrénées, which lie to the east and sit in the center of the towering barrier historically separating the Iberian Peninsula from continental Europe.
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