The Pic du Midi's Rooms Are Heavenly

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It is 400 years since Galileo gazed in wonder at the night sky through a telescope for the first time, and to celebrate the event, 2009 has been declared the International Year of Astronomy.

One of the best places on earth to join the star-gazing fraternity is a glass-and-concrete aerie perched on the roof of the French Pyrenees: views from the Pic du Midi are so good that NASA used it to map the moon's surface for the Apollo landings.

It is also a hotel catering for up to 19 guests, with tours of the telescopes and fine dining included in the room rate. Access is by cable car from the ski resort of Le Tourmalet, and in winter skiers savor the adrenalin rush of a descent from the 9,439-ft. (2,877 m) summit.

The facility boasts Europe's highest museum, with displays of astronomical data and images of the mind-bending dimensions and beauty of the universe. Closer to home, visitors can journey to the moon courtesy of a telescope that takes them to the crater of their choice.

The Pic du Midi can be eerie in colder months, when freezing mists swirl around the domes and antennas, but on clear nights, when the skies are blazing with stars, it is as close to heaven on earth as astronomers can imagine. Galileo would have loved it.

Overnight stays at the Pic du Midi, with dinner and breakfast, are priced at around $280 per person, or roughly $420 per couple. See for more.