Do you want green nature, tumultuous waters, charming villages and historic towns? Look no further and go for a roadtrip along the Gave de Pau! You will discover Béarn from a different perspective! You will learn that landscapes shape the territories and that men, too, have been shaping Béarn for several centuries already!
The Gave is a river whose origin is in the Pyrenees and which has gradually lost its local name to replace it with “Gave de…”. Here, we follow the Gave de Pau. This river is also called the Grand Gave because several gaves meet there. It originates in the cirque of Gavarnie and runs for almost 200 km, crossing the Hautes-Pyrénées, the Pyrénées-Atlantiques and ending its course in the Adour. This makes it the longest Gave in the Pyrenees!
At Peyrehorade, the Gave d'Oloron and that of Pau unite with the Bec de Gave.
During your journey, do not hesitate to stop to enjoy the scenery. Small areas have been set up for taking breaks, having lunch, fishing, or simply getting some fresh air!
Whether you follow the Gave by bike, or by car, you will come across pretty villages that are worth making a stop to discover them and learn about their past. These charming villages are ideal for a photo break, or a picnic which can allow you to enjoy the beauty and calm of the place, but also to learn more about their history.
Why not stop for a little while in this village where the remains of a medieval castle lie dormant once used by certain kings of Navarre? Admittedly, there is not much left of this prosperous period, when the castle and the church (a few steps away) formed the stronghold of the village. But facing these thick walls, you will feel the power and importance that this site may have had in its heyday.
Berenx is one of the pretty villages crossed by the Gave. It flows in its center, and some old bridges are still present and integrated into the daily life of the Bellocquais. They give the heart of the village a historic and rural charm.
The Gave also runs in the village of Lendresse. Just like Bellocq, this village deserves that you stop there for a moment. Indeed, an interpretation trail has been created. You will be able to walk in the historic center to learn about its history, but also in the middle of nature to understand the relationship between the village and the Gave.
For those who love history and castles, take the time to discover Orthez and Pau. These towns, closely linked to the history of France and its monarchy, symbolize in themselves the apogee of the Béarn region and its hours of glory.
Orthez is an essential stopover during your roadtrip along the Gave de Pau. Medieval city par excellence, it was during the 13th century that it became the capital of Béarn. The independence of this region was declared there in 1347.
Count Gaston VII de Fébus, Baron de Moncade, had his main residence erected there: the Château Moncade.
He also ordered the construction of the ramparts which were intended to fortify the city and he also had the Pont Vieux built, which spans the Gave de Pau. This one testifies, even today, of this medieval time. You will be able to admire the beauty of this historical witness surrounded by the flowing waters of the Gave which shatter between the rocks, thus creating rapids.
To discover the remarkable sites from which the town of Orthez benefits, you can follow the signs entitled “Medieval circuit” from the Foirail car park.
Over 6 km, you will alternate between an urban walk and a walk in the middle of nature. Don't hesitate to plan a lunch break near Lac Grecq and sit down on one of the many picnic tables. If the sun is very present on the day of your visit, do not forget to bring a bottle of water, because some sections of the walk are not shaded!
In addition, if you want to enjoy the Gave de Pau more, you can go to the Biron leisure center, because it runs alongside it. Thanks to its 3.6 km pedestrian path, you have the possibility of walking along a mostly calm and peaceful river. This place offers many other activities: observatory, beach, playground for children, fishing, pedal boat rental, water skiing, zen garden, etc.
Since 1464, Pau has been the capital of Béarn. It is also considered a royal city, because it saw the birth of Henri IV de Bourbon, king of France from 1589 until his assassination by Ravaillac in 1610.
In the Middle Ages, the first castle was built to monitor a ford on the Gave de Pau. In the 16th century, the sovereigns of Navarre resided there and the castle evolved over time, until its current appearance.
It is an exceptional heritage which stands on the heights of the city. Stroll through the heart of the narrow streets that lead straight to the castle and you will come to a superbly maintained castle with mainly Renaissance architecture.
You can even enter the Tour de la Monnaie and cross the gardens and Basse-Plante where a few sheep are quietly grazing. While you are on the outskirts of the castle, follow the King's path and head towards the Place Royale where a marble statue of Henri IV proudly sits. From here you can walk along Boulevard des Pyrénées and, weather permitting, admire the mountains. While you are in this geographical area test the funicular, it is free!
Pau is the last stage of our roadtrip along the Gave of the same name. But if you have the time, continue this journey along the water and soak up the landscapes and the sweetness of life in the heart of Béarn.
Article and photos prepared by Charline Prod'Homme, La Plume Digitale