Pau is the capital of Béarn, with nearly 200,000 inhabitants in the agglomeration. It enjoys a mild climate at the foot of the Pyrenees, which does not detract from its charm ! Ideally located halfway between sea and mountain, the city has always inspired painters and poets, it must be said that the Pyrenean chain as a permanent backdrop, especially when you stroll on the Boulevard des Pyrénées, makes a significant contribution.
Map of Pau and its surroundings, Jurançon and Madiran vineyards
After Lescar, Morlaàs then Orthez, Pau became the capital of Béarn under the leadership of Gaston Fébus and especially when Jean d'Albert and Catherine de Navarre built the famous Château de Pau there. It was during the Revolution and following the creation of the Basses Pyrenees department (which would later become the Pyrénées Atlantiques) that Pau began to regain some dynamism. Enjoying a mild climate beneficial for health, the city will experience in the 19th century an influx of English-speaking population, who will make it a wealthy city by building villas and other beautiful bourgeois houses, and even a golf course, the oldest in France besides ! Pau will experience a new boom after the Second World War, closely correlated with the discovery of the Lacq natural gas field a few kilometers to the west.
Today's city is attractive and dynamic, University, Business School, High-tech Zone, Sports Palace and Zenith, leading sports teams in Basketball and Rugby... You can find everything you need at Pau and the city is proud to have the most green spaces per inhabitant in Europe.
After Gaston Fébus had built a brick keep in the 14th century, it was Henri II d'Albret and Marguerite d'Angoulême who gave the Château de Pau its Renaissance style. Jeanne d'Albert, their daughter, established the influence and autonomy of Pau and gave birth in these places to her son Henri III of Navarre, baptized in Jurançon ! He would later become Henri IV of France, and will forever remain an emblematic figure of Pau and Béarn. We invite you to visit the Castle, its room for one hundred covers, its family room and its large living room, the room of the sovereigns, the apartment of the Empress Eugenie, the birthplace of Henri IV, and the magnificent Renaissance gardens at the foot of the ramparts.
The Château de Pau and its Gardens - Photos @ Lesley Williamson
Around Pau : Lescar and Morlaàs
Lescar and Morlaàs, both former capitals of Béarn are worth a detour, especially since they are almost today suburbs of the regional capital. Lescar, the first bishopric in the region, has a very pretty old town.
Morlaàs, where a local currency was minted in the 13th century : the Centulle, has a magnificent Sainte Foy church, which is also part of a circuit that we invite you to discover listing the remarkable churches of the region. North of Pau, you will discover by heading towards the Coteaux de Gascogne, a hilly Béarn, made of soft green hillsides on the borders of Chalosse and Tursan all close.
Church of Sainte-Foy de Morlaàs
Morlanne and its Castle
The castle of Morlanne, sentinel of Béarn located on the borders of the Landes and the Pyrénées-Atlantiques, is part of the fortification network established by Gaston III de Foix-Béarn (known as "Gaston Fébus") to protect its territories from the conflicts of the War of Hundred years. Erected in 1373 for his half-brother Arnaud Guilhem de Béarn, the Château de Morlanne is one of the finest examples of Fébusian construction with atypical architecture mixing stone and brick. Over the centuries, the fortress has known several owners as well as many changes before being restored in the 1970s by Hélène and Raymond Ritter. The couple bequeathed to the Department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques an important collection of furniture, paintings and works of art, visible in several exhibition rooms. The castle park is accessible to the public all year round, allowing everyone to discover or rediscover the Béarn landscape throughout the seasons. The site is protected as a Historic Monument. The keep and the curtain wall are accessible. All information here (fr).
From gentle hills to the south-west of Pau with at the bend of a road, the Jurançon vineyard against a backdrop of a grandiose panorama on the Pyrenean chain, the scene is set ! The peculiarity of these 1300ha of vines lies first of all in their height to avoid freezing, they produce magnificent dry and mellow white wines even syrupy for the oldest vintages whose gold color is reminiscent of Monbazillac or Sauternes wine. Stroll on the Jurançon hillsides circuit(fr), a pleasant route on the heights, where you will find independent producers and will be able to taste the famous Jurançon wines, dry white, mellowness which will delight your taste buds.
In the town of Gan, is La Cave Coopérative de Gan, which can be visited free of charge all year round. An essential place to taste the wines of the region, understand the stages of their cultivation, the choice of grape varieties, the harvest and the vinification.
La Cave Coopérative de Gan - Photos @ Lesley Williamson
The Vic-Bilh, The Vineyard of Madiran and the Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh
And to think that these wines were once served for mass... What a long way since then, with the obtaining in 1948 of the AOC Madiran. the Madiran vineyard has the particularity of spreading over three departments, the Pyrénées Atlantiques, the Gers and the Hautes Pyrénées, only a little more than 40% of the vineyard is in Béarn. It is a vineyard mainly producing red, very tannic, it is a structured, powerful and aromatic wine, ideal with red meats and game. Today's winegrowers have made it a fairly trendy wine and much less confidential than in the past.
The part of the white harvest produces Pacherenc, dry or soft. This white wine with a controlled designation of origin goes perfectly with the flavors of regional products such as cheeses from the Pyrenees, foie gras or even desserts. These wines, with unique flavors, will transport your senses and wake up your palates.
The Vic-Bilh is a very endearing area, to discover during a nature and heritage stay. In spring and summer, it is charming and covered with vines which bud and flourish on languid valleys... Garlin , Lembeye, Conchez-de-Béarn, Moncaup, many pretty villages and thematic routes to discover, for lovers of country hiking. The castle ofMarascaàs, The Museum of Old Tools, The Moulin de Bellegarde, the castle of Hiton, there are small local sites to visit, for heritage lovers. It is also a region where you can go mountain biking, there are marked trails, which cross sumptuous landscapes and if the drop scares you, rent an electric bike !
The Castle of Marascaàs and its gardens
The landscapes of Vic-Bilh
This is the opportunity to make visits to the cellars and vineyards
The Gallo-Roman museum of Claracq-lalonquette
For several years, all the remains of the Gallo-Roman villa of Lalonquette have been exhibited and enhanced at the Gallo-Roman Museum in Claracq, a neighboring town of Lalonquette. Housed in a renovated farmhouse, the permanent exhibition traces the history of this ancient rural establishment which saw the light of day and developed from the 1st to the 5th century AD, with a special place for magnificent mosaics. The visitor, while strolling in the alleys of the museum, thus discovers the aristocratic life of the former owners of the places, illustrated by the architecture, the decorations and the collections of the country palace of the 4th century. More information here (fr).