Archive for June 26th, 2018

June 26, 2018

Charming old Sauveterre de Béarn!

As we are moving in the deep south of France, let me tell you about a town drawn from the middle ages and still almost intact . The best is the car by here and you will love it ,the scenes are spectacular. We were canvassing the region and came here from reading a tourist brochure , my dear late wife Martine love it.

I have written on it before in a combination with another town ,see that post. Here is my previous blog post on Sauveterre de BéarnSauveterre de Béarn

Sauveterre-de-Béarn is in département 64  Pyrénées-Atlantiques, région of Nouvelle-Aquitaine. The town is one of the principal roads of Santiago de Compostela on the Via Lemovicensis (or Vézelay).

Sauveterre-de-Béarn is located at about 15 km  from the exit of the autoroute A64 connecting Pau with Bayonne via the D933 that takes you to Salies-de-Béarn , Saint Palais etc; Other roads are the D23 to  Orthez and from Mauléon  ; D936 to Navarrenx and Oloron-Sainte-Marie (see this post) and continues to Bidache. The bus line transport 64  809 Orthez/Salies-de-Béarn/Sauveterre-de-Béarn/St Palais also takes you here. The train station closes to the town is at about 17 km in Puyoô. The station at Orthez is about 22 km and  Dax is at 45 km.  By plane, the closest airports are at Pau and Biarritz at about same distance of 60+ km.

A bit of history i like

The first mention of the town with the name of Sauveterre was shown in a map of Dax around the year 1120.  In this map it was explained that by 1055 a certain Loup Brasc de Sauveterre  was sent by the Viscount of Oloron, to remove the clergy in favor of the bishop of Oloron du Garenx and of Reveset areas. The mission was accomplished and this Loup Brasc received a war horse as prize and the right to governed the town of Sauveterre. Thereafter  ,Sauveterre belongs to the  Viscount and the Bishop of Oloron. A bit later , the Viscount of Oloron is attached to the Viscount of Béarn of which Sauveterre was made part of.

In the 13C, Gaston VII of Béarn reinforced the fortifications of Sauveterre-de-Béarn.  He ordered built the Viscount castle ,a Hospital for the pilgrims of Santiago de Compostela and strenthen the bridge. He died at the castle of Sauveterre in 1290.

In 1276, king Philippe III le Hardi, decided to established his sister Blanche de France (Blanche de Castile), on the throne of Castile (Spain). To do this , he raises an army to invade Castile. The French army stops at Sauveterre de Béarn ,and do not cross the Pyrénées for insufficient stock of food and winter was arriving. In November of same year they continue their march.

In the 14C, in the reign of Gaston Fébus a lot is given to Sauveterre-de-Béarn. The fortifications are streghten and improved; the castle, the bridge are renovated. This is now the bridge or pont de la Légende.  Finally upon orders of Gaston Fébus, the Pope Urbain V authorized the Carmelites to come to Sauveterre. Gaston Fébus died in 1391 in the forest of Hôpital-d’Orion during a hunting trip. His body is brought to the castle of Sauveterre ,and buried eventually in the Convent of the jacobins of Orthez.

During the campaigned of Catalunia (1456-1466),in  1462 and 1463, Gaston IV of Foix-Béarn received the king of France Louis XI in Sauveterre.  King Louis XI meets with the Juan II king of Aragon in 1462 on the bridge or pont pont d’Osserain here.  The viscounts of  Béarn, becomes the legitimates kings of Navarra after a war of succession in 1479. Sauveterre will play a pivotal role in the independence of Navarra during the 16C as a frontier town. A neighborhood of Pléguignou  was reinforced as a military outpost facing Navarra and the arsenal built in the 15C is still here.

In 1523, Henri d’Albret, Viscount of Béarn, tried to reconquered the Upper Navarra lost by his father Jean d’Albret, taking advantage of the differences between the king of France ,François Ier and the king of Spain ,Carlos V. France invaded Navarra and takes Pamplona. Carlos V counterattack and recovered the Upper Navarra as well as invades the Lower Navarra. Under the Spanish army led by the Prince of Orange the kingdom of France is invaded. To do this it will need to pass by  Béarn, and in 1523, they are in front of  Sauveterre. The city is attacked and surrended. However, few months later the Baron of Miossens and a group of locals re takes  Sauveterre. After the situation returns to normal the Navarra is cut in two, with the Upper Navarra (Autonomous comunidad de Navarra) under Spanish domination, and the Lower Navarra kept by the Béarn (eventually France).

During the Wars of Religion, Sauveterre as the whole of the Béarn becomes Protestant. The town faces the Calvinist Protestants with the Catholic Basques; and Sauveterre is attacked by the Basques in 1569. The town is retaken by force on orders of Jeanne d’Albret.  During this time , the Catholic rite is prohibited in the city and the Convent of Carmelites is destroyed; all Catholics are sent to exile.  The Church of Saint-André (St Andrews) is preserved for the practice of the Protestant rite,and a temple is built later on.  The fort of Tolose is built in 1580 in order to protect Sauveterre from potential attacks by Catholic France.

During the French revolution, the parliament of Sauveterre is canceled and all need to abandon speaking the local language or béarnais, the language of the sovereign State of  Béarn. In 1814,following the lost of Spain by Napoléon, the allied army of English-Portuguese  under the Marquis of Wellington invaded the south of France, and Sauvetter needed to be evacuated.  Before leaving they destroyed the bridge ,and the English entered the town.

Things to see in Sauveterre de Béarn:

The bridge or Pont de la Légende, there were three bridges ( pont de la Légende, pont du Miéy ,and pont de la Réclusy) connecting the right bank to the left bank of the gave d’Oloron river. However, in 1732, a huge flooding took place taking a great part of the pont de la Légende. Today, it is only half of this fortified bridge remaining.  It is here that the queen  Sancie received her judgment of God in 1170. Gaston VII of Béarn (1229-1290) and Gaston Fébus (1349-1391) later strenghten the bridge around a tower and view stairs, working room,  way road and levy bridge. At the entrance of the bridge , there was a hospital for the pilgrims of Santiago de Compostela.

Sauveterre de Bearn

The tower or tour Monréal, built during the 12C at a height of 37 meters was a tower for defense and living. It looked over the incursions of the Basques and Spanish.  today it houses a model of the medieval city of Sauveterre between the 13C and 16C .

The Arsenal from the 15C. An adjoining tower dates from the 11C. This are now the ruins of the viscount castle ordered built by  Gaston VII de Béarn , and renovated under Gaston Fébus in the 14C.

The city/town hall or Hôtel de Ville,an old mansion from the 16C former property of the marquis of Nays, Count of Salette. The gate or porte de Lester , 12C. The porte du Datter, and the ramparts  done between the 12C and 19C.  The pilgrims hospital for the way to Santiago de Compostela. The fort Tolose  built in 1580 durinng the wars of Religion to reinforced the northern ramparts of Sauveterre. The walls are 1,25 meters thick, and pierce with deadly points. All surrounded by a moat  as well as an upper level.

Sauveterre de Bearn

The Church of St Andrews or Saint-André. It was fortified and built in the romanesque gothic style of the 12C and 13C.  On the tympan are represented St Mathieu(as a young men) St Mark (as a lion), St Luke (as a bull) , and St John (as an eagle).  The old convent of Carmelites founded in 1364 upon orders of Gaston Fébus, remaining intact until 1569 when the Basque pillage the town against the Protestants (as the Church was used as a temple). The town of Sauveterre is on the way or via Lemovicensis (or via Limousine or via Vézelay), Latin names to the four roads from France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.


Some webpages to help you plan your trip here and well worth it indeed.

Pyrénées Atlantique 64 tourist office :

Tourist office region of Nouvelle Aquitaine:

City of Sauveterre de Béarn:

There you go my dear readers, a wonderful trip indeed, of course car is king in the mountains unless you have the force for a bike or walk the Way. Enjoy it.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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June 26, 2018

How to come and get around Madrid!

Ok so again the same here, another city that I go often since childhood and drove on it first in 1982 and many many times afterward. Yes you can drive in Madrid as in any other major city if you are used to coming from driving in big cities. Madrid is no different than any others.

I hear folks telling me of the fears of driving here, the way Spanish people drive etc etc like Madrid is from another planet. If you have driven in Paris, London, Rome, Brussels, Frankfort, New York, Jakarta, Sao Paulo, Mexico DF, just to name a few than driving in Madrid is easy. If you have experience driving in smaller towns like Ronda, Pluvigner, Vineland, etc than you might as well be aware, it will be different….

I have written a post on my blog a while back on the subject and will bring it up here: Driving in Madrid

Madrid has several major roads coming out from it such as the A1 Madrid-Aranda de Duero-Miranda de Ebro-Vitoria-San Sebastian, and the A2 Madrid-Guadalajara-Zaragoza-Lérida-Barcelona-Gerona-PortBon-Frontier France, A3 Madrid-Valencia, A4 Madrid-Aranjuez-Cordoba-Sevilla-Jerez-Cadiz, A5 Madrid-Talavera de la Reina-Navalmoral-de-la-Mata-Mérida-Badajoz-frontier Portugal; A6 Madrid-Medina del Campo-Tordesillas-Benavente-Astorga-Ponferrada-Lugo-La Coruña. Other highways with origins in Madrid of major impact are the A42 Madrid-Toledo, M607 Madrid -Puerto de Navacerrada to service to Colmenar Viejo and Tres Cantos. The city ,also, has several beltways roads that have grown since living there such as the M30 (finished with me living there), This beltway below or above ground practically goes around Madrid inner ring; you have the M40 going further out into the residential areas and the M45 again further out, the M50 further out on a big huge circle and then again maybe more needed. Madrid has becomes a huge metropolis. Heavy traffic are encountered on a daily basis and need to know the rush hours to have it easier.

The highway watchdog with cameras, and heavy traffic points to avoid per road is here in Spanish. Dir Gen de Transports Madrid

Map of Comunidad de Madrid on highways that can be magnified and printed is here: map of highways Madrid region


The wonderful metro/tube/subway of Madrid opening in 1919 and already with 294 kms and 13 lines the third biggest in Europe by km and the 9th on passengers during 2014, last year could find. The network has 12 regular lines and the section Opera to Principe Pio as well as 3 lines of light metro and 38 additional stations. Of the current total of 301 stations, 200 are single lineand 27 are double and 10 have on three lines and the station of Avenida de America with four lines  correspondances. It connects in 21 stations with the suburbian train network Cercanicas of Madrid managed by RENFE. The beltway lines are MetroSur (Line 12) passing by Alcorcón, Móstoles, Fuenlabrada, Getafe, and Leganés; MetroNorte (Line 10) passing Alcobendas and San Sebastián de los Reyes; MetroEste (Line 7) reaching to  Coslada and San Fernando de Henares; TFM (Line 9)  connecting  Rivas Vaciamadrid and Arganda del Rey, as well as Metro Ligero Oeste (Lines 2 and 3), there is a tramway network at Pozuelo to Boadilla del Monte. Webpage : Metro de Madrid


Two main line train station, one at Atocha and the other at ChamartinRENFE Madrid

There is a huge bus network runs by CRTM and the EMT with 2000 buses and 200 lines . The principal terminals are at Avenida de America, Mendez Alvaro, and Plaza de Castilla, there are other smaller ones such as Moncloa, Principe Pio, and Plaza Eliptica. CRTM MADRID

Madrid municipal transports service or EMT has a well define network with bus lanes . The vast majority of these buses work from 6h to 23h30 at 4-15 minutes intervals and the weekend and holidays from 7h to 23h. There is a night bus or Bùhos lines known by their N number from N1 to N27 from their terminal at Plaza de Cibeles.  EMT MADRID

The main airport is the Adolfo Suarez Barajas at 12 km from city center connecting with the city on line 8 at Nuevos Ministerios to T4 airport in about 20 minutes and about 12 minutes on the other terminals. Adolfo Suarez Airport Barajas


There is a express bus line from Barajas airport and Madrid Bus Express. More here: bus express airport Madrid


Cercanías is a service of Renfe on suburbian train service having 9 lines . They connect all the lines by the Atocha train station that allows you to go to San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Aranjuez, mountain towns in the Sierra de Guadarrama (C-8 and C9 to Cercedilla and Cotos) ,and Alcala de Henares  as wel as reaching rapidly the T4 terminal at Adolfo Suarez Barajas airport  The C-2 and C-7 to Alcala de Henares and C-3 to Aranjuez and El Escorial. The line C-1 is the one very fast from T4 to the city as well as connecting Atocha with Chamartin main train stations.  More info here: Cercanias Madrid


The taxis of Madrid are white with a diagonal red and  white line on the front door and the city coat of arms.  If the roof is green the taxi is free to take passengers, you simply signal for them the usual way.  If the trip is from the airport there is a fix price of 30€ as long as the trip is inside the beltway M30 (the old central beltway). This price does not include any other service added as long as the place of pickup and the hour are respected. Some further useful info from the tourist office here: Getting around by Taxi in Madrid

More and more a very nice bike network is setting up lead by the organisation of Madrid BiciMad as well as stores specializing in bikes that rent out as well especially on the parks and the tourist places. BiciMad is with electric bikes that last count were 1560 with 3216 bornes to pickup and dropoff at 124 stations. the Municipality has several technological innovations such as application Donkey Republic allowing you to find your bike and others such as Ofo-Smart Bike Sharing available in itunes, google play or oBike as well.  I give you the official webpage as well as a private operator Doncielo.

I won’t go into details with pricing and choices as these are subjective as well prices can change, you need to check the official sites before your trip to be sure. In general, there are forfaits of 1,2,3, 5,7 days on the two transports zones of Madrid A and T . The tickets are available in consecutive days from the date of first use.

The Zone A allows you to go to all the lines of the metro, airport (with supplement of 3€inclus) , all the bus lines in town like the blue buses of EMT except the Express line Airport, the zones 0 and A of the Cercanias network of Madrid and the line M1 of Metro LIgero. The  Zone T  is recommended for those willing to go outside the city such as to go to El Escorial, Alcalá de Henares, Aranjuez etc and includes the entire metro network such as zones A, B1, B2 ,and B3), all the lines of city bus blue EMT and intercity green bus of the comunidad de Madrid , the Express Airport bus is included as well as the services to Guadalajara and Tolède,as well as the Cercanias trains of Madrid , and lines ML2 and ML3 of the Metro Ligero,as well as the tramway ML4  to Parla.

You have plenty of tourist offices throughtout the city that helps you with all questions (really a big improvement for the visitors) including security issues. These are

Tourist center Plaza Mayor ,Plaza Mayor, 27 (Casa de la Panadería), Info kiosk Paseo del Prado Plaza de Neptuno, info kiosk Atocha Ronda de Atocha, s/n (next to Museo Reina Sofía), info kiosk Plaza de Callao, Plaza de Callao, s/n; info kiosk Recoletos-Colon ,Paseo Recoletos, 23 (under a bunker looks like a metro entrance across the Plaza Colon); info kiosk Paseo de la Castellana, 138 (next to  Santiago Bernabéu stadium) , info kiosk Centro, Plaza de Cibeles, 1 (Palacio de Cibeles), info kiosk at Adolfo Suarez Barajas airport T2 between halls 5 and 6; info kiosk airport as well at T4 hall 10 ; , and SATE assistance service to foreign tourists at Calle Leganitos, 19 (police). SATE Madrid

Some additional webpages to help you plan your trip and enjoy the transports of Madrid

Download a city map of Madrid from tourist office

Find a parking  (I am register here really good one) in Madrid:

How to plan your trip on streets and highways and services around them street finder in Spanish:

Hope it helps make your visit a more enjoyable one to a great city very close to me . And remember, happy travels , good health, and many cheers to all!!!


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