Wonderful Pyrénées-Atlantiques!!!

So I am taking you back to my belle France, of course. I like to revised, update my post on this wonderful department 64 Pyrénées-Atlantiques of my belle France , that I have visited and love so much. Of course, so do the rest of France, but this is special. I have written on its off the beaten paths towns and would like to reshape, update the text with some new photos found.

Following first the Tour de France bicycle race , later came in to visit the city of Pau and took advantage to take my local road warrior trips into my deep France. Always wonderful memories of doing it with my dear late wife Martine.

This part of France have gone thru many name changes over the years into the unified kingdom of France, the empire and then the Republic. Before 1969, the department was called Basses Pyrénées from the French revolution.  And before the French revolution ,this was the province of Béarn ,including lower Navarre, lands of Labourd and Soule (from the province of Gascogne) as well as some parishes of Soubestre .  The Labourd, Lower Navarre and Soule were the three provinces of the French pays basque. The department 64 has two faces today, that of the Béarn with Pau as principal city and the Pays Basque with Bayonne as principal city.

Let me tell you a bit about these off the beaten path towns which I have written specific posts before; this is a revision in a general sense of them.

Not too far from Pau, we have Thèze, about 20 km and is part of the Vic-Bilh. The N134 and the D44 /D944 as well as the connection with the A65 connects the city very nicely.  The Church of St. Peter dates from the 12C. It is remarkable for the volume of its porch tower and its Renaissance portal.  More from the city of Théze in French here:  http://www.theze64.fr/?page_id=488

We have Monein . The best way to get there is on the A64 highway (Toulouse-Bayonne); Exit 9 Artix at 11 km.  Monein counted a secular abbey from the 12C, a vassal of the viscounty of Béarn. King Henry IV dubbed Monein ,the Paris of Béarn!!!  The Church of Saint-Girons  (see post) dates from the 15C and 16C. It is the largest Gothic church in the  Béarn.  More info on the city of Monein heritage in French here: http://www.monein.fr/la-ville/patrimoine.html

The tourist office of  Coeur de Béarn on the Church Saint Gironshttps://www.coeurdebearn.com/en/heritage/the-church-of-st-girons-and-its-timber-roof.html

In direction Morlaàs we passed by an old castle where winding roads needed to be taken up the road D7 and then D62. this is in ruins but the tower is in excellent shape rides up ; and chivarly or knights contests for kids was very colorful. This is the Château de Montaner.  More info in French from the tourist office of the Pays Vic en Bigorre here: http://www.tourisme-vic-montaner.com/patrimoine-historique/chateau-de-montaner.html

And we arrive at wonderful Morlaàs, the town is connected with the D39 and D943 roads from Pau traversing the A64 highway. From the 10C to the 12C, Morlaàs was the residence of the Viscounts of Béarn and capital of the Béarn in place of Lescar destroyed in the 9C ,and Orthez will follow in the 12C. The town had a commandery of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem from Carvalho and Morlaàs. There were convents of Jacobins and Cordeliers. Morlaàs  printed money at the Château de la Hourquie (or the Fourquie, whose exact location is unknown to us today) since the 9C. The Morlan money was used throughout the south of France throughout the Middle Ages. In 1690, the monetary workshop was transferred to Pau. The weights and mesures of Morlaàs served as standards throughout the Béarn and up to Soule and lower Navarre.

Plenty of things to see here, and the main ones were covered in previous post but will name my favorites here: The fountain known as Baratnau, place Sainte-Foy, dates from 1635 ; this square also welcomed, from the 17C until 1845, a market; there is ,also the house of Jeanne Albret from 1451 as well as the Musée de Morlaàs with a rich collection of medieval or newer objects, paintings, weapons, keys, furniture, sculptures, a funerary slab and various architectural elements. The Château de Baratnau (at Place-dit Grange de Baratnau) was built around 1540.  The Château de Sarrabat, at the square of the same name, was built at the end of the 19C. There are eleven windmills in Morlaàs, some of which have preceded 1385.  St. Andre’s Church, rue Bourg-Neuf, partially dates from the late 11C. The Romanesque Church of Sainte-Foy dates from the 11C. The church is a stopover on the via Tolosane (or Toulouse Road), the Latin name of one of the four paths of France of the Pilgrimage of Santiago de Compostela, the southernmost.

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Further in glorious Morlaas, you have the The Cloister of the Benedictine priory of St. Faith dates in part from the 11C. A Church belonging to the Saint John Hospital Commandery of Jerusalem is reported in 1318 at the place Berlanne. Several times demolished and rebuilt (destruction by the Protestants in 1569, re-erection in 1610, demolition in the 19C, new inauguration in 1902), it is still the subject of a pilgrimage.  A first Convent of Jacobins was built in 1268, north of Bourg-Mayou, then destroyed in a fire in 1569. The monks then occupied a new building, dating from the 16C. You can see five capitals of marble columns Rue Molaàs-Vielle, the Convent of Cordeliers was founded before 1290 by Gaston VII of Béarn. 

Power to you to visit this beautiful architecture and historical city of Morlaas, more in their city page in French here: https://www.mairie-morlaas.fr/la-ville/histoire-et-patrimoine/demeures-monuments-remarquables/

Then took the D918 direction Mauléon-Licharre.  Not expecting to see anything here but just passing and voilà to our surprise it has many interesting things if hidden to the general public, of course you need a car but I will always say , the best way to travel….Mauléon-Licharre is located in the heart of the historical province of Soule, at the foot of the Pyrenees. Mauléon, an old feudal town, is built on the right bank of the Saison river or gave of Mauléon, at the foot of a hill where the ruins of the castle rise. The current town was created in 1841 by the union of the towns of Mauléon and Licharre. The old castle of Mauléon is an 11C castle, the castle of Maytie called Andurain was built at the end of the 16C by Pierre de Maytie. The city/town hall, located on the Place des Allées, was built for Count Philibert de Grama by François Mansart whose style is recognized with the alternation of skylights arched and triangular pediment and large spaced windows.  The states of Soule bought this mansion in 1777. It became the sub-prefecture of Mauléon from 1789 to 1926. Since 1980, it is the new City/Town hall of Mauléon. 

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Some further interesting facts here are that the writer Pierre Benoit used this location for the action of his novel for Don Carlos ,la Maison de La Fee (fairy ), at 8 Rue du Fort, known as the oldest in Mauléon. It bears the date of 1485 but probably dates more like 1785. The Maison de Bela which dominates the upper town with its Rounded tower. It is particularly well known because in 1587 its owner, Gérard de Béla, decided to introduce taxes, an innovation that displeased particularly  the inhabitants of the city. The market or halles dated 1765, was claimed by the inhabitants since the terrible fire of 1641 which had destroyed about 20 houses, leaving only eleven that could still properly shelter the market under their awnings.  The Chapel of Saint-Jean-de-Berraute is attested from 1220. It was part of the Commandery run by the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem or Knights of Malta. The Notre-Dame Church in the Upper Town; it has a parchment of 1373 which gave permission of the Bishop of Oloron to build a new chapel. The Chapel even though it was small, became Church and even Cathedral, having sheltered, with its contiguous  houses the bishop of Oloron and his chapter of canons on two occasions, from 1378 to 1412, during the Great Schism of the West which saw the Catholics divide between supporters of the Pope of Rome and those of that of Avignon . And again, from 1570 to 1599 during the Wars of religion. The Bishop of Oloron Claude Régis, expelled from his cathedral by the Protestants, took refuge in this Church to which he bequeathed his heart at his death in 1592. The Calvary (or white Cross) from the  17C made in  white marble located in the Rue de Navarre is a marble column erected at the site of the walnut tree where the judges of the ancient Court of Licharre, (today a crossroads in the traffic roundabout), were gathered.  The Church of St. John the Baptist was built in the late 19C.

More on this wonderful little town of Mauléon-Licharre from the city webpage in French here: https://www.mauleon-licharre.fr/fr/decouvrir-mauleon/patrimoine.html

The wonderful Lescar very near Pau , our home base always in the area for years, and you can tell we like it very much.  Lescar is located at 6.5 km  west of Pau;  it is also 52 km north of Urdos, which allows the passage to Spain (via the Col du Somport), heck yeah for many years our route even before the tunnel was built !!!,  and 87 km east of Capbreton on the Atlantic coast. It sits on the east-west axis by the A64 highway ( aka  La Pyrénéenne). A highway exchanger to reach the new highway A65 ; (aka Autoroute de Gascogne), crossing the A64 on the territory of the town and allowing to reach Langon in the north.  The town is also served by the old national Roads RN117, Route de Bayonne, and RN417 (forming part of the Beltway of Pau) which are grouped under the RD817 (super road connecting to many areas of Pau and out to other towns, great).

The town maintains more than 600 000 m2 of gardens, 12 000 m2 of compound massif shrubs, and has 2 674 trees on its territory. The best on are the Parc de Beneharnum, at the foot of the ramparts, then the  garden of the place Royale or the park of the City Hall. An oppidum of the second Iron age was also identified in the district of Bilaà, on which is built the castle of the family of Ariste. The lower town of Lescar represents the heart of the ancient Beneharnum. Archaeologists have exhumed in the district of Bialé  178 traffic lanes, sewers, foundations of houses, as well as ditches. Still on the Domaine Saint Michel, the remains of the funeral enclosure La Tourette are discovered dating from  the lower empire period of Rome. Several elements discovered on the site are exposed to the museum of Lescar, including furniture and a mosaic of 6.5 meters long on 3.3 meters wide.

The city of Lescar on its heritage in French: https://www.lescar.fr/attractive/ville-historique/patrimoine/patrimoine-architectural

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And we continue on towards Orthez, this is a nice town, first you have the house museum of Jeanne d’Albret, that shows the Protestant Béarn, the museum at 37 rue Bourg-Vieux, here you have four centuries of history from the reform to the 20C, the story of the Huguenots ,love the history. You must see the Church of Saint Pierre in a vast square or pl St Pierre. The town was the site of the viscount of Béarn and this led to start the construction of the Church in the 13C.

The city of Orthez on its heritage in French: http://www.mairie-orthez.fr/Decouvrir-Orthez/Patrimoine

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On our way out we passed and got to see the parvis of the château Moncade right in the town of Orthez! It is built on a hill of 100 meters high protected by moats with a well unique in Europe, from the top of the tower donjon (33 meters) you can see a wonderful view of the roofstops of Orthez.  the castle was built in 1242 and finally finished in the 14C by Gaston VII de Moncade. More on the Coeur de Béarn tourist office in English: https://www.coeurdebearn.com/en/heritage/the-moncade-castle.html

And there you go a quick run to some of the most picturesques off the beatn paths sights in my Pyrénées Atlantique of the Nouvelle Aquitaine region. Enjoy the ride and do keep them in to see places in my belle France.

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

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3 Comments to “Wonderful Pyrénées-Atlantiques!!!”

  1. One of my favourite regions in France

    Liked by 1 person

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