Archive for February 6th, 2021

February 6, 2021

Charming old Sauveterre de Béarn!!

In my road warrior trips all over France, I have come to many quant towns and villages, however, one that always struck my fancy was coming to charming old Sauveterre de Béarn! Let me update/revise links on this older post and hope you enjoy it as I do!

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.  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 posts) 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 a long 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 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 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 Sauveterre needed to be evacuated.  Before leaving they destroyed the bridge ,and the English entered the town.

Things to see in Sauveterre de Béarn:

There is a wonderful feodal castle (14C) of Gaston here with the great pont vieux or légende,  and the gave d’Oloron or river of Oloron, with beautiful natural views and great panels mentioning the wonderful old history of Gaston Fébus. The story goes that the pont de la Légende link the right back of the gave d’Oloron. However in 1732 a huge flooding took away part of this bridge. It now remains but half of it, both Gaston VII Moncade (1229-1290) , and Gaston Fébus (1349-1391)  fortified this bridge and added a tower with an adjoining stairs (still there) , rooms and levy bridge and the entry to this the old Hôpital Saint-Jacques des pèlerins de Compostelle (St James hospital of the pilgrims of Compostela).

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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 and Gaston Fébus 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.

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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.

The Church of St Andrews or Saint-André. (see post) 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. On the South side of the Church you will see a door reserve to the cagots, a category in the population deem of the lowest levels in the social scale but admitted to the Christian community.  Some tourist historical information on it . It has a length of 35 meters, a width of 20 meters   and at the top of its spire, it reaches the 27 meters.  I t has 3 naves (the central nave has a height of 13 meters), an apse and two apsidal chapels,  a transept  with 2 beautiful roses.  Its Bell Tower, its cover with roof of 4 sides, and on each of its 4 sides, you can see  3 bays  encrusted,  the Central column  surmounted  by  a  pierced tympanum of  an oculi.  The porch and  sacristy are more recent and dates from the end of the 19C.  In the mandorla, there is a Christ in Majesty.  The entrance portal has only a single arching,  but notice the side framing  (7 columns from each side  surmounted by capitals decorated with vegetative motifs in general, some of them presenting figures. A really nice Church with great views of the valley and gave d’Oloron river below it.  Not much is written on it on the tourist sites but it should be and it is the main thing to see in Sauveterre de Béarn.

We were way into the country and to go back will be too long without eating so we decided to have lunch here at the Auberge du Cheval Blanc in the place Royale (tel +33 (0) 5 59 67  36 52 of Sauveterre de Béarn. It was a pleasant choice, friendly service, fast ,and funny exchanges with the servers. The food was done on site nothing special just home made,  entrée of salad of chévre chaud (hot goat cheese), beef and cheddar cheese lasagna in a terrecotta hollow dish very original and delicious, créme brulée for dessert, with water , bread , all for 12,80€ per person and a glass of rosé wine from the Jurançon area for 2,80€. good deal. They have a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/aubergechevalblanc64/

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

The city of Sauveterre de Béarn on things to see: https://www.sauveterre-de-bearn.fr/tourisme-et-patrimoine/patrimoine/patrimoine-medieval/

The tourist office of the Béarn Pyrénées on Sauveterre de Béarn things to see: https://pratique.tourisme64.com/patrimoine-culturel/sauveterre-de-bearn.html

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 charming Sauveterre de Béarn!! And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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February 6, 2021

The wines of Pauillac are out of this world!!!

This is another revised updated older post in my blog. Just saying been to Pauillac several times as one of my fav areas of France. However, this time was different as was invited to attend a tasting of the famous Mouton-Rothschild house!! Stay tune and hope you enjoy the tour of wonderful Pauillac!!

If you have follow my blog over the last years, you know that wines play an important part of my life. I have detail my experiences in previous blog posts so will skip it here. Bordeaux is a wonderful city ,and written on it too. However, when it comes to speak about the Médoc that wonderful peninsula we tend to usually call it by the broader name of Bordeaux is awesome.

Well I wrote on the beaches of Medoc, and Bordeaux, and wines in general but not on my favorite wine spot in the world. No need to explain just tell you the name, Pauillac.  Pauillac is located in the department 33 Gironde in the region of Nouvelle Aquitaine on the river side. The town is about 50 km from Bordeaux. The best way to come here is by car, from the rocade or beltway of Bordeaux take exit 7 or 8 then take the road N2 via Blanquefort (the route of chateaux) or the D1215 via Castelnau de Médoc. Also, there is a bus 705 from Bordeaux passing thru several wine communities and of course Pauillac,see the left hand side column for schedules on webpage: https://www.transgironde.fr/fr/horaires-de-ligne/6/RouteSchedules/bordeaux-pauillac/385/cissac-medoc-pauillac/1

The interesting bit of history I like here is that even if the town is known since pre history it is only until the 18C wine commerce that it became known.  In 1777 , Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette arrived in Pauillac on the banks of the Gironde river to eventually reach USA to help the American people gain their independence. A stone is erected in the river front of Pauillac to commemorate this event showing the boat La Victoire. The words written on it says, D’ici, le 25 mars 1777, s’est embarqué Marie Joseph Paul Yves Gilbert Motier ,  Marquis de LAFAYETTE, avec l’espoir de rallier les Amériques,  A bord de la “VICTOIRE”. Simply saying that here on March 25 1777, set sail Marie Joseph Paul Yves Gilbert Motier , Marquis de La Fayette with the hope of reaching the Americas on board the Victoire.

And ,if I can tell you about Pauillac then we are talking about what wine is all about, and what the world for many years are trying to imitate without success in my opinion.  The peninsula of Médoc is what is surrounded by the Atlantic ocean, the Gironde river, the pointe de Grave, the forest of Landes and the marshes of Bruges. Simply put, you have one of the best beaches in France on the Atlantic ocean side and the best wines in the world on the Gironde river side. All divided into three areas, Bas-Médoc, Haut Médoc, and the Landes. When it comes to wines, it is these famous areas that makes it great, appellations such as Médoc, Haut-Médoc, Saint Estéphe, Pauillac, Saint Julilen, Listrac-Médoc, Moulis-en-Médoc, and Margaux.

All of these using different grapes in a mix by now just call the Bordeaux blend.  The main grapes representing  more than 90% of the grape varieties are:
The Cabernet Sauvignon  brings frame and structure to wine and guard capacity.
The Merlot  roundness, flexibility, complexity and ability to appreciate the younger wine.
Cabernet Franc  brings roundness, fruity, complexity to wine.

The complementary varietals meaning in addition to the above in the blend are :
Malbec or côt brings flexibility, roundness and structure, but demands that the yield be well controlled.
The Petit Verdot brings aroma, framing and structure, but requires good maturity.
Carménère is an almost absent relic grape but still available.

As said  the wine here is big, glorious simply the best in the world. The vineyards of Pauillac are Grand Cru with almost 1100 hectares and about 37 wineries of which 18 are Grands Crus class 1855. These are:

Premiers crus : Château Lafite-Rothschild, Château Latour, and my favorite Château Mouton-Rothschild

Seconds crus :  Château Pichon-Longueville, Château Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

Quatrième cru : Château Duhart-Milon (part of Mouton Rothschild)

Cinquièmes crus : Château Pontet-Canet, Château Batailley, Château Haut-Batailley, Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Château Grand-Puy-Ducasse, Château Lynch-Bages, Château Lynch-Moussas, Château d’Armailhac (Mouton property), Château Haut-Bages LIbéral, Château Pédesclaux, Château Clerc Milon (Mouton property), and Château Croizet-Bages.

Other than the wines things to see in Pauillac

The parish Church of Saint-Martin at the place Maréchal Foch; the museum inside the Château Mouton-Rothschild with wine objects from all civilizations. The Orangerie in the Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande with a private glass collection as well as those coming from Venice, Bohemia and French/English glasses from the 17C to 19C. It comprises about 700 pieces collected by owner May-Éliane de Lencquesaing.  The caves of Artigues, built in 1897 as a replica of those of Lourdes and with a statue of the Virgin. To allowed the pilgrims to drink water of Lourdes, they will exchange with the priest of Lourdes a barrel of wine of the Château de Haut-Bages with one full of water of Lourdes.

You have several important events here over the years we have participated some of my favorite are the open door event where many castles usually more reserved open their doors widely to the general public. Portes Ouvertes en Médoc next event are March 27 and 28 2021. webpage in French:https://www.portesouvertesenmedoc.com/

The Festival of the lamb, a very succulent dish here and grown locally to keep the race intact. Fête de l’Agneau de Pauillac; look up eventually in May 2021. webpage in French: https://agneaudepauillac.jimdofree.com/

Another great event but have not participated but seen is the Le Marathon des Châteaux de Médoc; webpage in English: https://www.marathondumedoc.com/en/

And of course, let me tell you the main reason coming this time, Mouton-Rothschild!!!

The property of Château Mouton-Rothschild is a splendid place , beautiful gardens, great cellars and a wonderful museum all in one.  In 1954, Rothschild married his mistress, Pauline Fairfax Potter , an American, born in Paris, who was a fashion designer at Hattie Carnegie. After their marriage, she makes use of her aesthete talents to restore the old warehouse of the property and make it a superb mansion, which makes it famous in the world of fashion and interior decoration. She was born Pauline Potter at 10 rue Octave Feuillet in the Paris neighborhood of Passy in the 16éme district to wealthy expatriate American parents of Protestant background.Her mother was a great-grand-niece of Thomas Jefferson and a distant cousin of Britain’s Lord Falkland and Lord Cary.  Her father was a playboy who was a grandson of an Episcopal Bishop of Pennsylvania, and a nephew and great-nephew of successive Episcopal bishops of New York . Baron Philippe de Rothschild  belongs to one of the three branches of the Rothschild in France. He was a Grand prix pilot under the pseudonym of “Georges Philippe”, screenwriter, theatre producer, film producer, poet, and one of the world’s most famous winegrowers. Both are now deceased. The property was carried out by the daughter of first marriage, Philippine de Rothschild, under the stage name of Philippine Pascal, she was previously known as an actress, mainly at the Théâtre (Comédie-Française), but also, in a more marginal way to film and television. She was the daughter of Baron Philippe de Rothschild and Elisabeth Pelletier de Chambure, who died in deportation in Ravensbrück in 1945. Current principal of the company is Philippe Sereys de Rothschild , the son of Philippine de Rothschild.

Other properties of the company are  the  Domaine de Lambert, Baron Arques, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, Mouton Cadet, Opus One in Californai and  Viña Almaviva in Chile amongst the best known. The company is part of a select group of winegrower owners call Primum Familiae Vini (often abbreviated PFV, Latin: “First Families of Wine”) is an association of family-owned wineries with a membership limited to twelve families. Their webpage is here: http://www.pfv.org/en/

Hope you enjoy it the general overview of this town and wine properties and especially my Mouton Rothschild, I am direct and received all their primeurs wines and lists!!!!

The official webpage for Mouton-Rothschild: https://www.chateau-mouton-rothschild.com/

The official webpage for the controlled properties of Mouton-Rothschild: https://www.bpdr.com/en/

The museum of Mouton Rothschild at the main château property in English: https://www.chateau-mouton-rothschild.com/the-museum-of-wine-in-art

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Personal Pauillac pictures as a memoriam anecdote, my dear late wife Martine was not into wine when we married in 1990, however, over the years she became alongside a good taster and fine companion, will be missed forever.

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Other webpages to help you plan your trip here are:

The Médoc tourist board on wine routes of castles: http://medoc-tourisme.com/en/incontournables/chateaux-route/

Hoping this can be printed in your side of the world, a map of the Médoc wine region to carry along in pdf file: http://pays-medoc-2017.kiubi-web.com/media/1912.pdf

The Gironde dept 33 tourist office on the wine routes: https://www.gironde-tourisme.fr/decouvrir-la-gironde/bordeaux-wine-trip-irresistible-vignoble/

The wines of the Médoc on wines of the Bordeaux area: https://www.medoc-bordeaux.com/en/?age_legal=true

Enjoy it as I do every day is part of a state of mind or culture at its best. The Médoc is tops as in Bordeaux, France. And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

February 6, 2021

Au Dernier Metro !!

Oh yes, this is another gem that found out from my ongoing updating and revising posts that have not given exposure in my blog. And as this is my life’s history, need to tell about the Au Dernier Metro ;nooo not the movie but the restaurant in Paris!!!

In my trip to Paris , I stop by the Seine at Levallois-Perret in Hauts de Seine dept 92 and along rue Anatole France by metro line 3 pont de Levallois Bécon ,and then had a car ride and went for my lunch at Au Dernier Metro on 70 Boulevard de Grenelle. Couple planchas of ewe milk cheese with ham, pate, terrines chorizos salad and bread down with a leffe beer blonde just what Paris is all about! Nice ambiance and great food.

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Let me tell you a bit more about this find in my eternal Paris.

A bench in the last Metro is worth it! or Au Dernier Metro.  And for good reason, planted in front of the aerial metro of Dupleix, you can really attach the bistro label to it in the full width of its acceptance; with colors, crowd, joy, earthiness, gouleyance of wines and flavor of cold meats. Good shoulders recommended for clearing your way to the large counter and a sip of Irouleguy wine. When meal time strikes, the friendly waiters manage in good humor to convince drinkers to make room for eaters.  At Au Dernier Metro is the work of a family from the always enterprising bistro tribe of the capital, the Basques. It was not born yesterday, since the Lafargue family, originally from Mauléon, (see post) have been in charge for thirty years.

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Since 1991, the boss Jean, alongside his wife Nathalie, of Croatian origin who quickly fell into the “bistro” mold, has been watching over this  Au Dernier Metro  less romantic than Truffaut’s work. This Au Dernier Metro calls on a slew of small producers and farms in the Basque Country. Special mention, for the Coche ham, raised on the Spanish side and signed by Maison Arosagaray. Among the classics of the house, the Basque sausage flavored with Espelette pepper accompanied by its piperade ,and a special mention for the Parmentier with Mauleon sausage . If the pepper is scary, there is always the essential andouillette of Père Duval, a pledge of bistro quality or Basque tripe for real scoundrels!

At the Au Dernier Metro, it is at the same time a bar, a brasserie, a restaurant in the Sud-Ouest or southwest of France, where all the merry men meet to drink and feast without ever taking themselves seriously; and it is not the boss who will say the opposite! Get there anyhow on foot or car or metro Dupleix line 6 or bus line 42.

The official webpage of Au Dernier Metro, the restaurant! http://: https://auderniermetro.fr/fr

And my favorite for comments from folks like us Yelp on the Au Dernier Metro: https://www.yelp.com/biz/au-dernier-m%C3%A9tro-paris-2

So , there you go folks , another dandy of my eternal Paris needed to tell you about it quick. GO there, Au Dernier Metro is recommended by yours truly and I don’t usually do this. Enjoy it as I do always.

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

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