Friday, April 8, 2016

A Week In The Bearn

        It's now Friday, but I'm only up to writing about last Sunday, as I have fallen far behind on writing my blog. On Sunday morning, 4 of us drove into Pau, which is the largest city in the area. Although it only has a population of around 80,000, it seems quite large. There is a large indoor market hall in Pau open Monday through Saturday, but on Sunday morning there is a small outdoor market, and we stopped there for some provisions and took a short walk around the center of town. We walked towards the Chateau de Pau, which stands high above the town, and a woman who works there said that since it was the first Friday of the month, tours of the chateau were free. Since it was almost noon, we decided to go back to our gite and return to Pau in the afternoon to visit the chateau.

       After lunch at our gite we drove back to Pau, which is only about a 20-25 minute drive. After a short wait at the chateau, we joined a group for a tour. The chateau was built in the Middle Ages, and is most notable as the residence of Henry IV, the French King known as the Father of France.


         On Monday morning we went back to Pau to go to the large indoor market. It was quite impressive, with food vendors of all types. Among the things we picked up were magrets de canard (duck breasts), foie gras, and various vegetables. After leaving the market we came back to the gite for lunch. In the afternoon we drove to the town of Morlaas, where the postal agency was located which was supposed to have my suitcase, and they did. I was pleased, as I had just about given up hope of ever seeing it again. Suitcase in tow, we drove to the larger town of Oloron Ste. Marie, and spent a little time strolling through the town and along the river.


          On Tuesday morning we went to the weekly market in the nearby village of Nay, and picked up some provisions. On the way to the market we walked into the courtyard of the striking Maison Carreé, which is now a museum, and also took a look at the river that flowed through town. In the afternoon, 3 of us drove to a couple of Jurancon wine producers, Chateau Jolys and Domaine Lapeyre, and tasted and bought a number of wines, both dry and sweet Jurancons.

        Wednesday, four of us drove south towards the Pyrenees, stopping first in the village of Bielle, where we took a stroll around town and stopped in at a boulangerie. Bielle is a lovely town, and we were greeted by a dog up on his hind legs behind a gate. He seemed very friendly, until another dog came by and they attempted to fight while separated by the gate. Next, we drove to the town of Laruns, which is at the gates of the Pyrenees mountains, and took a walk around the town. We then headed back towards our gite for lunch, with a brief stop in Rebenac to pick up a couple of baguettes.

      After lunch we split up, and Ann and I headed off to first visit a Jurancon winery, Domaine Montesquiou, which had been recommended by Leon Stolarski, an English importer of French wines. Like almost all of the Jurancon wineries, it's a very small operation. We tried one Jurancon sec, and their two sweet Jurancons: Amistat, which is the less sweet of the two, and La Grappe d'Or, a dessert-style wine.  The wines were all exceptional, and we bought several bottles. I had come to the conclusion that there is no bad Jurancon wine.

       After leaving the winery we drove to Salies de Bearn, a town formerly well-known for its salt production, and still known as a spa town. We took a walk through the center of town, and although most shops were closed, it was a very pleasant stroll through the narrow old streets and along the river. When we left Salies, we decided to head to a dairy farm to the north east that was known for its ice cream. After making a few wrong turns, we found the farm just outside a small village, and made it there 4 minutes before closing time. Their freezer was well-stocked with ice cream, and we picked up cassis sorbet, hazelnut ice cream, and caramel with sea salt ice cream. We then drove back to our gite, where Ghisaline had prepared a dinner featuring pintade (guinea hen) in a wine sauce, using the pintade we had picked up at the market the day before.



  1. Why does my mouth water every time I read one of your posts? Unfortunately, I don't have any pintade in wine sauce on hand, nor any delicious Jurancon wine. Do keep up the posts, though; somehow I'll figure out how to deal with my intense envy.

  2. We will be travelling to that area in September and I have really been enjoying reading your travel guides. We are thinking of staying in a gite and i was wondering where you stayed and did you like it? Thanks for any information you can provide.

  3. We stayed at a gite in Bosdarros, and really enjoyed it. We rented through Gites de France; here is the link to the gite tghrough GDF:
    It was fairly large, but there were 5 of us and we needed 3 bedrooms. There was nothing within walking distance except for the restaurant at the end of the road, but the town of Gan was just a few minutes away, and they had a number of shops.