Monument to Resistance Fighters
Orthez was occupied by the Nazi's during World War II. There is a rather scary and forboding monument in memory of the local resistance fighters. For some reason it is directly opposite Orthez General Hospital, bones protruding with arms outstretched to the sky!!
A local woman in her 70's recalls how, as a teenager, she bicycled everyday to the town of Salies to deliver secret messages hidden in bread. She also remembers the Nazi's hanging resistance fighters from the ancient fortified bridge over the gave! There was a concentration camp a short distance from Orthez.
Ignore the fact this tip may be headed by VT 'Favorite Thing'. I would describe it as a 'memorable thing' of Orthez, it is hardly a favorite tale!
Location: rue Xavier Darget
The all-night Orthez Festival
At the end of July each year Orthez barricades its roads for a noisy and popular street festival. Similar fetes happen all over the area during the summer. It is customary to wear white and red, particularly a white shirt and a red scarf.
People from all ages enjoy the entertainment and the atmosphere is loud but friendly. The squares become filled with modern fairground rides. Some of them swing within a few feet of the church walls! The bars and hotels sell beer in the street. At night there is house parties, music, bands, pyrotechic displays, raves and discos. This continues till sunrise!!
Orthez Bullring becomes the location for traditional bullfights and (less brutal) courses landaise.
Orthez - pronounce the 'z'
"Capitale ancienne de Bearn"
A picturesque town of around 10,000 people, for two centuries Orthez was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Bearn.
Today the red-rusted TGV chemin de fer dramatically divides the town in two. The 13th century fortified town bridge and pretty town houses stand poignantly counterposed to a modern level crossing!
"Orthez - Harmony Between Mountain and Sea"
On almost the same latitude as Nice and near the Fr/Spanish border Orthez is an ideal base to enjoy an area rich in leisure and cultural activities two countries, under the sun of the “other South of France”.
This historic market town was once the capital of the Bearn, Pyrenees Atlantique area of France. With its cafes, restaurants and leisure lake with beach for swimming and water sports, or the other charming villages and spa towns of the area, there's plenty to do and see.
"So Much to Do - So Little Time!"
The renowned surfing beaches of the Atlantic and the ritzy town of Biarritz with its “Belle Epoque” architecture and many attractions is less than an hour away. Further down the coast is the elegant Spanish city, San Sebastian and a little further still, Bilbao, home of the famous Guggenheim Museum. Historic Pau, with its chateau and Europe’s first mainland golf course, is only half an hour’s drive and little further lies Lourdes, the well-known pilgrimage site, with the nearby Grottes de Bertheram, and of course in the winter, there is skiing in the magnificent Pyrenees only c. one hour's drive.
The area offers surfing, skiing, water skiing, tennis, rafting, canoeing, fishing, hill walking, shopping, museums, chateau, galleries, aquarium, cinemas (vo films), ten-pin bowling, casinos,markets, vineyards, cheese trails, spas, fetes.
See my website for more information about the attractions of the area.
"House Hunting in France?"
Orthez also makes an ideal base for house hunting in this lovely, friendly area. Because it's not actually on the coast, it's still possible to get bargains and it's much cheaper than Biarritz!
It is an area well worth investigating....
Féria d’Orthez 2006
"Awash with people"
The town centre streets are barricaded for almost a whole week in July each year. They become filled with people, young and old, usually till dawn.
On the Thursday evening this junction became the scene for an outdoor rave and foam party. Unfortunately I was wearing sandals. Yuk!!
Normally a tranquil building, the town's church gets close to the action during the Fete. Fairground rides swing at high speed within feet of the medieval buttresses. You are kidding yourself if you think you will see me on one of those things!!
I call this singer the Pink Punk, because I cannot remember the real name of his band. And he was quite camp. Their stage was tucked in a corner, next to the old town museum and tourist information office.
This is the real reason I went to Orthez for a second night. Michel Whatsisname and his Accordion Band. Unfortunately I was a bit too young, by at least 20 years, to participate in the dancing. But the oldies certainly knew their steps ;-)
"Partying into the night"
At the time I left, after midnight, the house parties were ending and young people were heading into town. If this was Britain, local government officers would be patrolling the streets to give them all ASBO's. Fortunately, this is Béarn, France ;-)