Garbure! What is this?
Easy! It is a soup, a thick Bearnaise soup, the one all restaurants have on their menu, and you never have the same, even in the same restaurant, from one day to the other! Well, you understand there is no fixed recipe, and each chef or family mother (father sometimes, not all Bearnais are machists!), has his own way to cook it, and to choose the ingredients to do it.
As examples, here are 3 recipes you can find on the web, but there are many more:
You notice they are a bit different in the way of preparation, but there are compulsory ingredients: Tarbais beans (big white beans), garlic, confit duck (duck preserved in its own fat), duck or goose fat, cabbage, . . . etc. A very light meal in fact!
Well, I tell about this because it is a very popular dish and you can even find it on the streets, for instance at festivals, like on the pictures here which were taken during a fair in Pau, and there is some folklore with, with local musicians and singers.
The main picture shows a giant pan where this soup is prepared; garlic is compulsory: (picture 2). The musicians are animating the stand here, (picture 3), and have a rest with a glass of. . . Jurançon probably, (picture 4 and 5).
In truth, this is not really an "off the beaten track" tip, as you are likely to spend a fair amount of time on or around the Boulevard des Pyrénées if you, like me, are visiting the city's historical centre. Nevertheless, I found that I only really saw the Belle Époque mansions because I was going between the various well-publicized monuments, and stopped to take pictures only because my leg was bothering me and it made for a good rest stop. Pau is rather odd in that there appears to have been a number of redevelopments in what would otherwise be considered a historical setting. The mansions along the Boulevard des Pyrénées are an excellent example of this. Taking advantage of the spectacular view afforded by this street, the wealthy decided to build magnificent homes that were to rival the hedonism of Biarritz and the Basque Coast. Obviously, unlike in Biarritz, that atmosphere has not remained in Pau, but the pretty Belle Époque villas are still there, slightly rotted by the intense humidity (enough to give them character, but not make them crumble). This is definitely something you should stop to appreciate in order to understand fully the patchwork and mosaic development of this forgotten capital.
Gardens below the Boulevard des Pyrénées
The gardens under the Boulevard des Pyrénées are my favourite gardens in all of Pau. These are the most impressive, I think, because they climb the steep slope up from the river and the railway and include a wide variety of semi-tropical plants. There are palm trees and plenty of shrubs, but, given that this is meant to be more of a hiking trip than a walking garden, there are not many flower beds. On a hot summer day, a trip to these gardens is perhaps the best thing that you can do, as the shade provided by the trees is very much welcome, although the abundance of water may make it more humid than expected.
The first floor: The family apartments
Upstairs you enter first a reception room, where most of furnishings is from 19th century, decorating a room with renaissance ceilings and a renaissance fireplace.Next room an empire style decoration, (picture 2); I prefer to have a look outside rather than to spend too much time in listening to boring explanations (probably depends on the guide) (picture 3) where I have a different look at the towers. Then the bedroom of the sovereign, who was Louis-Philippe king of France from 1830 to 1848, who renovated the Chateau; the old character of the chateau has somehow been destroyed, and again 19th century decoration like this little angel on a pendulum clock (picture 4) and finally the room of the queen. In the corridor between the king’s and queen’s rooms a Gobelin shows an interesting detail: are these goldfinches (picture 5) there to give some inspiration to the king when he visits the queen?
Visit inside possible only with a guide
Entrance fee: 5 €
Free for young people until 17 and free every first Sunday of the month.
Open throughout the year, every day except: January 1st, May 1st, and December 25th
September 16th to June 14th:
9h30 - 11h45 / 14h - 17h
June 15th to September 15th:
9h30 - 12h15 / 13h30 - 17h45
The famous Jurançon wine
Do not live Monein without a visit to a wine producer!
I was recently (Beginning Dec. 2006) at “Domaine Cauhapé”, probably one of the best in the area; he produces 3 dry white, 6 sweet white and 1 red wines. Henri Ramonteu, the owner, when he is there welcomes the visitors himself and organises a visit to the vineyards, where he explains why he uses this or that technique and what grape variety is used for the different wines and what wines are blended or not.
The most used variety is the “Petit Manseng”, and the second one is the “Gros Manseng”, local varieties.
The grapes for dry wine are picked in October-November and quite rapidly put to fermentation after pressing the juice. I am not fond of dry white wines, but I have to confess the “Canopée” vintage is full of perfumes and flavours (mango, with a moss smell, quite nice)
For sweet wines, the grapes are picked later, and the later, the more alcoholic, the best and. . . the most expensive! Cauhape has a wine called “folie de Janvier” ( January madness), the grapes are picked in January, there are very few, the grains are picked one by one (like in the best Sauternes), and there are few bottles.
All this is not publicity or promotion, just some impressions from what I tasted here. I also liked to visit the winery, and listen to the explanations for making the wines in the cellars.
For groups, Cauhape organises lunches or dinners on his winery with his wines of course.