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Bearn is known for its constant proximity to the Pyrenees Mountains. They are massive things. Arthez is an excellent viewing point, stretched along a high ridge of land. There is a tableau next to the church illustrating what is viewable on a good day.
The Bearnais have a similar saying to the people of Wales - 'If you can see the mountains it is about to rain. If you can't see the mountains then it is already raining'. This is not strictly true, but violent thunder and lightning storms can generate very quickly. And the mountains can appear, or disappear with any excuse. If it is humid and hazy you may not see them for weeks. I have found that crisp, clear winter days are best for perfect views.
Updated Aug 2, 2006
Address: Terrace in front of St Etienne Church
At one end of the village you will find the small 12th century Chappelle de Caubin. This is nicely restored with plenty of visitor information on a notice board outside. The chapel was founded by the Knights of Malta. Its treasure is a tomb of Baron Guilhem Arnaud d'Andoin in an alcove to one side. The visitors' book often has a nice collection of international messages from the many 'pilgrims' who pass this way on the Saint Jacques de Compostella route.
Written Aug 2, 2006
Address: East end of village at bottom of hill.
This is not a Restaurant tip unless you consider croissants to be a meal. Neither is a Nightlife tip, because I have not had a chance to sample Didier's after dark activities ;-)
The Cafe des Sports is a centre of social life in the village. It is run by brothers Philippe and Didier, with help from their nonchalant cat, Hubert. Often you will find the Mayor of Arthez here having a coffee or beer with friends.
Closed Mondays. And between 12 and 2pm everyone crosses the road to the Brasserie for lunch, so you will look very un-French to be sitting sipping coffee at this time ;-)
Written Jul 27, 2006
Address: Main Square, Arthez
Every Saturday morning Arthez becomes filled with market stalls, selling all sorts of fruit, veg, cheese and other goods. There is also a regular van selling freshly baked pizzas. And occasionally a 'Commerce Equitable' (Fair Trade) stall. The village wine merchant also sets a table and barrels outside his shop for wine tastings. The nicest stall sems to be outside the Old Mairie, selling all sorts of cheese from every type of milk producing farm animal.
Written Aug 10, 2006
Address: Main Square/Opp. Old Mairie
Nothing gets past Mado ;-) She likes to know what is going on in the village. This is great if you want to practise your French language skills. She also speaks Spanish, so don't let that be an excuse!
Mado is the person you go to see if you are a pilgrim on the Route de Saint Jaques. She stamps your card to say you have passed through Arthez.
By all accounts, Mado is a local heroine. She took part in the French Resistance during the War when the area was occupied by the Nazis. She says she bicycled regularly 20 miles to the town of Salies to deliver secret messages hidden in loaves of bread.
If you are a duck, be warned, you will end up in Mado's pot, or be quickly made into pate-de-foix-gras or other duck products!!
Written Jul 27, 2006