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12km north of the RN117, between Pau and Orthez, is the très jolie village of Morlanne. It is here, in the 14th century, that Gaston Fébus built a large castle to defend Béarn from the English.
The castle fell into disrepair until it was bought by Raymond and Hélène Ritter in the 1940's. They lovingly restored the edifice to its original splendour. Hélène lived in her château until she died two years ago, at an advanced age.
Morlanne has an extremely picturesque main street which links the Church (on the main road) with the Château (on its hill). There is a tea-shop, an information office and a very interesting sculpture studio here.
The church is very unusual, looking more like another castle. It is in a poor state, very slowly being repaired. The carved front doors are wonderful.
Updated Apr 4, 2011
I had read something about this castle but hadn't given it much thought until i drove past it on my way to the menhir. On the road between St-Sulpice-de-Faleyrens and the menhir at Pierrefitte, you 'll find this place. I made a quick stop on my way back. The place isn't open for visits i guess or maybe when you go for wine tasting. Though i didn't see a sign indicating that it was possible. Then again, i didn't go up to the front door and ask, which maybe i should have done.
The castle was the refuge for Henry de Navarre in the 16th century. And it is rumoured that Louis XIV also came here for refuge for a while.
Updated May 19, 2009
This megalith is the biggest in south-west France and is about 5 meters high.
It is the biggest attraction of this small village that is just a few kilometers away from St-Emilion. But still it isn't very easy to find. When i drove to St-Sulpice i just took the rule of thumb that in case it wasn't indicated otherwise i would need to go straight on. This worked very well until i got in St-Sulpice itself and i had to choose between a left turn and a right one. And of course no sign in sight. I decided to turn right in the direction of the church. I went out, looked at the church, found i couldn't go inside and headed back to my car. That is when i saw a sigh 'Megalith de Pierrefitte'. Assuming that the area wasn't littered with menhirs i followed this sign. So i drove out of St-Sulpice and suddenly saw from a side glance that i just passed the damned menhir. It is on the left side of the street when you come out of St-Sulpice and stands in a field, just of the road. So did a u-turn as soon as i could and drove back.
It is a strange sight, this huge stone standing there already for thousands of years. For no apparent reason. And it felt even more strange with the traffic roaring by at such a close distance. Very unreal
Updated Dec 14, 2007
Ste -Croix-du-Mont is famous for the 'rock' it is build on. 25 million years this was the seabed and home to a vast colony of mussels. They stayed behind when the sea drew back.
There is also a castle though you can't see much of the interior because it is in use. You can find the 'tourist office' there. And from the terrace in front of the castle you have a very wide view over the area. Very nice. According to the sign here one should be able to see the Pyrenees and Bordeaux. Though they might just as well have been indications of the direction because i stared and stared but i couldn't distinguish either of them..
Updated Dec 14, 2007
Castelmoron d'Albret is the smallest administrative community in France. And it is very picturesque as well. There live around 60 people (give or take a birth or death) so it doesn't take long to visit. Although if you head to the Marie they might be willing to show you the defense cellars and the old jails they have downstairs. And i did love to walk around the place. So nice to take photographs here. It definitely is worth a stop if you are in the neighbourhood.
Updated Dec 14, 2007
I guess you could say Athez-de-Béarn is on the 'beaten track' because it lies on one of the pilgrimage routes to Santiago-de-Compostella. Arthez is a 5km detour north from the RN117, between Pau and Orthez. It is très agréeable and stretched 2km along a high ridge, overlooking the Pyrenees Mountains (when they are visible).
The village has an attractive main street. You can sit in front of the church and watch the sun set over the Pyrenees. There is also a tableau pointing out what you can see from here.
Arthez has a complete set of busy shops and businesses - a baker, post office, cafe and bar, supermarket, clothes shops, a butcher... an estate agents, driving school, hairdressers, barbers, dentist, doctor etc. etc.
The centre of the village's activity is the Cafe des Sports on the main Sqaure, where you can get a good cup of coffee, beers and croissants. Good cheap meals can be obtained in the pleasant cafe/bar opposite. There is a cheap and cheerful 'Gite Communale' on Rue la Carrere.
At the far east end of the village is the ancient Chappelle de Caubin, built by the Knights of Malta.
Visit my new Arthez-de-Béarn Page.
Updated Aug 10, 2006
It may be the little train but, 2000 metres up in the Pyrenees mountains, it is the highest train in Europe. The train was built in the 1920's to take men to build the reservoir, which is at the 2000m point.
Two small brightly coloured trains shuttle visitors backwards and forwards from one end of the 10km track to the other. The whole journey takes about an hour. There is a large ticket centre, shop etc at the start of the journey and a small, basic (but very friendly) cafe at the reservoir.
To reach the railway from the lake and ski resort, you must take an exciting trip in a small cable car. This swings you high above the trees and deposits you near the top of the pistes (no snow - they are dry and grassy in Summer). Views of the mountainside are amazing. If you are lucky you will see several wild marmots, like black rabbits without the ears.
Be warned, it can get cold and wet at 2000m up a mountain. The sides of the train are open to the air. Make sure to wear something warm, or have a coat handy!!
Artouste is close to the Spanish border, approximately 35km due south from Pau. The journey by road through the mountains to the Lac d'Artouste is very picturesque.
The petit train has struggled with funding but so far it has managed to open every summer. See their new website for latest info
Updated Aug 10, 2006
A few kilometres south of the main Pau to Orthez highway is Mourenx, a small, very modern town. It grew rapidly in the middle of the C20th to accommodate the workers for the local gas field.
The gas company has thrown money at the place, compensation I guess for the inconvenience of living next door to a sulphurous industry!
However, the money has allowed the local council to be lavish with its town. Particularly the roundabouts/circles on the main road into the centre.
There are several of them, with fountains, sculptures, trees, plants, coloured water, flourescent lighting!! I'm surprised there aren't more road crashes because of the distraction :-)
Mourenx also has some cheap shops and good value restaurants. The Nautilus Pizza Restaurant (16, rue Charles Moureu), on the main rounabout highway, offers a wide range of good value, freshly cooked food.
Written Mar 28, 2005
It is so lovely to drive in the countryside and see the grapevines full of beautiful plump grapes just waiting to be picked.
Also in this area are Fig trees and walnut trees. How wonderful to stop by the roadside pick a fig, eat it and drive on??
Written Sep 29, 2004
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