The village of Monein, sys itself it is in the heart of Bearn! It is a nice village , located 30 km West of Pau, direction Mourenx, (or Bayonne, and turn left after 20 km), counting 4000 inhabitants. The village itself is picturesque but the most important features there are the gothic St Girons church and that it is located in the heart of the Jurançon wine production area, and probably the best one.
The main picture shows the village from the vineyards located on hills South of the village, and the impressive church is also seen here from the main street (picture 2). Picture 3 shows it is a rather quiet place and old constructions (picture 4) like here the city hall arcades, are spread over the village, and some houses are nicely decorated, even quite soberly (picture 5).
Church St Girons , built in the end 15th and beginning 16th centuries is said to be the biggest gothic church of Bearn. It was for some time a protestant temple, but in the mid 17th century it became definitely catholic.
The remarkable thing here is the framework under the roof.; this returned ship framework is the most impressive I have seen and I could have figured out when I saw the roof outside.
The tourist office organises guided visits with a sound-and-light representation which I was not very fond of, but well, and it is the only possibility to see the framework.
I do not comment the pictures, just have a close look. This frame is made exclusively of heart of oak wood, most of the beams and balks are original from the construction time; it has been renovated in 1999 but keeping the original material as much as possible. You even can see marks from the renaissance carpenters on some of the balks. Ah, last picture is a side-ship under the big roof.
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.
Pau Castle is a mixture of styles, filled with amazing furnishings and well worth a visit. Henri IV Le Bon Roi of France was born here in 1553 and his turtle shell cradle is on display. However, it was local Bearnais hero, Vicomte Gaston Febus who created much of the chateau in the 14th century. As well as the turtle shell cradle, there is an oak table for 100 sitters, some intricate beds and colourful tapestries. A highlight was the castle's collection of luxury p*ss pots, used by Queen Jeanne :-)
Guided tours are in French only. There are printed information sheets in other languages, for example the Spanish sheets are bright yellow and the Englissh ones are white, so you can see who is who! On my tour the guide also spoke excellent English and offered to answer any questions in English. The tour took about an hour.
There was not much of interest in the Church of St. Martin other than that it large and close by the Chateau. It is, I think, 19C, and is neo-Gothic in style and quite spacious inside and quite tall with four large levels. We usually do not look at recent churches but this seems to be the oldest one in town. Unlike older churches, its narrow entry wall is at the North.
To people with a strong interest in the development of tapestry as an Art form, the walk through of the Chateau at Pau is a rewarding experience. There are how ever, as is usual with many collections, some difficulties. Most collections are set out with little feeling about the relationship to the other members of the collection. Luckily the newest works, the Gobelin ones, are seen first are on the ground floor. These must have among the first ones, there being only a little over 8 years between the beginning of the factory and Henri IV's assassination. Here we see Henri enjoying his family life. On the main floor of the castle are works from a number of sources especially works from Flanders of the 1550 period and later. There may have been a large book for sale but we could not have carried it. Here are five that we photographed (as best we could reproduce them).
The birth and life of Henri in Pau include some items of his and others surrounding his family. The initial crib is on show as evidence of his great future. There is an important monumental fireplace and a painting of him in youth. The ceiling of a one room is decorated to remember Queen Margueret and finally a painting of her in the house gallery. It is worth remembering that she is writers, writer of the Heptamoran/ of the first famous female
The largest room in the Castle is on the ground floor and it is able to be set up for dinners that seat 100 people. The lateral walls are covered with eight Gobelin tapestries. They are related to King Henri's daily life and were probably the first tapestries created at the Gobelin workshop in Paris since they T only began in Henri's last decade of life. On snother wall is a statue of Henri. The next room is the anteroom and beyond is one of the early examples of an interior staircase.
The most prominent part of the outside is a full sized statue of King Henri I stand under the central arch of the entrance to the Court of Honor. Some busts are also present upon different faces of the courtyard
The Chateau of Pau was started in the 12C and was enlarged during the 13-15C and remodeled during the 19C. The first building was a flat topped hunting lodge and also served as a Donjon. In the next centuries it converted to a castle residence. In 1464 it became the capital of Bearn. In the 16C Jeanne d'Albret, Queen of Navarre, gave birth to a son who later became Henri IV in 1589. The structure is of various types ranging from brick to fine carved stonework.