What to see in France


Pic du Midi d'Ossau
Pic du Midi d'Ossau

When you think of camping holidays in the South West, it is not necessarily the first destination you think of. Leaning against the Pyrenees, between vineyards and wine cellars, Béarn nevertheless has some very nice surprises in store for you.

Although its culture is less present and less obvious than that of its neighbour, the Basque Country, Béarn is still a region steeped in history, whether it be the reign of Gaston Phébus, the promulgation of the first constitution in history in the Parliament of Navarre, of course the birth of King Henry IV, or more recently the camp of Gurs near Navarrenx, which was one of the great internment camps in France between 1939 and 1945. Moreover, another reason to spend your holidays there, Béarn is a "plural land" that will amaze you. Wherever you are, within a radius of less than 50 km, you will discover totally different landscapes. Around thirty campsites await you in Béarn.

Pau : a history book... but not only !

Castel of Pau seen from the Gave
Castel of Pau seen from the Gave© PauPyrénéesTourisme-Guilhamasse

Walking around Pau is first of all like going through the pages of a history book. It starts, of course, with a visit to the Château de Pau where Henri IV was born. In the course of the rooms, you will discover or rediscover the man who was one of the great kings of France with in particular the tortoise shell in which he would have been born. Going through the centuries, stop at the Bernadotte Museum which tells the life of the man who, Marshal of the Empire who became King of Sweden, created a dynasty which is still on the throne today. History is still the Parliament of Béarn where the first constitution was promulgated, which later inspired Pascal Paoli in Corsica and the great revolutionaries. Lovers of old stones, will you get lost in the lanes of the old district of Hédas.

But Pau, it is also a formidable incentive to stroll to taste this sweetness of life which seduced the subjects of his very gracious majesty, a little more than a century ago. Leaving the station, take the old funicular that will take you to the Boulevard des Pyrénées, this magnificent balcony over the mountains that leaves the Parc Beaumont and its casino to arrive at the Château de Pau. Make a few return trips and contemplate the mountains. At this stage of the story, there is good and bad news. The good news is that if you see them well, it's a spectacle that even the old palois never get tired of. The bad news is that it is often a sign of rain. Afterwards, cross the Beaumont Park to discover the fabulous villas built at the beginning of the 20th century by wealthy Englishmen in need of a holiday.

The three valleys... but also

Oloron Sainte Marie, the capital of the... Basque beret
Oloron Sainte Marie, the capital of the... Basque beret© OT Piémont Oloronais

Béarn is also the three valleys that lead from the plain to the mountains. The Vallée d'Ossau, which ends at the Col du Pourtalet, gives access to the ski resorts of Gourette and Artouste. Along a road that takes its time, it makes the Pic du Midi d'Ossau, symbol of the whole region, burst through your windscreen. It is then the Vallée d'Aspe which starts from Oloron, the French capital... from the Basque beret to the Somport pass. Finally, it is the Valley of Baretous which also allows to reach the border via the Pierre Saint Martin. Whichever one you choose, you will see the colours and landscapes change over the kilometres.

Heading north, you will enter the "Béarn de Gaves". The medieval town of Navarrenx welcomes you. Built along the Gave d'Oloron, it is the French capital of salmon fishing. Push a little further on to Salies de Béarn, a spa resort located between the Gave d'Oloron and the Gave de Pau. Make a last stop in Orthez and follow in the footsteps of Gaston Phébus, with the Old Bridge and the Moncade Tower.

A land of epicureans

But Béarn is finally a region where good living and good eating are elevated to the rank of religions. For example, get lost in the vineyards of Jurançon, planted mostly on hillsides and whose colour changes with the seasons, from the most greedy green in spring to the most brilliant fawn in autumn. This land of agricultural tradition is also a fabulous basket filled with products and dishes whose mere mention is enough to "twist the taste buds", such as Garbure, the peasant soup that is fabulously firm to the body, or the Poule au Pot, dear to Henri IV and Sully. Let yourself also be tempted by all the products derived from duck, confits, pâtés, foie gras, etc. To "bring down", you will be spoilt for choice with the Jurançon, a dry or sweet white wine, which is said to have been served at the baptism of the future king Henri, with the Madiran which will enchant a confit served with its pan of cep mushrooms... in moderation of course.


See all my campsites consulted