Self Catering in Pyrenees-Atlantiques, Aquitaine
When the department of Pyrenees-Atlantiques in the Aquitaine region was formed in 1790 it brought together parts of Guyenne, Bearn and Gascony as well as the Basque regions of Labourd, Soule and Basse-Navarre.
Parts of the department are steeped in the Basque traditions with both the Gascon and Basque languages being present.
Located close to the Spanish border the department has cultural links with Spain.
The department is blessed with several lakes including Lacs de Carnau and Lake Gentau and rivers like Luy de Bearn and Gave de Pau. To the west is the Atlantic Ocean and in the south are the Pyrenees Mountains.
The department offers beaches, vineyards, mountains and historic villages.
TOWNS AND CITIES
Pau is the department’s capital on the edge of the Pyrenees overlooking Gave de Pau, a mountain river. Orthez is a medieval town known for its Tuesday markets where you can buy locally grown produce. Biarritz has been a popular beach resort with the rich and royals since the 19th century, there are brilliant beaches and classic buildings like Hotel du Palais.
Bayonne between Nive River and Adour River was settled by the Romans, it is situated close to the Spanish border and is the centre of French Basque culture. See the white washed houses with brightly coloured shutters, listen to the locals speaking Euskara and sample typical Basque cuisine. Saint-Jean-de-Luz is a wealthy seaside resort.
Other cities of note are Anglet, Urrugne and Hendaye.
ACTIVITIES IN PYRENEES-ATLANTIQUES
Visit the department’s capital and walk the 1.8km long Boulevard des Pyrenees from the Chateau de Pau, the city’s 16th century castle to the Parc Beaumont where there are beautiful views of the Pyrenees.
You can take the funicular from the valley below up to the city which is famed for its green open spaces. Enjoy the hiking routes around the capital and along 65km of the southern border. In the Gave de Pau below the city you can fish and kayak. The department is perfect for skiers, nature lovers and fishermen. The Parc National des Pyrenees is rich with wildlife.
Futuroscope, near Poitiers is an amusement park with a difference, concentrating more on visual effects and electronic games than rides. In Foret D’Iraty you can do cross-country skiing and hike or ride the Basque ponies through the beech forests.
To discover more about the Basque culture visit the Musee Basque in Bayonne. Surfers and beach lovers should visit Biarritz for La Grande Plage Beach and also Anglet Beach. In the pristine Pyrenees Mountains there are three ski resorts and 3 Nordic ski resorts (where you can try dog sledding, mountain biking and trekking as well) together with 50 lifts and all the amenities you need without the crowds of other European ski resorts.
FOOD AND DRINK
The cuisine in Pyrenees-Atlantiques incorporates some of the warmth of Spanish cuisine. Foods to try are 10 month old Brebis cheeses, Bearn duck confit, garbure soup and poule au pot a stuffed chicken boiled with vegetables from Gascogne cuisine.
Wood pigeons are a seasonal dish called salmi de palombe. In St.-Jean-de-Luz try the chipirons, squid cooked in squid ink. In Bayonne you can sample typical Basque cuisine like the marizan and Bayonne ham and in Pau try the fresh salmon de Gaves. Espelette chili peppers are the star of much Basque cuisine.
For something sweet try gateau Basque or candied cherries. For beverages in this department try the Irouleguy wine and Izarra liqueur in Bayonne.
There is pleasant weather year round and the summers are particularly warm. The department benefits from the warm Gulf stream and is similar to the Mediterranean climate. The winters are mild and the rest of the year the weather is warm. Along the coast the climate can be humid.
Average summer temperatures are 22°C and in winter the average is 5°C.