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SW France - A tour in the Pyrenees : between Béarn and Soule

15961 Views 20 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  Giri
Béarn is a former Pyrenean viscounty in SW France whose vernacular language is Gascon. Soule is another former viscounty but Basque is spoken. Still, both entities share much as Soule used to belong to the diocese of Oloron (a town in Béarn). Nowadays, both are joined into the Pyrénées-Atlantiques département.

Let's begin with Lasseubetat. This little village doesn't appear on my map, it's East of Estialescq (from Gascon La Sauvetat="the refuge") : it's situated in deep Entre-Deux-Gaves (the name of the region between rivers named Gave d'Oloron in the West and Gave de Pau in the East).

On the road to Estialescq are farms in Pyrenean Béarnais style :

Estialescq is a little village before Oloron :

In the suburbs of Oloron is the castle of Goès : I'll by-pass the town in order to reach the Barétous valley. See here for pics.

The Castle of Boès in Féas (Hiars in Gascon, Inhazi in Basque < plural Latin fenare=hay prairie) welcomes us to Barétous, the first Béarnais valley when coming from the West.

Le Soum d'Ombret in Ance (Ansa in Gascon, Arhantza in Basque) :

Aramits (Aramits in Gascon, Aramitze in Basque) is the capital of Barétous :

Le Soum de Liorry and the road to Spain : I won't go and instead I make for the Basque valley of Soule (Xiberoa in local Basque).

Le Soum de Berret :

In the distance is the pass to the Aspe Valley. From West to East : Pic de Ségu, Athay and Bizarce.

Lanne is the last Béarnais village before Soule (Lana in Gascon, Landa in Basque).

Isaac de Portau's Castle aka the musketeer Porthos :

We leave Barétous and Béarn and enter Soule with this house (Cabana) overlooked by the Pic d'Arguibelle :

Montory is a Gascon-speaking village with some Basque-speaking hamlets : it used to be known as Beroritz but was renamed Montory when it was granted the For d'Oloron (fuero) : it's overlooked by the Mount Bégousse (Gascon for oak).

Arguibelle from Montory :

We eventually reach the Basque-speaking area with the main town of High Soule : Tardets (Atharratze in Basque). The Saison river is more than a torrent here.

Let's fork towards the left bank of the Saison with villages bearing great names : Alos-Sibas-Abense, Alçay-Alçabéhéty-Sunharette ...

Alos (Aloze in Basque) :

Alçay (Altzai in Basque) :

Contrary to neighbouring Béarn contaminated by meriodionalism and provençalism, new houses in Soule are built in the old vernacular style :

Let's go North towards Mauléon : the valley is getting larger and less mountainous.

Sauguis (Zalgize in Basque) with its trinitarian bell tower.

Saint-Etienne (Doneztebe in Basque) :

Menditte (Mendikota in Basque) :

In the West, as the plain is now very vast and agricultural, one can have a glimpse of the Arbailles mountains between Soule and Lower Navarre :

Let's keep going North :

Behind us, the whole Pyrenees with the infamous Pic d'Anie (situated in Béarn, Auñamendi in Basque).

Idaux (Idauze in Basque) :

Garindein (Garindañe in Basque) :

We finally reach Mauléon-Licharre, capital of Soule known for its castle named "Galhard" in the Middle-Ages.

Béarn awaits us but before that a succession of tiny Basque villages.

Chéraute (Sohüta in Basque) :

Abense-de-Bas (Onizepea in Basque) :

Espès (Ezpeize in Basque) :

Undurein (Ündüreiñe in Basque) :

We finally leave Soule and come back to Béarn. Our last stop will be in the Béarnais hamlet of Usquain (a Basque toponym still < uz+gain).

Le Pic d'Orhy as seen from Usquain :

The whole panorama from Usquain (notice a little red house ruining the landscape : that's a plague in Béarn. The lack of identity of Gascon-speaking Béarn allows people to commit architectural crimes everywhere ; you'll never get to see that in the Basque Country).

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Great landscapes and nice settings.

We'll begin around Navarrenx in Béarn then we'll reach Soule around Mauléon-Licharre and we'll end with Low Navarre as I go North trying to reach the highway in Bidache. We won't visit the towns of Navarrenx, Mauléon and Saint-Palais : next time !

After leaving the industrial town of Mourenx are hills on the heights of Vielleségure :

Red roofs in this part of Béarn :

Vielleségure in the distance : no time to go, the Basque Country awaits us.

On the road to Navarrenx :

Susmiou in the outskirts of Navarrenx :

Angous is the last Béarnais village before the Basque Country (it's known as Angoz(e) in Basque).

The road leading to the first Basque hamlet is small : here's the last house of Béarn named Olive. In the background the triangular summit is Pic d'Arlas in Navarre.

We reach the first Basque hamlet : Larrory (Larrori in Basque). From Larrory, one can say a momentaneous goodbye to Béarn. We've entered Soule (Xiberoa in Souletine Basque) but vernacular architecture still is Pyrenean.

Moncayolle (it's a Gascon name for a village known as Mithikile in Basque) :

Full size

From the hamlet of Mendibieu (Mendibil in Basque), the Valley of Soule :

Let's reach Mauléon :

We bypass Mauléon : Viodos (Bildoze in Basque)

Aroue :

We'll visit Soule another time ...

Full size

We're in Navarre now : the architecture is changing, this is the archetypal Basque Country.

The two summits of Midi d'Ossau can be seen from Sumberraute (Altzumarta in Basque) :

Masparraute (Martxueta in Basque) :

Arraute :

The panorama from the heights of Arraute :

Full size

Arraute (Arrueta in Basque) :

Masparraute :

Saint-Palais in the distance :

Full size

Bidache :

I'll soon post another tour on the border between Béarn and the Basque Country.
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These pics remind me of my old high school trips. "Aquelhas montanhas, que tan nautas son..." :D
Very pretty scenery!
Your pics are absolutely beautiful. Some look like postcards. The scenery is just breathtaking.
here's an addendum (the weather went bad, I'm sorry, November is never ideal).

We begin in Abos in the middle of industrial Béarn : I'll soon post pics of the many and impressive plants. Abos is one of those famous Basco-Aquitanian placenames ending in -os.

In Monein (another Basque placename : Muneiñe in Basque) : we won't visit the town but admire how the beautiful gothic church is butchered by pavillions. A crime.

The hill in front of us is named Biscarros, another Basque placename :

On the road to Navarrenx, Ogenne (from Basque Oihana=the forest) :

In Jasses, the weather really went mitigated : we're etering the valley of the Gave d'Oloron.

The Pyrenees are cloudy around Dognen :

Préchacq-Navarrenx :

Lay-Lamidou : Holstein cows should not be part of the landscape !

Saucède on the right bank of the Gave river :

Poey d'Oloron :

Ledeuix :

In the distance is the oppidum of Iluro, now Oloron : we'll visit Oloron next.

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Summer 2010

I will be visiting the area in June and July, staying in between Cheraute and Barcus. I was last in SW France 3 years ago where we stayed in Turenne, Lectoure and St Etienne de Baigorry. we have decided to stay further east where it is a little more rural.
We hope to visit Jurancon and Madiran vineyards, i love Madiran wines, We will be doing some walking around the Soule valley and any advice would be welcome.
Such a Van Goghly surrealistic landscape. :)
Winter is not ideal for beautiful pics. Still, perspectives are cleared as leaves are not everywhere. For a prelude, see : Part I.

The pink line materializes the border between Béarn and the Basque Country.

I left the highway in Bellocq ("beautiful location" in Gascon). In Bellocq, not far from the border with the "Landes", vernacular architecture gets "Vasconic" rather than "Pyrenean".

In the distance is Ramous (Arramós in Gascon) : this the valley of the Gave de Pau river. Spring will soon come.

I'm leaving Béarn for a little while. No time to visit Sorde (I'll post pics later). Still, just an example of new pavillions : this one is a good example of a pavillion inspired by vernacular "Vasconic" architecture. Unfortunately enough, most people don't follow such models.

Coming back to Béarn surround by rocky outcrops and the highway :

In Carresse (probably from Basque Garreza, gasconized as Carressa), houses are a mix of Pyrenean and Vasconic architecture. Paul-Jean Toulet, a French poet, originated from Carresse.

Auterrive (from Latin alta ripa=high bank).

Labastide-Villefranche is Béarn's westernmost village, neighbouring the Basque Country. It's also some of my paternal ancestors' village. Now I'm going to leave Béarn for the Basque Country through the moors of Lauhire (from Basque laur hiri=the four cities as Béarn, Dax, Navarre and Soule do join in that area).

Argh ! I'm in Basque lands. The name of the house : Domingoteya. I cannot be elsewhere.

The first Basque village I meet : Camou, the Gascon official name for Gamue.

The weather is misty as I reach the heart of Mixe (Amikuze in Basque), a little medieval Navarrese entity.

Suhast :

I'm entering Soule near Domezain : not really a natural border here. I'll post pics of this area later. Notice that the architecture gets Pyrenean once more. The Castle of Ithorots :

Then I got lost in Olhaïby : a dead-end. Except if I want to ascend muddy passes that would lead me to Mauléon. Well, not this time.

Etcharry :

I've eventually reached the Saison valley. One little intrusion in Béarn with a hamlet named Haute (from Basque Hagoeta).

Now it's time to ascend hills.

The village of Arrast in the distance :

I reach Larrebieu (from Basque Larrabil=rounded field). Only sheeps.

I'm dominating the whole Saison valley.

Full scale

Goyeneche in Moncayolle : it's the house of the infamous priest, Matalas who led a revolt against royal authority in the XVIIth century and then was beheaded.

Chéraute, in the suburbs of Mauléon.

Laruns :

And then I made a terrible decision ... I did not want to go the mountains that very day. I missed the good road that would have led me to flat roads.

Hopefully enough, the weather is misty : I won't get to see Pic d'Anie. I find that peak frightening. One can guess him though on the left.

Barcus (Barkoxe in Basque) is the last Souletine village.

Home ! I'm in Béarn ! Wait : Esquiule (Eskiula in Basque) is the last Basque-speaking village in Béarn. Still in barbaric lands. :D

When I finally go down that coast, I'll reach Romance-speaking lands. It'll be Oloron. Next time.

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Interesting and very nice updates from this area of France :)

April 2010. 2 months ago. The first hot day of the year. Which means evaporation. I don't really like these days. The light is too bright and white. Only the last moments of the day are worth an afternoon's driving in boring and green rolling hills. This is some sort of addendum to previous tours.

Pyrenean austerity rules in Béarn not far from Cardesse.

We'll visit Béarnais village in the Jos valley (aka Josbaig : Jos+valley in Gascon). Those villages situated North of Oloron border Basque-speaking Soule, most of them still keep many traces of their Basque past.

Moumour :

Orin (known as Orrin in Basque) :

Géronce (known as Jeruntze in Basque) still maintains Basque-speking hamlet even though the burg in the plain is Gascon-speaking.

Saint-Goin (Sangoine in Basque). The inhabitants of the village are named "Sangoinars" despite being Gascon-speaking (-ar is a Basque suffix).

The valley of the Jos river is a large plain.

A newly-built house respecting vernacular architecture :

Aren :

Geüs-d'Oloron is known as Üztazu in Basque. The village also maintains Basque-speaking hamlets but the plain is Gascon-speaking. Notice the trinitarian bell tower, a Souletine influence.

The last Béarnaise house : after this house begins the Basque Country with Soule/Xiberoa.

L'Hôpital-Saint-Blaise (Ospitalepea in Basque) is the first Basque village that one encounters on the road linking Béarn with Soule.

Hoquy :

Vernacular architecture in Soule is Pyrenean as well.

Let's avoid Mauléon, the capital of Soule : we'll follow the Saison river (Uhaitz Handia in Basque). Gotein :

Menditte (Mendikota in Basque) once more !

The Saison valley is dominated by the snowy Peak of Anie.

Ossas :

We enter a parallel valley to the main Saison valley.

Cihigue (Zihiga in Basque) :

Camou (Gamere in Basque) :

A little pass allows us to reach the Saison valley that we had left earlier on.

Arhan :

Alçabéhéty :

It's time to come back to Béarn. Some Souletine villages are to be "bypassed". Abense-de-Haut :

Restoue :

We visited Montory earlier on. Mount Erretzu is somehow a symbolic border : we enter Gascon-speaking areas.

Béarn at least with the village of Lanne. Béarn and Soule struggled in order to rule a little valley named Barlanès (Sarraltzüne in Basque). It cannot be doubted that we Béarnais people are the legitimate owner. :D

Barlanès' placenames are overwhelmingly Basque though : Cardasse, Argututche, Arguibelle, Iridoy, Huncharie, Col de Lapixe, Col d'Irutiguty, Nécore, Iracourri, Col d'Ordabure, Lissiague, Larranche, Guétteguerre, ...

I don't really want to reach Spain through Issarbe and the Pass of Saint-Martin. Half-turn which allows us to see the Peak of Arguibelle.

Arette (Ereta in Basque) :

Ance (Arhantza in Basque) :

We reach the suburbs of Oloron : Saint-Pée.

As we enter Oloron, we leave the Pyrenees.

In order to come back home, I have to ascend rolling-hills and belvederes.

Anie (Auñamendi in Basque) as seen from the heights of Oloron :

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Oh, wow :drool:...

How could people prefer living in overcrowded places when there's this piece of glory.

So October 2010. Autumn clearly is the best season where I live. During the whole year I'm longing for those beautiful days of october. Unfortunately enough, but it was too late when I left Pau for the surroundings of Salies-de-Béarn, the whole Basque Country was covered with clouds.

Néo-Béarnaise houses used to be the architectural norm in the region before people settling in SW France began to dream of Provence and the Mediterranean.

On the road to the Basque Country : Burgaronne (a clear Basque placename in Béarn). I did not take pics before reaching deep Lower Navarre. Why ? Because I already have in the previous posts. So we're now South of Saint-Palais in the hamlet of Larribar, in Basque lands.

The road to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is rather straightforward. Not much to see.

Juxue :

Ostabat as seen from Juxue : it used to be the capital of this little subdivision of Lower Navarre : Ostabarès.

Larceveau :

Gamarthe : those Holstein cows destroy the harmony of the landscape ! Where are my betizuak ? :D

Ainhice : the landcape frankly gets mountainous. As I had noticed, the weather gets cloudy as we're approaching Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.

And then I got lost ... I had to ask a half-laughing Basque peasant the road to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. He answered me that all roads could lead to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. I thus precised : I want the shortest one. It happened that the shortest one was not the most convenient.

Saint-Jean-le-Vieux :

I will come back to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port another day : let's go to Soule as the weather appears to be much better in the East, behind the mountains that separate Navarre from Soule.

Iriberry :

The pass leading to the valley of Soule begins in Larceveau that we already crossed some hours ago :

The road gets higher in Cibits :

Here I am : alone on a mountain pass. Not really feelings I love, you never know what could happen.

The pass is not too high : on my left (northwards) the hills of Lower Navarre.

On my right (southwards) the valley of Soule dominated by the Béarnaise mountains.

Musculdy is the first Souletine village I'll cross : that's frankly another Basque Country, it's much more akin to my home Béarn as roofs - covered with slate - get higher and the landscape clearly is now Pyrenean.

Ordiarp :

I eventually reach the plain of Soule with the hamlet of Idaux.

More to come.
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