Bayonne is a port at the confluence of the Nive and Adour rivers, near the Bay of Biscay. It is a metallurgical and fishing center. A noted cathedral (begun 13th century) is here, and the fashionable resort of Biarritz is nearby. Called Lapurdum in Roman times, the town passed to the French crown in 1451. The bayonet was probably invented here.
Biarritz is near Bayonne and the Spanish border. It is noted for its mild climate, sand beaches, and mineral springs. Once a small fishing and whaling port, the town became an elegant resort in the mid-19th century when it was patronized by
Napoleon III, Empress Eugénie, and other members of European royalty. The beach at Biarritz is one of the most popular surfing beaches in Europe.
Pau is located on the Gave de Pau River, that descends from the Pyrénées. It was once the capital of the medieval duchy of Béarn and is now the capital of the département of
Pyrénées-Atlantiques. The town was built on the edge of an adjoining plateau, 130 feet above the Gave de Pau Valley. It is a charming winter health resort, in the middle of the French Pyrénées, with many restful, shady parks and Belle Epoque architecture.
Pau is 477 miles southwest by south of
Paris and 122 miles southwest by west of
Toulouse. It is also 55 miles southeast by east of
Bayonne and 24 miles west of
Tarbes, at the juncture of the Autoroute A64 and Route National 134. It is known as the gateway to the western Pyrénées, and its boulevard des Pyrénées’ esplanade provides an outstanding panoramic view of the Pyrénées.
Pau was established in the 11th century. In the 15th century it was designated as the capital of the duchy of Béarn. The 16th century saw it as the residence of the kings of Navarre.
In 1553, Pau was the birthplace of
Henry IV of France. He was born in the royal Château de Pau that overlooks the town and which now houses a tapestry museum. Gaston Phoebus, a 14th century ruler of Béarn, had renovated the château. It was redecorated by
Louis-Philippe about 1840.
In the late 16th century, Marguerite d’Angoulême, the king’s sister, lived in the château and transformed the town into a free-thinking center for the arts. Marshal Jean Bernadotte, who was born there in 1763, became
Charles XIV of Sweden and ruled
Sweden from 1818 to 1844. His birthplace is now a museum.
Pau is a lively university town that has established itself as a major tourist center. The
University of Pau and the Pays de l’Adour was established in 1970.
The château contains many treasures, including wonderful 16th century Gobelin tapestries and the Musée Béarnais with articles depicting the history and culture of the old province. The Musée des Beaux- Arts houses works by Degas, El Greco, Rubens and Zurbarán.
Pau has become industrialized in recent years, in part due to its proximity to the chemical-extraction and natural gas complex at Lacq. Its products include aeronautical equipment, beer, clothing, footwear, leather, paper products, shoes and textiles.
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Saint-Jean-de-Luz is one of the Basque country’s principal centers. It is a fashionable seaside resort on the Atlantic’s Bay of Biscay, in the département of
Pyrénées-Atlantiques, that built up around the harbor at the Nivelle River’s mouth. It is just 6 miles north of Hendaye and the Spanish border. The town is on Route National 104, where it runs along the coast, just 9 miles southwest of
Biarritz. It is 66 miles southwest by west of
Bordeaux and 491 miles south by southwest of
In the 11th century, sailing ships from Saint-Jean were hunting whales off Labrador. In 1520, ships from Saint-Jean’s fishing port were the first to fish for cod off of Newfoundland.
In 1558, the town was razed by the Spaniards. In 1749, and again in 1785, the sea raged against Saint-Jean, destroying part of the town with high tides.
The enlargement of the 13th century Church of Saint John the Baptist was begun in 1649, in preparation for
Louis XIV’s wedding. On June 9, 1660, the king married the infant Marie-Thérèse of Austria for the purpose of cementing an alliance with Spain. The church’s enlargement, which had not been completed by the time of the marriage, made it one of the biggest and certainly the best of the Basque churches. For a while thereafter, the town became the capital of France.
Today, Saint-Jean is still a major Basque fishing port. Its fleet seeks tuna off the equatorial coast of Africa and sardines in the waters off
Morocco and Portugal.
In the off-season, Saint-Jean-de-Luz is a sleepy fishing village. But, in the summer, and especially in August, tourists are attracted to its curving white-sand beach. It is also well known for its many other diversions. Its in-season shopping rivals that of
Paris, and it offers a good selection of restaurants, hotels, promenades and casinos.
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