things to do, places to see

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There are very few places where you can ski and surf on the same day but both are available from Lahon at the right time of the year.  There is an enormous range of places to visit locally and further afield including pretty villages, mountains, the Atlantic coast, museums, zoos, museums, as well as castles and chateaux. You can take part in a wide range of activities including wine tasting, horse riding, parachuting, white -water rafting and go-karting. Plus the famous French cities of Bordeaux and Toulouse are both within 2 hours drive or can be reached by train.

Local interest – the nearby village of Taron has Roman mosaics displayed and an interesting history. Eugenie de Bearn has lovely gardens to wander around and a two Michelin star restaurant. The gardens of Chateau de Viven are twenty minutes away and are open from May until October
Pau is 20 minutes away, a city full of Renaissance splendour, style and medieval charm. It is known as the “English City” where the first European golf course was established. It has it’s own château – birthplace of King Henri IV. The Boulevard des Pyrenees provides many bars where you can relax and view the mountains through the palm trees. Pau is the centre for the arts in the region with galleries, live music and celebrations throughout the year. There are a large number throughout the year of events reflecting the regions rich cultural heritage. Cinema Melies screens films in VO – voice original – with French subtitles. (Garlin has it’s own cinema which regularly shows films in VO).

The city hosts it’s own car racing events – just like Monaco but cheaper – on the last weekend of May you can watch historic cars racing round the streets and wander round the pits. The following week sees various modern formula car races. (There is a karting just to the west of Pau and a large track holding international car and bike racing at Nogaro, 60kms north). It is also a world centre for equestrian events (October) and there is flat racing during the season in January and February. There are several riding centres near us. Golf ers are accommodated with the first course outside the UK in Pau and you can play a round overlooking the Atlantic in Biarritz.

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Things watery – a new, serious waterpark was opened in the south east of Pau – www.paupyrenees-stadeeauxvives.co.uk – last year. Nearby there are several centres offering white water rafting. Then there are the wide open Atlantic beaches an hour and  half via the peage and motorway. Miles of great beaches for swimming and surfing on the Côte Basque stretch from Biarritz via Hossegor and Cap Breton to the largest sand dune in Europe at Archachon, backed by the pine forest of the Landes. Great Atlantic breakers mean that surfing is a available all year round.

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Up, up and away – the pyrenees National park is to the south of Pau and the foothills can be reached in under an hour and a half. Past the vulture cliffs you reach the pretty village of Laruns then onto the mountains – to Artouste  (and take a trip on the highest railway in the Pyrenees) and over the border to Spain via the col d’Portalet. Alternatively, turn left and on to the skiing centre of Gourette. You can walk a section of the GR10 long distance footpath from the lake at Gabas. Get the top of pic du midi Bigorre – 3,000 metres –  by cable car for some spectacular views and a visit to the observatory. www.picdumidi.com.

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The beach – 120kms down the motorway to the wide Atlantic beaches of the Landes. Towns worth a visit are Hossegor, Biarritz, Bayone and St. Jean de Luze, a lovely Basque fishing port. You can travel into Spain to visit Pamploma, San Sebastian and Bilbao.

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Culture – jazz fans flock to the small town of Marciac (an hour from us) for the festival in August. Big names such as Jamie Cullum, Wynton Marsalis and Madeline Peyroux take part. It’s not all jazz though – Joe Cocker performed in 2009 – plus plenty of world music and blues artists. In the central square live music is for free! Wander round dozens of stalls selling amazing clothes, jewellery, vintage vinyl records, wine and food. About 150,000 people visit but there always seems to be a table available in the bars and restaurants. Book for the concerts early to avoid disappointment!

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Wine tasting – we can organise a wine tasting at a local vineyard in Madiran or Jurancon with Sandy for an extra fee.

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The main information resource for Bearn/basque region.

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www.chateau-de-viven.com/index.html

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