Guest Notes for Episode 281: Exploring the Béarn

Categories: Bordeaux Area, Moving to France

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Discussed in this Episode

  • Sauveterre de Béarn [10:00]
  • Navarrenx [16:42]
  • Salies de Béarn [19:35]
  • Oloron Sainte Marie [22:39]
  • Xavier Cheese Shop in Toulouse [26:28]
  • Pau [28:18]
  • There is little urban sprawl in France [29:00]
  • Favorite restaurants on this trip [31:58]
  • Visit other cities besides Paris! [40:33]
  • Not every town in France is equally charming [43:44]

About Me:
My husband Morgan (a chef) and I (a dueling piano bar entertainer) live in Long Beach, California. We’ve been to France many times, and I lived in Paris for 2 years in the late 1990s with my ex. My husband and I are avid travelers – we’ve been a lot of places! We usually eat our way through countries, and this trip was no exception! I speak French pretty well, which helps a lot in some areas! Still studying too – I just started lessons on iTalki.com.

I want to discuss our search for which region of France we want to eventually move to, why we chose SW France and the Béarn (and Charente Maritime/Saintes), and how these areas compared with our expectations. A few places (like Bordeaux and Toulouse) are too expensive for our house search, but we wanted to see them anyway. So we did some sight-seeing, but mostly we were trying to soak up the atmosphere and see how we felt about each place…going to the markets, taking walks, and looking at a lot of immobiliers. {We did an 8-day trip to Bourgogne & Besançon in May, and there’s one more research trip we expect to take, which will be the Carcassonne area, down along the less expensive area of the Mediterranean, and over to Grenoble.}

Our Itinerary:
We landed in Paris, rented a car and drove to Normandie, where stayed with my family and friends for a week in a rented house (but I think you’ve covered Normandie very well before), then we drove to Saintes and explored that area (Charente Maritime), then drove down to Bordeaux (we kept the car parked the whole time we were there – not fun to drive or find parking), then drove to Sauveterre de Béarn (our base for that region), then Jurançon (just outside of Pau), then Toulouse. We then flew to Paris for 3 days, and then home.

RECOMMENDED LODGINGS:
Saintes: Citotel Hôtel des Messageries (Hotel-Des-Messageries.com)
Bordeaux: AirBnB – “Charming Haven of Peace Next to the Station” (It’s actually called Maison Indigo, but you can’t find it on AirBnB that way for some reason.)
*Sauveterre de Béarn: Chambres du Pont de la Légende (ChambresDuPontDeLaLegende.com)
*Jurançon/Pau: Clos Mirabel B&B (Clos-Mirabel.com)
Toulouse: AirBnB – “Le Cocon! Toulouse Centre Quartier le Busca”

RECOMMENDED RESTAURANTS:
La Tupina – Bordeaux – Homey, slow-cooked traditional meals over the hearth at the front of the restaurant. Incredible – a highlight.
Les Halles – Bordeaux (across from the Cité du Vin) – we got some oysters and foie gras at the different stands there.
*Les Prés d’Eugénie – Michel Guérard, Eugénie-les-Bains – WOW. Just wow. Made a special trip for this special place.
*La Légende – Sauveterre de Béarn – inventive, amazing dishes from a young chef in this tiny town of 1500 people! We got invited to the restaurant’s one-year anniversary party!
*Voisins – Salies de Béarn – 33 Euros for a Michelin-starred 3-course meal + amuse bouches & gourmandises!
Pyrénées Marée – Tarbes (it’s a fish stand inside the Tarbes market so not much to look at, but it was fantastic!)
L’Entrecôte – Toulouse (your recommendation!) – it’s worth the line (it does move fast), but get there early

ATTRACTIONS/EXPERIENCES:
Bordeaux City Card – Bordeaux (included double decker bus tour, public transportation and entrance to several museums and attractions – you could choose how many days – we bought the 48 hours for 39 Euros at the train station)
La Cité du Vin – Bordeaux – this place is HUGE. You could spend a week here if you’re really into wine.
*La Fête du Sel (September) – Salies de Béarn (www.lafetedusel.com) – so fun! We signed up for the locals dinner in the main square, watched a bunch of the entertainment, and cheered at the races – they run carrying buckets of salt water on their heads.
*Hiking around the Gave d’Oloron – 13th century Bridge of the Legend, clean river to swim or raft in, camping, etc…looking up at the hilltop medieval town of Sauveterre de Béarn.
*Tour of Béarn towns: Navarrenx, Salies de Béarn, Oloron Ste. Marie – all lovely, with historic architecture, and views of the Pyrénées
Xavier Fromagerie – Toulouse – best cheese shop I’ve ever seen, hands down.
Bike ride on the Canal du Midi – Toulouse – So pretty! American credit cards work at the bike kiosks! We rode everywhere.

3 QUICK RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PARIS:
Stohrer Pâtisserie – it was my bakery when I live on rue Montorgueil in the 90’s, and we tested their croissants against others…still the best! Also, their “Puits d’Amour” (“Wells of Love!”) pastry – to die for. (Great blog post on it here: www.ouialwayshaveparis.com/2018/05/21/stohrer/ )
Atelier des Lumiéres – Everyone’s talking about this in the Facebook groups, so I could give a short report about the Van Gogh one.
Le Train Bleu Restaurant – This had been on my list for a long time, and it didn’t disappoint! The cuisine is old school, prepared well, and it’s absolutely gorgeous – the frescoes, the silver trolley where the roast lamb is carved, etc.

Helpful Podcast Episodes:
I listened to your podcast searching for information. Particularly helpful were the episodes: “Buying a House in France” (Ep. 239), “Tips For Driving in France” (Ep. 138), “Moving to France on a Long Stay Tourist Visa” (Ep. 192), “Moving to France on a Long Stay Visitor Visa (Ep. 208), “Moving to France” (Ep. 131), “Buying a House in France” (Ep. 239), “Seeing Doctors in France” (Ep. 133), “A Great Visit to the Chateau of Pau” (Ep. 191), “Bordeaux, France, a Historical Perspective” (Ep. 44) and all the episodes about Toulouse!

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Categories: Bordeaux Area, Moving to France