Every October for the past eight years, Salies de Bearn has honoured filmmakers who do not aspire to win the Palme d’Or in Cannes but still shoot their own little masterpieces. A different theme is chosen every year for this festival of amateur videos called 25th hour. Last year, films had to deal with traditions and country life and the competition is open exclusively to amateurs from the whole of France. They bid for the Camera d’Or, the trophy awarded at the end of the festival. Last year, 17 films, all under 15 minutes, were shown to the public in the local cinema. Documentaries and fiction compete together and the jury is chaired by professionals like former television newsman Ladislas de Hoyos.
The exploitation of the salty fountain of Salies led to an innovative and original corporation which was way ahead of its time, the Corporation of the share-holders of the Salty Fountain. Even though the corporation no longer exploits the salt which made its fortune, it still owns it and rents the water to the companies extracting it. The members of the corporation are descendants of the original shareholders, united to make the best of the site since the early Middle Ages. In 1587 was written the Black Book establishing the rules of the Corporation – the list of shareholders has been constantly updated since. The corporation is close to similar collective properties of the Gesamte Hand type in Germany or in some forests and valleys of the French Pyrenees. Such an ancient corporation, however, is unique.
He is completely forgotten today. Yet Francois Lafourcade, born in Lahontan, near Salies de Bearn, like his brother Ferdinand, also a professional rider, was the first rider up the Col de l’Aubisque in 1910, ahead of the favourites Octave Lapize and Gustave Garrigou. He later lost ground in the descent and finished 5th in the stage. Lafourcade took part in seven Tours and finished 13th in 1907 yet his career ended in controversy. The man was strongly suspected of having handed a poisoned bottle to Paul Duboc as the Frenchman looked set for victory in the 1911 Tour. Nothing was ever proven but the next year, in 1912, Lafourcade finally admitted he had tampered the bike of Italian Ottavio Pratesi to help France’s Jules Deloffre win the race in the “isolated” category. The confession looked too good to be true as it suited everybody and was probably the result of a deal with the organisers. Suspended for life, Lafourcade was hoping for rehabilitation after WWI but he died in action in his aircraft in August 1917.
|Middle Ages||According to legend, hunters chasing a boar found him a few days later in the mashes of Salies in a perfect state of conservation. Hence the trend for Salies salt, and the reason why the town’s emblem is a boar.|
|1032||The act of foundation of the St Pe abbey, near Generes, mentions the existence of an ancient salt-making pan.|
|1587||The inhabitants, united in a Corporation of share-holders of the Salty Fountain in the beginning of the 16th century become the official owners of the fountain. The family corporation has ruled the Salies thermal baths to this day.|
|1683||Louis XIV confirms the population’s ownership.|
|1790||Creation of the Salies canton. The fountain becomes a national belonging in 1793 but is still run by the inhabitants.|
|1841||Creation of the industrial salines.|
|1855||Creation of the Salies thermal baths.|
It is very interesting as it has been built around the Payaa square where the salty fountain used to be. Many old houses with half-timbering roofs can be seen in the little streets of the ld town.
Prefecture : Pau
Population : 643,000
WebSite : www.cg64.fr/
Between the Gascony Gulf and the Pyrenees, Pyrenees Atlantiques is the 10th biggest department in France. In the south, the Pyrenees stand as high as the eye can see while the North is covered in valleys. Pyrenean rivers – the “gaves” – shape narrow valleys through the mountains which widen into large plains. The Bearn province was extremely wealthy up to the Revolution and declined in the 19th century. The discovery of natural gas in Lacq created a new petrochemical industry while thermal waters and good wines have been known for a very long time.
Prefecture : Mont-de-Marsan
Population : 367,000
WebSite : www.landes.org/
The Landes lie on the North side of the river Adour in a region called Landes of Gascony, made of plains, sand dunes and forests. The region, once miserable, was completely transformed in the end of the 18th century when engineer Bremontier decided to plant thousands of pine trees covering nearly three million acres. Close to the seaside, the Landes is covered by several ponds. Its main resources are fishing, oysters and tourism (Cap Breton, Mimizan, beached on the Cote d’Argent). In the South, the Chalosse region is a hilly area prone to farming, breeding and gourmet food.
A lovely little town split by the Midouze, a confluent of the Adour river, it was built in accordance with the local relief. In the upper town is the church while the lower side of the river hosts the town hall and the commercial area. The former Ursuline convent has been turned into a school.
THE LANDES OF GASCONY FOREST
The Landes spread over three departments, Landes, Gironde and Lot et Garonne. The forest, bathed on its west side by the Gulf of Gascony, is mainly made of pine trees. The massive plantation of pines started in the 18th century to stop moving sands and marshes. The plantations were designed to prevent fires as much as possible with wide lanes to avoid propagation and make the access easier for fire brigades. Yet the forest has been ravaged many times, not by fire but by storms. In December 1999, two cyclones, Lothar and Martin, blew across France and Europe downing a large number of trees. The disaster was hardly forgotten when gale force winds struck again in 2009, cyclone Klaus destroying the pinewoods again. Some 60 pc of the production was lost.
The Castillon Castle was built in 1625 and restored in 1886. Of the original buildings, only the castle itself, with its monumental chimneys, is left as well as three pavilions near the front gate. Most of the outside decoration is to be found on the gate with a richly sculpted pediment. The walls and the roofs are listed and the castle is surrounded by an immense park à la Française.
The village lies in the Eyre valley. The St Michel church, with its triangular tower and its Renaissance gate, was built by Benedictines in the 11th century. The village is host to the Grande Lande Eco-Museum, which belongs to the Landes of Gascony Natural Park. Its exhibitions illustrate the life in the region in the mid-19th century when local shepherds, perched on their stilts, looked after their herds in a land soon to be covered by pines. In LUXEY, a museum is dedicated to the exploitation of resin, another of the region riches. In MOUSTEY, another museum deals with superstitions and pilgrimages in the region.
Prefecture : Bordeaux
Population : 1,410,000
WebSite : www.cg33.fr/
The landscape of the department was shaped by the sea and the mouth of two rivers, Dordogne and Garonne. The plateau between them is called Entre Deux-Mers (between two seas) and is known worldwide for its wines. The eastern part of Gironde is made of fertile valleys with steep hillsides, Libourne and Blaye, also ideal for vineyards. The western third of the department, between the Atlantic Ocean and Garonne, is a long stretch of sand dunes and moors planted with pine trees, with the Arcachon bay at its southern end. The department’s 1.2 million population depends largely on Bordeaux’s economy which has for a long time been based on wine while tourism has developed along the Atlantic coast.
First mentioned in the 12th century, the present village dates from the 19th century. The town’s economy was modified when pines were planted, creating small saw mills or resin distilleries. Hostens is above all noted for its leisure base around its lakes – the Bousquey lake, an ornithology and fishing reservation, the Bernadas, Lamothe and Du Bourg lakes.
Close to the village, the La Brede Castle was the birthplace of Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron of La Brede and Montesquieu, better known as Montesquieu. He wrote most of his works in the castle.
Bordeaux and its region are about to be equipped with one of the largest lasers in the worlds, the Megajoule Laser, an exceptional research tool with only one equivalent in the world, in California. Installed in the Centre for Scientific and Technical Studies of Aquitaine (CESTA), the laser has strategic purposes and will be placed under the jurisdiction of France’s Atomic Energy Commission (CEA). But it will be open to the scientific community for a significant part of its utilisation. The laser will help break new ground in the fields of astronomy and the resistance of materials in an extreme environment. The laser will be a chance a to develop optical and science technology industries in the area.
The building in which the laser will take place was finished in 2008 in Le Barp, 25 km from Bordeaux, and the site should be completed by 2011. Public investment in the project is estimated at three billion euros over 15 years.
He might not be as well known as the two other great minds in the history of Bordeaux – Montaigne and Montesquieu – yet Etienne de la Boetie was one the first advocates of individual freedom in a book he wrote at the age of 18: the Discourse of Voluntary Servitude. The text, written in reaction to the ruthless repression of a revolt in Bordeaux against abusive taxes in 1548, pleased Montaigne so much that he became a life-long friend of the young bourgeois raised in an educated family of Sarlat. The ideas exposed in the Discourse are strikingly modern. La Boetie studies the relationships leading to power and wonders how a people can accept the domination of the powerful. A few excerpts from the text speak for themselves: “Be determined not to serve anymore and you will be free” or “Tyrants are great only because we are on our knees.” The youngest member of Bordeaux Parliament, La Boetie was also an inspired poet and a bon viveur: “I love what feeds me, drinks, food and books,” he used to say. In 1560, he turned to diplomacy and led talks to settle the conflicts between Catholics and Protestants. In 1563, dysentery struck and he died suddenly at the age of 33, an early death which later earned him the nickname of “Rimbaud of thought”.
Bordeaux is, after Paris, the town most visited by the Tour and thanks to the cycling track on which were set several world records, can be considered as the other capital of cycling in France. Among the many riders hailing from Bordeaux and its region, the Lapebie brothers – Guy, the youngest, left us recently – hold a special place. Roger became immensely popular when he won the first Tour of the post-Desgrange era in 1937. Roger Lapebie was not great friends with the Tour founder, it must be said. 1937’s was an eventful Tour, which was finally decided in Bordeaux when defending champion Sylvere Maes of Belgium called it quits, claiming he had been harassed by French fans. As a result, Lapebie found himself wearing the yellow jersey on his local roads and took it all the way to Paris. Another Bordeaux-Paris ride was not so triumphant for Lapebie. In 1939, in the classic between the two cities, he suffered a knee injury which put an end to his career.
Ten years later, his brother Guy also won a stage in Bordeaux in a mass sprint, the traditional conclusion to most Bordeaux stages. Van Looy, Darrigade, Godefroot, Maertens, Van Poppel or Zabel – most sprint aces won on the Lescure track or on the Garonne banks. The record stage winner here is of course Eddy Merckx, winner of four stages in Bodeaux, including three time trials, another local tradition.
|70||Burdigala, founded in the 5th century BC by the Biturige Vivisque tribe, becomes the capital of the Roman province of Aquitaine. The first vines are planted.|
|IVth century||The town is evangelised by St Hilaire and St Martin.|
|735||The town is plundered by emir Abd al-Rahman and taken by Charles Martel.|
|1154||Bordeaux becomes English thanks to the wedding between Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II Plantagenet. The Guyenne – the English name for Aquitaine – thrives thanks to the wine trade.|
|1453||France claims Bordeaux back after the Battle of Castillon.|
|1585||Montaigne is elected mayor.|
|1714||Montesquieu becomes president of the Bordeaux Parliament.|
|1793||The Girondins are the leading group in the National Convention.|
|1800||Bordeaux becomes the first slave port in France.|
|1940||Paul Reynaud’s French government settles in Bordeaux, which is dubbed “the tragic capital”.|
|1947||Jacques Chaban-Delmas is elected mayor.|
It is one of the few civil monuments (with the Cailhau gate) left from the Middle Ages. It has just been restored. It was the belfry of the old town hall and it features on the town’s armouries. It was built in the 15th century over the ruins of the 13th century St Eloy gate. It is composed of two round towers linked by a central building. There were six towers originally. The bell was installed in 1775 and weighs 7,700 kilos. The clock was made in 1759 from plans by mathematician Larroque.
The palace was built in 1771 for archbishop Ferdinand Maximilien Meriadec de Rohan. Its purpose changed with political tendencies: the archbishop’s residence until the Revolution, it became the department’s headquarters and the Revolutionary court in 1791, the Prefecture hall in 1802, Napoleon’s imperial palace in 1808 and a royal castle under Louis XVIII. It finally became the Town Hall in 1835.
The main square in the centre of Bordeaux was created in the early 19th century on the site of the Trompette Castle, which was destroyed as the symbol of oppression by the central power against a rebellious city. It is called Quinconces (staggered rows) because of the implantation of trees on it.