Sub-prefecture of Landes
Stage town for the 7th time
Personalities: André Darrigade (cycling). Pierre Albaladéjo, Richard Dourthe, Raphaël Ibanez (rugby). Patrick Edlinger (rock climber).
Specialities: thermalism, mineral water. Farmhouse duck from the Landes. Madeleine de Dax. Landes tourtière. Asparagus from the sands of the Landes. Wild salmon from the Adour.
Culture and festivals: fêtes de Dax (August), Toros y salsa (September), Satiradax (caricature and parody). Blues Spirit (in Hinx). Ephemeral banks.
Sports: US Dax (rugby), Dax Gamarde basketball 40, Knights of Dax (American football), bullfighting.
Events: water festival, boxing gala (April)
Economy : Thermalism (first thermal spa in France). Tourism. Salt. Mineral water. Plastic film.
Websites / FB / Twitter / Instagram: www.dax.fr / www.dax-tourisme.com
DAX AND CYCLING
Dax has hosted the Tour de France six times between 1951 and 2006, with three-time world champion Oscar Freire winning the third of his four stage victories in the race. But Dax is also historically important for Dutch cycling, as it was here in 1951 that Wim Van Est won the stage from Agen and became the first Dutchman to wear the Yellow Jersey. This jersey did not bring him luck because, the next day, between Dax and Tarbes, Van Est crashed on the descent of the Aubisque and was forced to retire. Among the riders from Dax or its surroundings, apart from André Darrigade, we should mention Dominique Arnaud, three-time stage winner in the Vuelta who died in the town's hospital in 2016. Between 1981 and 1991, he took part in eleven editions of the Tour de France.
Characteristics: the choice of a stark white paint job and Andalusian-style exterior architecture seems to have been inspired by the Plaza de Toros in Seville. The inauguration of this 5,500-seat building took place on 10 May 1913. It is located in the Théodore-Denis park, and hosts bullfights and the Grand Concours Landais during the Dax festivals (six days around 15 August until 2012, five days from 2013) and the Toros y Salsa festival on the second weekend of September. It is one of the seven first category French bullrings.
History: until the 18th century, the Landes races took place at the southern end of the present Rue des Fusillés where the town hall was located. Then the bullfights took place on the site of the former Cordeliers convent, which later became Place de la Course. After many decades of Landes races in these dismountable wooden arenas, the Dax town council decided in 1911 to build a permanent bullring in reinforced concrete. These new arenas were designed by Albert Pomade, the municipal architect, and built on the bank of the Adour, at the back of the historic ramparts, not far from the old Place de la Course.
Listed: Historical Monument since 2013.
Fêtes de Dax
The Fêtes de Dax take place over a fortnight around 15 August and are listed as part of France's intangible cultural heritage. Combining popular festivities with bullfighting, Gascon identity and borrowings from Spain, these days of jubilation transform the face of the spa town, which becomes the scene of numerous musical, folkloric and sporting events. The town welcomes an average of 800,000 people over the entire festival. For the occasion, the custom is to dress in white with a scarf and a red belt. This practice is inspired by the famous Fiestas de San Fermín, in Pamplona, Navarre. These festivals have their origins in the countless fairs and agricultural markets that punctuated the calendar of the Landes department until the beginning of the 20th century. In the middle of the 19th century, a livestock fair was organised in mid-August and gave rise to bullfighting races.
Notre-Dame or Sainte-Marie Cathedral
Construction: 13th to 18th century.
Style: classic and gothic.
Characteristics: 12 metres high and 8 metres wide, the Portal of the Apostles presents a set of sculptures that is quite rare in the South of France, despite some mutilations in the past. The interior of the present building, with its tripartite elevation, is comparable to the church of Saint-Louis des Invalides or the church of Saint-Paul in Paris. The façade, which was unfinished for a long time, was built to the plans of the Parisian architect Paul Gallois in 1894. The cathedral has several paintings, including Jesus and His Disciples by Gerrit van Honthorst, from the 17th century, and The Adoration of the Shepherds by Hans von Aachen from the late 16th century.
History: at the end of the 13th century, at the height of the city's prosperity, the bishopric built a series of ecclesiastical buildings, including a new cathedral built on a former Romanesque sanctuary that had become too small. The Gothic building collapsed in 1646 and only the splendid Portal of the Apostles, in the north transept arm, remains from this period and was listed in 1884.
Listed: Historical Monument since 1946.
History: since Antiquity, the Hot Fountain, or La Nèhe spring, has been located in the centre of Dax. It represents the Gallo-Roman heritage of this town and is also a true symbol of thermalism. Indeed, the fountain has a daily flow of 2,400,000 litres3 and is renowned for the virtues of its water, at a temperature of 64°C.
Characteristics: built from 1814 to 1818, during the reign of Louis XVIII, this fountain was named after a goddess, the goddess of living waters, called Nèhe. It was built on the site of ancient Roman baths where butchers and housewives could use the fountain for cooking, thanks to its exceptional temperature.
Trivia: a legionnaire in garrison in Dax had a dog with rheumatism. Leaving on a campaign and knowing that his poor dog would not be able to follow him, he decided to drown it in the river Adour. When the legionnaire returned, he was surprised to find his dog reinvigorated by the thermal mud in which he had been stranded, on the banks of the river. This is how thermalism was born in Dax.
Listed: fountain listed as a Historic Monument in 1946, then the portico in 1988.
History: the Borda Museum was created by the municipality when it bought the cabinet of curiosities of Jacques-François Borda d'Oro, a naturalist from the Landes region in the 18th century; this man and his illustrious nephew, Jean-Charles de Borda, became the patrons of the museum, hence its name.
Characteristics: rich collections in various fields (palaeontology and archaeology, science and natural history, fine arts and graphic arts, ethnography). The collections of the Borda Museum are presented to the public in temporary thematic exhibitions, alternating with art exhibitions. The museum is housed in the Carmelite Chapel, built in 1523. It also offers guided tours of an archaeological crypt which contains the remains of the foundations of a Roman civil basilica dating from the first centuries of our era.
Architect: André Granet
Style: Art Deco
History: In 1925, the mayor of Dax, Eugène Milliès-Lacroix, proposed the construction of a casino to give a new impetus to the spa. Architects André Granet (Paris), Albert Pomade and Jean Prunetti (Dax), were commissioned to build it. Having just completed the Salle Pleyel in Paris, Granet wanted this casino to correspond to the canons of his time, hence its Art Deco style. On July 1st, 1928, the first casino in the Landes was inaugurated. It became the property of the town in 1968. Over time, its architecture proved ill-suited to the region's oceanic climate and the building closed in 1988. The casino was then restored and reopened to the public in 2005.
Characteristics: made of reinforced concrete, the building has an open-air amphitheatre, hence the name Atrium. The bar is decorated with stained glass windows designed by master glass artist Louis Barillet. The building is part of a complex with the neighbouring Hotel Splendid.
Listing: Historical Monument since 2000.
Madeleines de Dax
Les Madeleines de Dax have been made since 1906 by the same family of confectioners, the Cazelles, according to a recipe whose secret the house jealously guards. Considered to be one of the oldest shops in the town, the Madeleines de Dax shop has become a must for food lovers looking for a culinary souvenir. The beautiful wooden counters, the beautiful wicker baskets filled with madeleines, the pretty blue or pink cardboard boxes that adorn the shop contribute to the charm of this pastry shop run by the Cazelle family for five generations. The founder of the line, Antonin Cazelle, brought back the recipe from Commercy, in the Meuse, the place of origin of madeleines, where he was doing his military service. He then adapted it to the taste of the Landes.