Castelnau-Rivière-Basse is situated in the department of Hautes Pyrénées, where it borders the department of the Gers, thus perfectly placed to explore and enjoy the best of both. These departments are in the Occitanie region, often referred to as the "French Tuscany", and also widely known as Gascony, with its rolling hills and warm and vibrant colours. There are gentle sloping fields of sunflowers and conifer trees, stunning views onto the Pyrénées, peaceful villages and a beautiful, natural landscape. The region is one of the most sparsely populated areas in mainland Europe and you certainly feel like you have enough space to enjoy the atmosphere. Getting out and about to explore by car is a relaxing and unrushed experience.
The local wine is a big part of the gastronomy: the Madiran with its strong and confident flavour, the Cotes de Gascogne, the Pacherenc du Vic Bilh, Saint Mont and the Buzet. Travelling around the Madiran area, which is quite compact, you can go from one producer to another, and you will hear that most of them have been proud winemakers throughout the generations. It is truly a beautiful part of the country, like a dreamland for winemakers and enthusiasts.
At the heart of Gascony is the Armagnac, and in Gascony, every good meal deserves a glass of this precious 'digestif', a wine-based brandy distilled and aged in oak barrels for at least two years to become an elixir. Some locals drink it after their coffee, using the same cup so it's already warm and reveals all the flavour of this delicious brandy. It is also used in the traditional desserts such as "Prune and Armagnac ice cream", "Apple croustade" and other patisseries.
This is the perfect holiday destination for those who want to experience the French life style, good food and wine. A place of beautiful old villages, where you will find an ancient church to visit (such as 12th century Saint Jean Baptiste in nearby hamlet Mazères, classified as a Historical Monument, boasting sculptures by some of the best sculptors of the time), or a bistrot on the village square and a hidden château with a great history. The list is endless and you'll be spoiled for choice.
Proximity to amenities: Marciac 20km; Golf 30km; Riding school 18km; Pharmacy 1km; Cash machine, Supermarket, Bank 9km; Restaurant 4,5km
Distance from Airports: Lourdes (Paris Orly - London) 53km; Pau Pyrenees (Paris Orly - Charles de Gaule - Lyon - Marseille) 58km; Biarritz (Brussels - London - Paris - Lyon) 122km; Toulouse Blagnac 151km; Bordeaux Mérignac 148,5km
Ski Stations: Gourette (Eaux-Bonnes) 73km; Barèges, La Mongie 76km; Cauterets-Le-Lys 79km; Luz-Ardiden 78km; Hautacam 68km; Saint Lary Soulan 90km
Village and town markets in the area to browse on all days except Sunday. Plenty of antiques fairs to visit from early spring to late autumn.
Sports and leisure: There is a large choice of sporting and leisure activities nearby, including tennis, golf, mini golf, shooting club, mountain biking, fishing or salmon fishing, walking, kayaking, horse riding, etc.
Choice of beautiful lakes in the region to visit. Some allow swimming, others offer boating or are simply a wonderful place to take a walk or have a picnic by. For example, Aignan swimming lake (20 minutes drive away in the neighbouring Gers department) has an acrobatic park (accrobranche) adjoining the lake and zip line (tyrolienne) crossing the lake - perfect for adventurous teenagers.
Located a couple of minutes from Château Lezian is a wonderful Educational Animal Farm, interesting for all but especially for children. There you can meet deer, pigs, goats, ponies, geese, ducks, peacocks, wallabies and more. Watch the farm's four jersey cows being milked and see how cheese is made.
They also offer pony rides, archery and a fantastic zip line.
Events: There are a great variety of events ongoing; Enjoy the Country & Western in Mirande, the Tempo Latino festival in Vic Fezensac in late July, or the International Jazz Festival in Marciac. This well known two week festival takes place under the August stars every summer with the likes of Wynton Marsalis, Dianne Reeves, Jamie Cullum, Ahmed Jamal and Norah Jones.
Jazz in Marciac (JIM) is a really commendable undertaking, given that Marciac is otherwise a sleepy town with about 1,000 population. Nearly a quarter million people meet in this 13th-century walled village during the festival, mixing and mingling with old friends and new, along with jazz musicians. They book dates for seeing their favourites performing beneath the main venue tent and in the 500-seat Astrada concert hall, but also hear many musicians for free as they browse the fringe festival framed by medieval arches in the main square. It's been going on each year since 1978.
Other events include motor racing in Nogaro, a variety of cultural events and if you visit in summer you will usually be able to attend a local village fête to enjoy an outdoor meal with music and entertainment for all the family. Of course, not least, there are the wine festivals.