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Department 64 - Pyrenees Atlantiques

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Romanesque churches and cathedrals in south-west France updated: Romanesque churches and cathedrals in south-west France

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the fire at the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris
the fire at the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris
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Stone tracery in church and cathedral construction illustrated
stone in church and cathedral construction

stained glass and cathedrals in Normandy illustrated graph

fortified churches, mostly in Les Landes

cathedral labyrinths and mazes in France
using metal in gothic cathedral construction

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on first arriving in France - driving
France is not England
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Transbordeur bridges in France and the world 2: focus on Portugalete, Chicago, Rochefort-Martrou
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France’s western isles: Ile de Ré
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Marianne - a French national symbol, with French definitive stamps

la Belle Epoque
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the French umbrella & Aurillac

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the forest as seen by Francois Mauriac, and today
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roundabout art of Les Landes

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country life in France: the poultry fair

what a hair cut! m & french pop/rock

Tour de France 2023s

Le Tour de France: cycling tactics illustrated

marker at france’s provinces, regions and departments

other documents on Pyrenees Atlantiques

marker at
the department of pyrénées-atlantiques
the basque provinces
marker at end notes



france’s provinces, regions and departments

France is far more diversified than Britain, and its politics are far more devolved. Both countries have approximately the same population; Britain has about 1,000 politicians, and the ones with any serious power are all in the central parliament.

France has more than 500,000 elected officials. In France, the power (and the taxation) strata go down through at least four levels - State, Region, Département and Commune. (There are also other levels such as Canton.) At times, tax bills will indicate how much is paid to each level. Even each local village commune decides on its expenditure priorities, runs its own local fêtes (street parties) and decides which kind of lamp-posts to have, and when, or if, they are going to fix the potholes.

The Regions of Republican France
The Regions of Republican France

This results in the Departments around France building their own idiosyncratic cultures and trying to to make their cheese, wine or umbrellas famous throughout the whole country.

France's provinces under the Old Regime. Béarn
France’s provinces under the Old Regime

Napoleon and his ardent Republicans did much to attempt to break up the old provinces, such as Gasconny or Bearn, with their ancient loyalties, welding disparate areas into the new departments and regions that make up the one nation state that is France. This is an endeavour that has only been partially successful.

Poster advartising Basque dancing and singing.

the department of pyrénées-atlantiques

As with most French Departments, Pyrénées-atlantiques (Dept 64) has its own character. Pyrénées-atlantiques is one of the three Basque provinces in France - Labourd, Basse Navarre and Soule. The Basque Region, Pays Basque, Euskal Herria, comprises seven provinces, four of which, generally larger provinces, are across the Pyrenees in Spain - Alava, Viscaya, Guipuzcoa, and Navarra. There is a strong Basque agitation for Basque independence and the separate Basque language is still fairly widely spoken. Now that Northern Ireland is increasingly integrated into the rest of Ireland, the Basque independence movement is probably the strongest separatist movement in Europe, with occasional violent hassle.

The seven provinces of Pays Basque.

For centuries, Basqueland has been a fiercely independent, but impoverished, state producing (as such states do) a stream of adventurers, often going into the wild seas, then establishing themselves abroad and sending back money to their clannish families and areas. This has left Basqueland with a large number of family houses of considerable size [called Etxe or etche in Basque]. Each generation adds a little more to this growing status symbol at “home”.

Suddenly, with the growing wealth of Europe, the sometimes spectacular Basque countryside, together with access to Spain and considerable contacts across the globe, Pyrenees Atlantiques has become very attractive to holiday makers and second homers. Thus local mansions, once available for a few thousand in an isolated and poor region are rapidly moving up into the millionaire class, much to the anger of local young people who feel excluded from the local property market.

As Basquies often consider themselves Basque first, rather than French or Spanish, and the Basque language has become entirely isolated and unique, so the Basque culture has produced its own folk music, dance, sport, cuisine and myths.

Province Capital Area, in sq. km Percentage of Basque-speakers
St Jean Pied de Port
[Donibane Garazi]
1312 km² 61%
858 km² 26%
Soule [Xiberroa] Mauleon [Maule] 807 km² 64%
Alava [Araba] Vitoria 3047 km² 7%
Biscaye [Biscaia] Bilbao 2217 km² 17%
Guipuzcoa [Gipuzkoa] Saint Sebastien
1997 km² 44%
Navarra [Nafarroa] Pampelune [Irűna] 10,421 km² 10%

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New translation, the Magna Carta

Poster advartising Basque dancing and singing.

In Pyrénées-Atlantiques 2 - Pays Basque, gives a flavour of the origins of the Basque people, their homes, and pastimes.

Pyrénées-Atlantiques 3 - on the coast and the interior takes a short tour into the Pyrénéees Atlantiques and looks at a small selection of places to visit.

end notes

  1. Département
    the above is the French way of spelling the word that Anglo-Saxons spell as department. Here at, we use both spellings when describing the French administrative department, which is fairly equivalent to an American state or British county.

  2. For a map of the modern départements of France, see the map at the France Zone.

  3. The French and the English spell compound words and phrases, such as Pyrenees Atlantiques and Pays Basque differently from us Anglo-Saxons. Also note that the French also often pronounce words somewhat differently: dropping final consonants in many instances, being more meticulous to pronounce each vowel with a clearly different sound, and usually pronouncing every syllable.
    At, we tend to ring the changes between French and English spellings, and even sometimes use a mixture, as in Basqueland!

    But why is the French version of Pyrenees Atlantiques spelt Pyrénées-atlantiques, and why does Pays Basque not have an ‘s’ at the end of the second word?
    Pyrénées-atlantiques: In French, with a double-barreled word, the second word matches the first word on whether it is singular or plural. In French, the Pyrenees is a plural word - the collective noun for that range of mountains, so the accompanying adjective (describing word: Atlantique) also ends in ‘s’. In French, the second word in a hyphenated compound noun is written in lower case. This is why ‘atlantiques’ is in lower case.
    Pays Basque: In French, the word for country, le pays, is singular. Thus the accompanying adjective, Basque, is also given as the singular, that is without an ‘s’ at the end.

  4. The motto for Pays Basque, Zazpiak Bat, meaning “the seven make one” in the Basque language.

  5. The ancient province of Béarn is partially in Pyrénées-Atlantiques and partially in Haute-Pyrénées. The adjective relating to Béarn is Bearnaise.

  6. The growing purchases of houses in Pyrénées-Atlantiques for second or holiday homes by outsiders has driven up considerably the local property prices. Now, local young people find that houses are priced way beyond what they are able to pay. As a result, several second homes have been blown up with homemade bombs, as part of a drive to send outsiders packing and bring the local property market back to the situation where young locals are able again to buy a house locally.

  7. As with much of France, there is a a distinctive local architecture, which in Pyrénées-Atlantiques is at times imposed with the heavy hand of what is sometimes, only half jokingly, referred to as the Communist State of Pays Basque.

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