Nérac, royal sweetness on the banks of the Baïse

Nérac
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Nérac, royal sweetnes ...
Nérac is an important stronghold of the great historical figures who have shaped our country. Henri de Navarre, who would later become Henri IV, and his first wife Marguerite de Valois, better known under the name of Queen Margot, settled there, as well as their court, for 6 years (from 1576 to 1582).

Today, Nérac is the capital of the Pays Coeur d'Albret. And the Baïse which crosses it, as well as its pretty picturesque heritage, gives it a very special charm and will let a breeze of lightness hover over your shoulders and you will feel an incomparable sweetness of life.


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The Baïse, a navigable river

Already in medieval times, the Baïse was navigable. It was fitted out under Henri IV. It represented an essential means of moving and practicing trade because it allowed the transit of agricultural or industrial products. It was an undeniable commercial and economic advantage since boats could go as far as Bordeaux, or even as far as the Atlantic.


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Now the river trade has fallen into disuse. But the Baïse has managed to stay alive. It is practicable from April to October for boaters who wish to let themselves slide over these waters with different shades of green. Rather quiet, it connects in particular Valence-sur-Baïse to Buzet-sur-Baïse, that is to say about sixty kilometers. There are 21 locks on this section.

The good idea Read our article on boat trips in the Lot-et-Garonne, several rivers are navigable!


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The lords of Albret, Henri IV and Nérac

The Albret family is from the Landes. But, at the beginning of the Middle Ages, the monks who lived in Nérac solicit Amanieu II d'Albret and ask for his protection in 1130-1143. A few generations later (2 centuries), the Albret family, which had become very powerful, acquired the entire territory around Nérac and the monks had to give up their governance. In 1556, Henri II, then King of France, even transformed the territory into a Duchy. And their power is only going to grow over the years. Until the supreme climax: the arrival of Henry IV on the throne. Nérac is the place of his ancestors, and he puts down his suitcases there, as well as those of his court. The city will become the capital of its government and its stronghold for 6 years.

In town, there are a few must-see sites if you want to discover testimonies from this royal era:

  • The Henri IV castle-museum: It was a former Gascon fort when it passed into the hands of the Lords of Albret. At the end of the 15th century, it was transformed and then enlarged (3 additional wings). Unfortunately the revolutionaries went through this and today only the North wing remains. A sublime gallery with twisted columns adorns this north wing.

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    Welcome to the castle!

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    The north wing of the royal castle of Henri IV

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    Twisted columns


    • The Henri IV statue: It used to adorn the forecourt of the castle. But, from now on, it is Place du Général Leclerc that you will be able to admire it. There are two replicas to this statue. One is in Pau (Henri IV was born at the Château de Pau: link?) And the other stands at the Palais Bourbon in Paris.

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      The statue of Henri IV, visible in Nérac

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      Henri IV, the statue in Pau


      • The royal park of La Garenne: Created by Jeanne d'Albret (mother of Henri IV) and enlarged by Queen Margot, the promenade des dames de la Cour is a place of nature that calls for calm and healing. Its route follows that of the Baïse. Take the time to stroll there and you will discover some interesting heritage treasures : like a Gallo-Roman mosaic and several fountains.

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        Walk in the Garenne garden

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        The remains of a mosaic dating from the Gallo-Roman period (6th century)

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        Stroll in the heart of the medieval town

        It is very pleasant to stroll from alleyway to alleyway and look up to discover the richness of the medieval heritage. The city has managed to preserve its authentic soul and the walk invites you to observation, contemplation and discovery.


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        The good idea Discover the Grand Nez Distillery in Nérac, specializing in the production of 100% organic spirits and drinks.


        The Notre-Dame church and its surroundings will transport you to another era, especially when you cross the Old Bridge. 1 building dating from the sixteenth century, but was restored to the same centuries later. This whole part of the city enjoys incredible views.


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        Notre-Dame church in the background

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        Viewpoints from the Old Bridge


        Moreover, there is a belvedere, near the fuller's garden, which allows you to gain height and enjoy an extraordinary panoramic view. From the bridge, the landscapes are again magnificent, between built heritage and natural heritage, we do not know where to look as this environment is exotic and superb to contemplate.


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        Green panoramas from the belvedere

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        View of the Saint-Nicolas church from the belvedere


        On the other bank of the Baïse, are, among others, the castle and the church of Saint-Nicolas. Behind it, you can enjoy new panoramic views.


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        Interior of the Saint-Nicolas church

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        View of the Notre-Dame church, from the back of the Saint-Nicolas church


        Hoping to have communicated to you the desire to visit Nérac, this city with the incredible historical, heritage and natural richness. To visit it as a family, know that there is a geocaching course. Tèrra Aventura is a fun, cultural and entertaining alternative to visiting tourist places. And to continue in the footsteps of Henri IV, do not hesitate to go to the Barbaste mill.


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        Article and photos prepared by Charline Prod'Homme for the Lot-et-Garonne Guide


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