A magical setting at the crossroads of the 2 valleys
The charming village of Arreau awaits you to discover its 100% Pyrenean way of life and its exceptional heritage in the Aure Valley. Visit its many buildings with their protected architecture, recharge your batteries and fish along the banks of the Neste, stroll along the richly flowered banks, stroll through its medieval alleys and admire the half-timbered houses with their slate roof. Arreau is the meeting place of the Neste d'Aure and the Neste du Louron: these two rivers give it a unique charm and are at the origin of its historical prosperity. Since the Middle Ages, this city of 700 inhabitants has been a commercial crossroads and the emblematic capital of the "4 valleys". Discover Arreau, the place where you must spend your holidays in the heart of Pyrénées2vallées!
The city-hall, the heart of the village
An emblematic place in Arreau, the halle-mairie has been a place teeming with life since its creation. Built in 1932 to replace the 16th century wooden hall, this superb building houses the weekly Thursday market under its ground floor hall. Taste the specialities of local producers and meet the locals who will help you discover the secrets of the village. The floor is occupied by the services of the town hall. With its faux pans of wood on the outside walls and its bell tower decorated with a 3-sided clock, the architecture of the hall is perfectly integrated into the Aurois style and blends in with the medieval buildings.
The Middle Ages live in the Maison des Lys
A true witness to the prosperity of the village during the medieval period, discover the Maison des Lys, a remarkable 16th century Gothic building classified as a Historical Monument. The many fleur-de-lys on its half-timbered facade attract the eye from far away. They were carved by the rich owners, in homage to King Louis XI of France. Get closer to the house to see its base in grey Pyrenean marble, which serves as a support for the two corbelled floors.
The castles of Nestes and Ségure
The remarkable Pyrenean architecture and the many historic buildings of the village of Arreau are recognised and protected: an Architectural, Urban and Landscape Heritage Protection Zone (ZPPAUP) was created in 1995 and now covers the entire municipal territory. Behold the Château des Nestes (in the picture) on the banks of the river with the same name. This former 17th century sawmill symbolizes the end of the Neste du Louron and marks its union with the Neste d'Aure. Within it, discover the Tourist Office Pyrénées2vallées d'Arreau and the Musée des Cagots. The latter traces the life of this minority persecuted until the 19th century because of superstition. Museum open every day. 200m further on via Saint-Exupère, you will cross the Château de Ségure and its imposing 16th century square tower. It was built on the rock, replacing the old keep 400 years older. This historic building in the city now houses the headquarters of the Communauté de Communes Aure Louron.
The Saint-Exupère chapel and the church of Arreau
While strolling through the streets of Arreau, you will not miss the Saint-Exupère chapel (opposite), classified as a Historic Monument. Its large 16th century Gothic bell tower dominates all the other buildings in the village. Arriving from rue Saint-Exupère, the 6-column Romanesque entrance invites you inside. You admire its tympanum decorated with a chrism. Then discover its narthex followed by its narrow but splendid nave with its stained glass windows, its colourful ceiling and its statues. The chapel was once used as a meeting place for representatives of the Aure valley. It is dedicated to Saint-Exupère, patron saint of the village who was bishop of Toulouse at the beginning of the 5th century. A 16th century school adjoins the chapel, built on the supposed site of Saint-Exupère's birthplace. If you wish to discover other religious buildings, visit the church of Notre-Dame d'Arreau on the way back to the hall. Located in the centre of the village, this Romanesque church impresses with its square bell tower. It has been listed as a Historic Monument since 1989.
Arreau, capital of the spit cake
Do you know the spit cake? This mountain speciality is at the very least atypical. It is said to have come from Eastern Europe, was brought back by Napoleon and offered to the inhabitants of the mountains, who immediately fell under his spell. The followers of this dessert have gathered in a Brotherhood, which organizes every year in July the Spit Cake Festival. On this occasion, they make (in very large proportions) the recipe of the cake on the spit. 600 eggs, 15kg of flour, 15kg of sugar, 15kg of butter, 11L of rum, Pastis and a vanilla extract. The dough is poured onto a mould which is then placed in front of the fire. A person then manually rotates the spindle continuously for several hours! The result: an extraordinary cake, very caloric, cone-shaped and with peaks. With its 1.8 meter long and 50kg, a single spit cake is enough for an entire assembly. If you visit the region at this time of year, don't miss this must-see event!
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