Questions to the owners
Why the Pyrenees and Val d´Azun and not elsewhere?
The Pyrenees mountains are unlike any others. Tourism has developed well here, yet traditional mountain farming remains omnipresent. The valleys are less open than elsewhere and the stone housing is magnificent. I am from the Alps and my wife from the South West of France, we found common ground in Haute-Bigorre! The mountain here is covered with thousands of lakes in all sizes and colours. It is also dotted with remote stone barns, which have remained in their original state. We would like to renovate them all…
What do you bring to your guests?
The Domaine de Castille is a truly authentic place, at the end of an Upper-Pyrenees valley. In this house it is easy to imagine the life of those who lived here two centuries ago, there would be the grass and the wood to cut, the sheep to fetch in the summer pastures, the festive meals with neighbours, and children making their way down to school on foot or in snowshoes. In the village there are still two bars that do not get along !
A little higher up and with a little patience we find marmots, isards - the local chamois - and sometimes even bears (with lots and lots of patience!). The house is situated in the territory of a pair of Gypaètes Barbus ...
And then you can easily practice cross-country skiing (100 km of track just ten minutes away), downhill (Cauterets, Barège etc) and hiking (departure from the house). In summer, the place is a paradise fo hiking and mountain climbing: Balaïtous, Néouvielle, Pont d'Espagne, Cirque de Gavarnie. Without forgetting Lourdes, which is just 30 minutes away and welcomes six million pilgrims every year.
What is special about this chalet?
The house is what is called here a "Bigourdane", the typical manor house of the Hautes-Pyrénées, with its pointed four-sided roof. It is surrounded by the usual outbuildings, the "poulaillère" (chicken coop), emblematic building of Lavedan that we have transformed into a larch bedroom, the stone barn, which now houses the swim spa, an old gallery that we have converted into a covered terrace. The ensemble forms something like a small hamlet around a grassy courtyard, on more than 7 hectares of wood and meadows. We are in the mountains, more than a 1000m above sea level with a mountain view, but it feels more like the countryside.
Your ideas or good addresses that are out of the ordinary?
The house invites guest to spend some time alone or with friends or family, in a peaceful setting not too far removed, at the foot of wild mountains.
In any season, we recommend going on foot, ski touring or by car to the Col de Spandelles (1378m) in the Pyrenean foothills. It is incredibly wild with horses roaming free and at the same time easily accessible.
In Autumn, the lake d’Estaing (1164m) is a natural wonder. In winter, large avalanches fall from the surrounding peaks to the middle, exploding the thick crust of ice that covers it. And you can (still) get there by car.
What is the history of this Pyrenean chalet?
The house dates back to the 18th century. It used to be called "Chez Coués", after the family that built it. Until the Revolution, homes here were passed on according to the rule of absolute primogeniture: the eldest – girl or boy – inherited everything. The younger siblings received nothing and either had to find an elder or go into exile or enter the service of the State or God. The reason behind this was the lack of usable space in the valleys. We have renamed it "Le Domaine de Castille" since it was attached to our nearby (10mins driving) eponymous house.
But above all, the house is so typical of Pyrenean farms that it served as the setting for the shooting in 1987 of the shepherdess scenes from the movie "Bernadette" by Jean Delannoy. The film recalls the life of young Bernadette Soubirou (played by actress Sydney Penny) to whom appeared eighteen times "a lady dressed in white, more than beautiful" in her own words. The Domaine de Castille for its part appears at 12'30, then at 18', then a few other times in interior scenes.