Saturday, July 10, 2010

Pau, nested at the feet of the Pyrenees

Monday I went to Pau for a lunch date with my friend Nathalie. We took a short stroll in the old centre and then had lunch at Brasserie Royal. We had such a nice time, talking about old times and discussing projects for the future....  I really like Pau! The contrast between the palm trees and the view of the Pyrénées at the same time, it is such an incredible mix!

Last time I went to Pau it was to see our friends Sébastien and Stéphane (yes, she's a girl). Pau is the second biggest city in Aquitaine with about 80 000 inhabitants. They live in the old historic centre, one block from the famous Boulevard des Pyrénées, a street where you have a view of the Pyrenees mountains. We love Pau, says Sébastien, it's close to the mountains, one hour from the sea and next to two extraordinary wine areas, Madiran and Jurançon. Pau is an excellent stepping stone for many day trips.

Sébastien tells me how Pau was constructed around the castle along a steep cast, which means the city has developed, like many beach resorts, in waves. The Englishmen have had a strong influence, which you still can notice for example in the Trespoey area where many houses have big gardens, stables and greenhouses. Pau is also the place for the first golf course.

Among many others you find the oil company Total in Pau. They have many employees working abroad with high salaries, which might explain the extraordinary supply of chic clothes stores with luxury brands. According to reliable sources shopping is much better than i Biarritz for example. I saw many well known brands as we walked around, Prada, Miu Miu, Yves Saint Laurent... Best shopping streets are Henri IV, Joffre, Latapie and Barthou.

We end our walk admiring the magnificent castle, recently renovated to its original splendor. It is one of the main attractions in Pau. The older part contrasts with the newer parts of the castle. The streets next to it is full of terraces and restaurants.

As I mentioned, the Boulevard des Pyrénées is known for its fantastic view of the mountains. It starts at the castle and stretches all the way to the Beaumont Parc. The contrast between the snow covered mountain peaks and the palm trees on the street is quite startling! Our day here was quite grey, so I didn't see any of this at this occasion....

For Swedes Pau has an importance for another reason. It is the birth place for the founder of the current royal family, the Bernadotte. He was born as a simple soldier but managed with his loyalty towards Napoléon, some courage and quite a bit of luck to end up as the king of Sweden.

Don't miss the funiculaire, a kind of elevator that takes you from the train station to the Royale Square next to the castle. Sébastien also tells me about Grand Prix, a formula 1 competition where most parts of the circuit goes through the very centre of Pau.  It draws a big public and is a tradition since 1930.

Typical architecture

Tea with view over the mountains?

Our restaurant

The castle with its two parts in different styles

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