|A visit to Pau
||[Apr. 21st, 2016|10:06 pm]
Pau was one of the fixed points of our itinerary from the start: once, long ago, we had paused there in passing, and now I wanted to know the town better. So we booked ourselves two nights in that very central hotel (this one: business-like but friendly, very reasonable for its position, recommended), and had rather more than a day to look round. I still can't claim to have much sense of the place, no feel for where its centre of gravity is. After an evening and a full day walking around the town, the only note in my diary is the web address of this wine producer: I not only didn't have any recollection of the wine, it wasn't until I found the label stuck to a flyer for the restaurant that I remembered where we'd eaten that night.
Never mind, there are pictures. Not that pictures are any use in showing you the really remarkable thing about Pau, which is its setting. The main part of the town, with that central square, is like any other town with its shiny new shopping mall, spreading in one direction towards rather less fancy shops. But in the other direction you very soon come to the Boulevard des Pyrénées, a mile-long balcony with a view of the distant mountains: a park at one end, a castle at the other and a sheer drop alongside.
This is the castle where Henri de Navarre was born - and given his first drop of Jurançon, his lips rubbed with a clove of garlic, and laid in a tortoise shell foe a cradle - and if we were good tourists, we would visit and admire it. Instead we just enjoyed the evening sunshine.
Here he is again, 'Lou noustr Henric', our Henry, as it says on his plinth in béarnais dialect, looking down the place Royale to the Town Hall.
A street or so further back, a little square opens off a narrow street lined with restaurants.
This isn't where we ate, it's the view from our table under the awning of the pizza restaurant.
The next morning we walked the length of the Boulevard des Pyrénées, starting at the park, past the grand blocks of flats.
Of course, I ought to have pointed the camera in the opposite direction, out towards the Pyrenees, but I don't think they'd have come out as well. The handrail along the edge of this panoramic avenue has seen better days: it is solid, but the paint is chipped and faded. At intervals, cast iron notices tell you: To identify a peak, line it up with the lightning conductor of the tram factory, and read its name on the plaque.
We took the funicular down to the lower town. It's free, and there's a constant shuttle, although we arrived to find the notice "Pause repas d'un cabinier" so only one of the cabins was taking passengers. Now we followed the base of the cadtle round, and found ourselves beside a little waterway with huge plate-glass municipal buildings on either side;
Then the castle reappeared, and we took the lift back up to the square.
Pau like Gaillac, was festooned with pink umbrellas, and the square under our window was, briefly, Umbrella Central: we watched them being put up, we watched them being taken down, and we walked under them when we returned after dinner to our hotel:
The next morning -
- but that's another story,