"Capital de Béarn" Top 5 Page for this destination Pau by mikey_e
Pau Travel Guide: 193 reviews and 852 photos
The second stop on my "retravelling childhood trips" tour was Pau. I was on a bit of a high after Toulouse, where I had had an exceptionally fun time (see my page on that city), when I headed towards Pau. There was little that went wrong on the trip to Pau, and it was rather fun to go up to the city by a funicular and to see the contrast of the palm trees and the Pyrenees in the gardens and the surrounding plains. The troubles, however, started with the search for accomodations. I clued in fairly quickly that Pau probably wasn't a destination for more than one night when the first three or four places I went could not accomodate me - because they were out of business. In fact, it appeared, the farther I got from the historic area around the Parliament of Navarre and the Place Royale, the worse the economic situation of the city and the fewer the open businesses.
Despite the various problems and disappointments that I had with accomodations, I was at least quite happy to find all the historic sites that I remembered. The Parliament of Navarre; the Chateau; the massive, grey Catholic cathedral; the gardens and the Place Royale - it was all exactly what I remembered from when I was 16 and travelling with my dad. The problem is much what I insinuated in my page in Toulouse - that small towns with a few historic sites or museums often don't make good second trips. Once you've visited the attractions, and found that they are not absolutely unique, there is often little to draw you back for a second visit.
Perhaps I'm being a bit harsh in my evaluation of Pau. It is true that the city is going through tough times, compared to a much more vibrant city like Toulouse. These things obviously have ripple effects, and a local economy in the doldrums makes it rather difficult for a city to prop up interesting and innovative museums and exhibitions. Nevertheless, Pau does have a few good restaurants, quiet and with excellent positioning for patio dining. The key, looking back, is to spend a bit more to enjoy what should be seen as a quiet, relaxing stop between Toulouse and San Sebastian. If I were to plan for a third visit, that would certainly make that the foundation of my itinerary.
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