"The Pyrénées, Henri IV, the city: all this is Pau!" Top 5 Page for this destination Pau by kokoryko
Pau Travel Guide: 161 reviews and 710 photos
Pau (pronounce it « po ») is the capital city of Bearn and the prefecture of the Pyrenees Atlantiques departement.
First of all, it is located on a “strategic” place for those who like mountain and sea, as it is located 100 km from the Atlantic Ocean and about 50 km from the high areas of the Pyrenees.
The city sits mainly on the right bank of the Gave de Pau river (in Bearn, the gaves are the rivers coming from the Pyrenees), which comes from the Gavarnie amphitheatre.
It is located north of the last Pyrenean foothills and looking north, the landscape becomes. . . flat, but to the south are the majestic Pyrenees, which you can discover from the famed Boulevard des Pyrenees, a belvedere from where you can have an overview of more then 200 km of the mountain range.
Pau has been founded in the 11th century on a ford on the river where the shepherds coming from the northern plains crossed the river to go to the mountains in summer. A castle has been built later mid way from Morlaas and Lescar which were the important cities of Bearn at the time (with Monein and Orthez)
Pau becomes a city in the 14th century during the rule of Gaston III Fébus, Count of Bearn; his son, Gaston IV, married the heiress of Navarre in 1454 and moves his government to Pau which becomes the capital city of Bearn. The old military castle becomes the residence of the counts (and from then kings of Navarre) of Bearn.
Henri d’Albret, father of the future Henri IV king of France builds the castle which is still the landmark of the city in 1530, surrounding it with beautiful gardens which are today in a renovation process.
The city was the torn in the 16th century by the religion wars; the king of Navarre was protestant and the area still is densely populated by Protestants (compared to other areas of France).
Henri IV is the most important historical character of Pau: he was king of France and made a lot for “his Bearn”; he is known as the “vert galant” meaning he was very fond of love affairs. He was murdered in 1610, and the name of his murderer has been banned from French name (you will not find anybody named Ravaillac, in France). You will read a lot about him, directly or not in the following pages.
He was succeeded by Louis XIII who included Bearn to the kingdom of France.
The University was founded in 1722. .
In the second half of the 19th century Pau, thanks to its climatic conditions (it rains here as much -if not more- as in England, hihihi) and its location near the mountains, became a holiday resort for rich English tourists who build the English houses here; they had a big influence on local life, as they imported golfing, fox-hunting, horse racing, . . . Pau is proud to have been the first aircraft pilot school of the world, and I was surprised, settling down here to see so many aviation pioneers names on the street plates.
The discovery of the nearby Lacq gas field in 1951 gave an economic boom to the area and today besides the oil and gas industry, food industry and aviation are the main economic activities.
Of course, as we are in South West France, rugby is part of local culture; the first French rugby club opened here in Pau, in 1902, after which the sport spread throughout the southwest..
It is not easy to describe the city where I live, I am wondering what could be of interest for tourists, as I do not behave as a tourist here. Of course the Chateau deserves at least a one day visit with its museum; the old streets near the chateau are picturesque. The boulevard des Pyrénées when weather is fine is nice to have a walk on, there are a few museums and a wonderful park, with Pyrenean vegetation, but it is itself not a tourist city. The places to visit are mainly in the countryside, villages, castles, the mountains not too far, the vineyards north (Madiran) and south (Jurançon). I will do my best to show some things of interest. Let us first have a walk on the Boulevard des Pyrénées, early morning, then go to the Palais Beaumont, the garden nearby, then walk here and there in the streets of the old city, visit some shops, have some glimpses in nice backyards. After this first walk we may need to take the car to visit places and villages in the vicinity. Hope you will not be bored and keep until the end of this visit.:-)
This page is under construction, of course, as I may discover new things with time here; also tips on restaurants, museums, I still did not visit, sports, villages and castles in the surroundings, etc. . . will be added with time and inspiration.
The travelogues are just some pictures I took not far from Pau; there are also travellogues about the mountains in the Midi-Pyrénées page; the mountains are within one hour from the city and the central Pyrenees are within two hours
( Other travelogues are in the Aquitaine page.
Ah! I recently found one of my pictures somewhere on the web where it has nothing to do.
It arrived there without permission.
My pictures are far from being works of art, but be kind and ask if you want to use.
Unless otherwise marked, I am the author of the pictures.
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