Pau, the fourth capital of the Béarn, is the most elegant of the towns and cities that overlook the Pyrénées from their vantage point on the high bluffs that run parallel with the mountains.
Originally it was just a village fortified by a pallisade (`pau' in the old language of the Oc) guarding a bridge across the river. In the 15th century Gaston Fébus built the main fortifications and started the chateau.
It owes its importance initially to Henri IV, France's first Protestant king, who was born there, a proud Béarnais. When he was born it is said they cried: ``Here is a lion borne by the Sheep of Navarre'', a riposte to the insult when his mother was born - ``A miracle - the cow has given birth to a sheep'' (The cow is the symbol of the Béarn.)
Still very much a hero of the area, Henri IV's accession to the throne four hundred years earlier was celebrated vigorously by the Palois in 1989, while the rest of France was celebrating the bicentenary of the Revolution when they finally disposed of Royalty.
In the 19th century Pau became very popular with the British when a Scottish doctor proclaimed the curative powers of its mild climate, and their influence led to the city's soubriquet - ``La ville Anglaise''. The first mainland golf course, steeple-chasing, fox-hunting and very many fine English-style villas as well as the spectacular Boulevarde des Pyrénées all bear testament to their influence.
British society transferred their affections to Biarritz when Queen Victoria went there for a summer, but it grew in importance again this century with the discovery nearby of large supplies of natural gas. As well as being the capital of the department it is an important centre of the French oil industry.
|Golf Two 18 hole courses (15 and 16 on the map) ||Golf|
|PAU GOLF CLUB, the first golf course in mainland Europe|
18 holes 69 par 5312m WOODED Green fees 200F - 250F
The course includes a couple of drives across the Gave de Pau, where it is not so easy to recuperate your balls! One of the most magnificent courses in France and, of course, full of history as well as challenge.
GOLF CLUB D'ARTIGUELOUVE
18 holes 71 par 6063m WOODED Green fees 190F - 235F.
|Boulevarde des Pyrénées ||Beauty spots and View Points|
|This remarkable 1.5km long road along the edge of the cliffs on which Pau is built affords remarkable views of the Pyrénées. During the summer the heat haze often conceals the mountains, but on clear days the remarkable purity of the air brings them so close you feel you can almost touch them and you wonder where on earth they were hiding on, those other days!|
|Chateau de Pau ||Chateaux|
|Dominating the Pau skyline is the Chateau of Henri IV. To architectural experts it is such a mixture of styles that it can offend the eye, but that simply reflects its history over the centuries.|
The oldest parts date from the 12th century. Gaston Phébus, the geat Béarnais hero, built on in 1370, and in the 16th century Marguerite d'Angouleme gave it a Renaissance style. The Revolution in 1789 took its toll, but in the 19th century Louis-Philippe and Napoleon III returned to redo the interior and add a tower respectively.
Guided visits of the appartments; also a museum.
|F3000 and French Touring Car Championships (2 tours) ||Motor Racing|
|Béarnais museum ||Museums|
|The Musée Béarnais is in part of the Chateau|
|Le ravin de Hédas ||Other curiosities and things to see|
|This deep cleft in the middle of Pau, one of the oldest quarters, was the only source of water before the Revolution. The old houses have been nicely restored.|
|1st Division Rugby Team ||Rugby|
Pau's airport was once just served by Air France and charters, but now has a service from London Stansted with Ryan Air.
© 123Voyage, 1997 - 2014
Site v 2.1