And I bring you Pau, the Béarn never look so good!

I am bringing you back to a wonderful city of the old region of Béarn in the south of France,and a superb city. This is cruising time this short week of four days at work.  The sun is still with us and should be for the rest of the week. I will do this post on my black and white series ,no pictures. Plenty on specific sight posts in my blog.

I am talking about Pau, a city of passing many times and layovers of a day, on my way to my beloved Spain, then it hit us ,we needed to visit for real and we did.  Pau  is in the department 64 Pyrénées Atlantiques in the region of Nouvelle Aquitaine.

The city is located in the heart of an old independent state call Béarn of which it was the capital in 1464. Bordered by the gave de Pau river (long of 183 km) and about hundred km from the Atlantic ocean and about 50 km from Spain. This gave it a great position to offer a remarkable panorama on the Pyrénées chain of mountains as well as the hills of Jurançon with a fantastic view from the boulevard des Pyrénées.  .  Pau is only 110 km from Bayonne and the Atlantic ocean, especially the beach or Plage de Capbreton is only 122 km ; to the north there is at 216 km, Bordeaux and on the east Occitanie with only 40 km away from Tarbes ,46 km from Lourdes, and 196 km from Toulouse. Spain is only 50 km accessable via Gan by Oloron-Sainte-Marie and the peak of Somport (1631 meters and now the tunnel of Somport, or via Gan ,then Laruns to the peak of Pourtalet at 1794 meters; both of my favorite routes into my beloved Spain. Pau is found at the intersection of autoroutes A64 aka Pyrénéenne linking with Tarbes and Toulouse, and later on the west to Bayonne, and the Basque coast; and the autoroute A65 or autoroute de Gascogne connecting to Bordeaux via the A62 and the D817,  D937 and the D943 and the D945, and the N134 linking to the peak of Somport and Spain.

The funiculaire or cable car opened in 1908 to link the lower city train station and the boulevard des Pyrénées or the upper city; nice quaint ride indeed. There is TGV train service from Paris Montparnasse to Tarbes and intercités trains from Hendaye to Toulouse-Matabiau as well as TER trains from Bordeaux-Saint Jean station to Tarbes. The closest airport is that of Pau-Pyrénées located at 12 km from the town of Uzein and links with Paris CDG and Orly airports , Lyon, Marseille, Bastia, Ajaccio, Naples, and Bari in summers on my last reading.

A bit of history I like

The city is connected to the castle once it became the seat of the kingdom of Navarra in the 16C. Pau becomes the political and intellectual center under the reign of king Henri and Marguerite of Navarra. The story of Pau is deeply marked by the birth of Henri de Bourbon in 1553 in the castle; eventually he rises to the crown of France in 1589 under king Henri IV. Since then, the history of the city is connected to him. At the end of the Béarnaise independence  in 1620, Pau loses its influence but stayed at the head of the province autonomous until the French revolution. During the 18C another great local is born, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, marshal of the empire under Napoléon Ier and later chosen to become king of Sweden and Norway from 1818 to 1844 on his death , he started a dynasty that still reign over Sweden today.

By October 1620 the Catholic cult is reestablished here in the Béarn by a procession followed by king Louis XIII ,on the same day he published an edit to bring about the union of the Béarn and Navarra into the crown of France.  The king promise and guarantee the Béarnais to preserve their customs and privileges with autonomy.  King Louis XIII change the sovereign council of Bearn into the parliament of Navarra bringing in the court of Saint Palais; the city of Pau goes from royal town to parliamentarian town.  When the WWI began many pilots were trained here from a dozen countries including the French Georges Guynemer, René Fonck, Charles Nungesser, Roland Garros (of tennis fame) , Jules Védrine and even the American Norman Prince living in Pau at the time and founder of the Escadrille La Fayette (volunteers American who fought even before the USA entered the war). During WWII, Nazi occupation brought the Gestapo to the villa Saint Albert (today  destroyed) from 1942 and using the outpost or caserne Bernadotte as a prison until August 1944.

With the coming of the Belle Époque period a new influx comes to Pau, rich tourists especially British but also Russians, Spanish, and Americans coming to spent the winter and benefit from the special climate ordered by Scottish doctor Alexander Taylor. Pau is change into building several villas and palaces to host the new arrivals with all modernity such as baths, casino, and cable car or funicular. At the same period Pau becomes one of the world capital of aeronautics with the Wright brothers, and the first school of pilots organized in the world.

Things to see in nice Pau

The great parc Beaumont with a lake, river, and cascade with several branches of flowers and rosary on 12 hectares having 110 different species of trees with some remarkable such as the bold cypress, of Louisiana , the Persimmon of Virginia, and the Giant Sequoia . You have the parc Lawrence with centenary trees and an English villa from the 19C.  The domain of the castle of Pau has a renaissance garden with medicinal plants heir to the parks of the 16C under Antoine de Bourbon and Jeanne d’Albret  gardens seen as the most beautiful of Europe by contemporary visitors. You have main Churches such as Saint Martin Church started in 1863 and finished in 1871; and Saint James Church finished in 1868. Also, the fine arts museum opened in 1864.

The wonderful Château de Pau (see post) over the gave de pau river, the native house of Gen Bernadotte and from 1951 the museum of Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte ,general under Napoléon I and later king of Sweden under Charles XIV and king of Norway under Charles III.  The Hôtel Gassion and Hôtel de France on boulevard des Pyrénées. The palace or Palais Beaumont also known as winter palace built in 1900 to amuse the locals and visitors on the game  , spectacles , festivals and meetings in a casino and congress center, theater and etc . The current Hôtel de Ville or city hall from 1878, by the Place Royale that was before a theater from 1862.

Like I said this is a nice city good to walk around the Place Royale and up and down upper and lower city on the cable car, the views on boulevard des pyrénées and of course the Castle, always the castle.

There you have it wonderful deep into the Béarn, Deep France , my love is on these lands so much the real France still, please keep it like forever. Enjoy it, and remember, happy travels, good health ,and many cheers to all !!!

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