Urban stroll in Pau, royal capital

Pau
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Urban stroll in Pau,  ...

Royal, English, cosmopolitan, illustrious and modern at the same time, Pau is a surprising city which offers its visitors a digest of nine centuries of history at the foot of the Pyrenees . Pau is a city on a human scale which lends itself pleasantly to stroll , to discover its majestic heritage , its green parks and its lively shopping streets . So what to see in Pau if you are passing through for a day or only for a few hours ?

The city quickly tames and reveals the richness of its heritage step by step, giving a taste of the charms of the capital of Bearn. Let yourself be carried away by the sweetness of life, stroll in the heart of the gardens, visit the superb castle and enjoy the unique atmosphere of the city center. What make you want to come back for a longer time!

Pau, heir to a unique art of living in a garden city.

Nestled in the heart of the Gave de Pau valley , at the crossroads between the Pont-Long plain and the Trans-Pyrenean paths, Pau is a city where life is good ! Combining history and modernity, Pau is often at the top of the list of the most pleasant cities to live in France. For a day, I venture into its alleys in search of historic monuments to admire and soak up the atmosphere of this veritable balcony over the Pyrenees . The history of Pau is fascinating. Perched on a rocky promontory , the city was founded in the 12th century by the lords of Béarn who erected a castle there to strategically monitor the river, commonly known as the " gave ". In the 16th century, Pau became the seat of the kingdom of Navarre , a leading political and intellectual center. The history of the city is marked by the birth of the future king Henri IV in 1553 in the royal castle. During the Belle Époque, the city of Pau evolved into a real holiday destination for the bourgeois elite who built superb villas there. These wealthy wintering tourists from England , the United States and Russia come to enjoy the mild climate of the city, its casino , its baths and the nearby Pyrenees ! An original glorious past, a strange fate that the architecture of the city fully reflects today, to the delight of its visitors.

The Château de Pau

The castle of Pau dominates the city


Pau: history, gardens and a breath of fresh air!


Rainy day in Pau


     

A stop at Maison Constanti to start the day off right!

A visit to Pau is a must during my trip to Béarn-Pyrénées but today the sky is overcast! Whatever, it is not the weather that will spoil my pleasure to discover this ancient royal city. I put on my rubber boots, I bundle up in my coat, I take out the hat to brave the elements. To keep my feet dry, I push the door of Maison Constanti , a pretty tearoom located on Boulevard des Pyrénées, to enjoy a moment of relaxation and meet a friend to plan our visit to the city. In this institution in Pau founded in 1923 by the grandfather of Jean-Luc Constanti, who now runs the boutique, a gourmet break is essential. The menu is full of classic and original teas and delicious coffees of all kinds. To accompany a hot drink, the temptation is great between (very) soft lemon cakes , macaroons , hot croissants , bread with spicy corn and a variety of sweets from Béarn! An address not to be missed ! Well restored, we set out to conquer the city to explore most of its heritage and tourist attractions in record time.


1) The Boulevard des Pyrénées


Pau

The famous Boulevard des Pyrénées, the Croisette of Pau

The sky is clearing up ! We start the city tour along the 2km long "Promenade des Anglais" of Pau: Boulevard des Pyrénées . Symbol of the tourist craze of the city from the 1840s, this boulevard is a showcase of the elegance of Pau , offering a superb panorama of the Pyrenees to the famous pic du midi d'Ossau and the hillsides of the mountains. An impression of exoticism wins us by strolling along this long boulevard bordered by magnificent palm trees . In 1891, the engineer Jean-Charles Alphand estimated that Pau lacked a long walk conducive to peaceful strolls, to stroll and strut around . Built between 1894 and 1896, this promenade overlooking the city and beautiful gardens below is a remarkable technical feat for the time, built on the large arches of the viaduct carried by 49 pillars. Going up the Boulevard des Pyrénées truly embodies the history of the capital of Béarn in the 19th century, a destination prized by large fortunes where social life and luxury spread out in all their splendor!

2) The funicular


Pau

Pau     Pau


Built on a rocky outcrop, Pau welcomed its first train in its station in 1863 in the lower part of the city, transporting visitors from around the world. However, it was necessary that the bourgeoisie could easily reach the Upper town where the villas and mansions were located. A direct connection without the slightest effort was necessary to transport passengers from the central station to Boulevard des Pyrénées, Place Royale and the Winter Palace in Parc Beaumont. The funicular was inaugurated on February 15, 1908 to climb the 30-meter drop , a journey at the time cost 10 cents. Nowadays, this centenary installation is free and welcomes nearly 650,000 travelers a year, the inhabitants of Pau as well as the tourists who appreciate its practical and folkloric side.

3) The Château de Pau and its Renaissance-style gardens

Pau

Pau

The Château de Pau

Pau

Pau        Pau

Pau

Castle gardens


Direction the National Domain of the Castle of Pau which shelters the famous birth castle of Henri IV, protected as Historical Monuments. During a guided tour , we dive into the history of the cradle of "our good King Henry", king of France and Navarre . Feudal castle initially erected in the 12th century, this emblematic monument of the city has become over the centuries a royal, imperial and national palace and today a museum! A poignant testimony to more than nine centuries of rich and eventful history.

Leaving the castle, we enjoy a walk in its Renaissance gardens , characteristic of medieval techniques and an ancient art of gardens which combined the useful with the pleasant. At the time, vegetable plantations rubbed shoulders with flowers, medicinal herbs and vegetables of all kinds. Meticulously maintained, squares of ornamental plants in flamboyant colors make it a little corner of paradise for all lovers of nature and plants!


3) Beaumont Park

Pau

Pau

The wild life of Beaumont Park

At the end of the Boulevard des Pyrénées, in the heart of the city, Parc Beaumont is the next stop on our visit. In this same place, the Palais des Congrès and the Pau Casino, which have been closed since 2019, stand proudly. A true haven of peace , you will find in this park, emblematic of the history of Pau, lakes , winding paths , shaded lawns , a theater, and a whole fauna and flora which flourish far from the tumult of the city. Many species representative of the plant exoticism introduced in the 19th century are found in Beaumont Park: Himalayan cedars, California redwoods, catalpas, paulownias, magnolias, palm trees, Judas trees, bald cypresses etc. Acquired by the city in 1878 at the Earl of Beaumont, a Winter Palace was built in 1899 to serve as a center of social life and entertainment for the bourgeoisie. Do not miss the superb palmarium with its Neo-Rococo style structure from the Belle Epoque in glass and metal characteristic of the end of the 19th century. This splendid building nowadays hosts conferences and congresses as well as the stage of the Pau Pays de Béarn Symphony Orchestra .


4) Stroll through the historic center and do some shopping

Pau

Pau    Pau   Pau


Around the castle, the historic heart and its pedestrian streets await us for a journey back in time. Reserved for pedestrians, rue Joffre and rue Serviez offer beautiful shops, rue des Cordeliers presents pretty houses with colorful facades ... In the République district, Les Halles de Pau is a meeting place for gourmets and an incredible range of knowledge -make local . What if we take advantage of our stroll through the city center to do some window shopping ? We have a choice with a concentration of good addresses for shopping in a small area. Everything is done on foot in Pau! From the Place de la Liberation to the Place Clemenceau , from the Place d'Espagne to the Place Royale , the district is a combination of heritage and art of living à la paloise with its cafes and restaurants , its lively and friendly atmosphere. .

But still…

A few hours in Pau passed quickly, but certainly aroused the desire to deepen our knowledge of this city with a prestigious heritage: the Museum of Fine Arts houses one of the most beautiful collections in Aquitaine, the Saint-Martin church dates from 1871 and presents flamboyant interiors, the Tour des Géants tells the story of the Tour de France, the Bernadotte Museum illustrates the story of a Palois soldier who became king of Sweden!


Did you like this report? Discover others on the BLOG and by subscribing on the Facebook page of the Guide of Béarn-Pyrénées We also have an Instagram page @guidebearnpyrenees.

Photos and article written by Lesley Williamson for the Guide of Béarn-Pyrénées


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