Pau: Pyrénées, parades and patrimoine

Last week I sank into a funk. School was rough. I was trying settle back into my usual routine after the horrors of the previous week. The weather was disgusting. And we had house guests.

By Saturday, it was high time for a weekend getaway. My overnight trip to Pau was the breath of fresh air I’d been craving—literally and figuratively.

The crisp air filled my lungs. And then the view took my breath away.

"Pau est la plus belle vue de terre du monde comme Naples est la plus belle vue de mer." —Lamartine

“Pau est la plus belle vue de terre du monde comme Naples est la plus belle vue de mer.” (“Pau has the world’s most beautiful view of the earth just as Naples has the most beautiful view of the sea.”) — Lamartine

Standing on the edge of Pau’s terraced Boulevard des Pyrénées, gazing at the blues and grays of the snow-capped mountains, I felt like I was at the end of the world. I felt like I could fly.

Now I understand how people can be mad about mountains.

While the Pyrénées might well pull me back to Pau, they weren’t what initially brought me there.

Tomorrow is Mardi Gras and this last weekend was the height of Carnaval—the traditional season of parades, masquerades, balls and general debauchery preceding Lent.

As this was to be my frist Carnaval, I wanted to do it right. So on the recommendation of several real live French people, my friends and I chose Pau as our hub for the fête.

We made it to town just in time for the défilé, and even through the drizzle, everything was vibrant.

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The parade was truly communal. Clubs and organizations, marching bands, families, groups of friends and plainly dressed spectators danced along narrow streets as it rained down silly string and confetti (I’m still finding pieces in my pockets).

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After a night featuring mojitos and my infamous nose glasses, we capped off our séjour with a guided tour of the Château de Pau—the birthplace of  Henri IV—during which time I was able to fill my history nerd quota.

The château is one of my favorites that I’ve ever visited. It’s beautifully furnished and the tour (the only way you’re grated access) was informative, entertaining and thorough—just the way I like it.

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Château de Pau

Stay tuned for upcoming day trips to Gimont-Cahuzac and Lourdes.

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Click here for more photos from Pau.

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8 comments

  1. Pau looks like my kind of place to visit. A chateau! Gorgeous mountain views! Fun-loving people! Either a chateau or a cathedral, and either mountain or ocean views, are definite lures for me for a city, town or village. Your photos are magnifique!

    1. You’d love it. Too bad we won’t have enough time to go while you’re here.

  2. So glad that I choose to visit there rather than hit up Toulouse again! Thanks for the guidance kid.

    1. I might tag along as a hidden hostage in your suitcase…

  3. Linda Fredricks · · Reply

    Pau was where I spent my junior year abroad…part of the first contingent of USC students. I’m glad to know the charm of the city worked on you as well. LOVE your posts and photos. Merci de tous les beaux souvenirs de cette belle ville de Pau!

    1. I’m envious that you got to spend a whole year abroad there! Pau would be a wonderful place to live. Merci d’avoir aussi partagé tes propres souvenirs, and, as always, thanks for reading 🙂

  4. […] week after my sojourn in Pau and mere days after my mid-week excursions to Gimont-Cahuzac and Lourdes, I headed to Albi with my […]

  5. […] trip happened to coincide with Carnaval, the days of costumes, partying, and parades preceding Lent. Even in small-town Spain, Carnaval […]

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