Pau, capital of Béarn
Pau is pronounced 'POH' in French, but 'POW' by the people of the Béarn. I found it very easy to orientate myself. There is a parking place under the Boulevarde de Pyrenees. Come to the surface, face one way and you're looking at the mountains. Turn right and you're looking along the Boulevarde de Pyrenees. Turn right again and you'll see a square in front of you. At the other end of the square is the main street with tourist office.
A very pretty & pleasant city, with lots of good places to eat.
The crest doesn't of course refer to H.I.V AIDS but to Henry IV. The image refers to the seasonal movement of livestock to and from higher pasture, known as 'Transhumance".
Pau is a very sporty town. They are the basketball champions of France, there is rugby, football, motor racing, the list goes on. And it is close to the Pyrenees so there are also a whole range of mountain activities to take part in - skiing, hiking, rafting etc etc.
Boulevard des Pyrenees
Pau built its own grand promenade to rival the rich seaside resorts of the Mediterrannean and Atlantic. But the views from here are not of sandy beaches, but of the Pyrenees Mountains and Bearnaise countryside. The Boulevard des Pyrenees stretches from Pau Castle to the attractive Casino. It has a number of watering holes, including an Australian and an Irish Pub for some reason! There is also a curious Cafe that serves tea while you sit in deck chairs.
You will notice the names of mountains in view are written along the top the ballustrade on the promenade.
Walk around the chateau before visiting it
Le Chateau (the castle) is the main “attraction” (in the original sense of that word!) of Pau.
The castle of Pau (le chateau de Pau) is the birthplace of King Henri IV, but its history began before. In the middle age it was a fortified castle, meant to watch the ford on the Gave River; three towers from this period are still there with some modifications.
In the 14th century, Gaston Fébus built the brick donjon of 33 m height.
I propose you to first walk around and have a look at the walls and the general shape and lay-out.
The main picture, shows the eastern side of the chateau, as seen when coming from the old city, on the Place de la Déportation. Left is the massive middle age old Tour Montauser, and right the Tour Napoleon III, and the Napoleon III wing. These last buildings have been added during the renovation initiated in the 19th century by king Lois-Philippe and then Napoleon III; these renovations were symbolically undertaken in order to reinforce “French unity”, reconciling republican ideals and monarchy, as reference to Henry IV who as a protestant (converted to Catholicism), became king of catholic France and preserved peace in Bearn.
Picture 2 is a view from place de la deportation; the renaissance style (but from 19th century) entrance portico links the donjon to the N. III wing.
Looking from North, the same towers are visible, and we see also the massive brick donjon on the left and the tour Billère on the right (picture 3).
From south (picture 4), the chateau looks the most impressive, with this long renaissance wing between the donjon and the middle age tour Mazeres. On the right side of the picture is the bell tower of the Parlement de Navarre (Navarre Parliament).
From west (picture 5), from the gardens (Parc du Domaine National de Pau), on the right is the tour Mazeres and left the Tour Louis Philippe (19th century).
Despite numerous changes and renovations, this castle seems to have an architectural unity and coherence, from outside.
Lucq de bearn,a wonderful church in a nice village
Lucq de Bearn is a small village located west of Pau, between the towns of Mourenx and Oloron Sainte Marie, in the foothills of the Pyrenees.
Added to the nice, charming and quiet landscapes, Lucq has two things to see: the very charming little village with its houses and the old church.
The Saint Vincent church has been built in the 11th century, and despite several renovations, the main building and style a re preserved, like the bell tower with its typical bearnese style (see Monein to compare); the altar in the church is very interesting and curious as it is a tombstone from the 4th century; this tombstone is a Christian one as one can see on the scenes represented on the low-relieves; this tombstone which has been found recently during excavation works close to the church is a witness of very early Christian conversion in the area and it is a very fine piece of art.
The church itself has several altars on the side walks, displays some old paintings. .
It was at the origin the church of a Benedictan abbey founded in Lucq de Bearn in the 11th century; the roman chapiters deserve a whole page for themselves alone.
Let us first look outside, the main entrance is under the bell tower (main picture), nearby are some ruins from the old abbey (second picture) which had been destroyed in a first phase during the religion wars in the 16th century, then definitely during the Revolution.
The church has undergone some renovation or restoration works with time as this Renaissance porch shows (picture 3). The village and even the church are well hidden in the small narrow valley (Picture 4). The campanile on the northern end of the roof is a modern artefact added to the church but it is rather charming (picture5).