Skiing in the Pau area
If you are in the Pau area in Winter, and if you like skiing (or just mountain and snow. . .. . ), there are a number of possibilities to go for some good downhill ski, and there are some places for cross country ski (but in mountain); I do not tell about ski-trekking which is also an activity some people practice here around (club alpin)
The ski resorts I write about are between 1 and 2 hours drive from Pau, so it is possible to go skiing just one day and come back to Pau.
Other possibility is to go for several days, but then you need accommodation, which can be found either in the resorts or in nearby villages.
The most important tip I can give for this is as follows: if you come from outside France and are really interested to go skiing in the Pyrenees, avoid the school holidays periods; during that time the resorts are crowded and the prices are high!
School holidays in France until 2010 (unfortunately in French):
Another very interesting tip (I guess) is to buy cards for a week in one resort or if you want to try several, buy the N’PY card, which gives access to 5 resorts (Gourette, LaMongie-Barèges, Peyragudes, La Pierre St Martin, and Luz Ardiden) for special prices.
The N’PY website in general: http://www.n-py.com/
And for instance you can try these two options:
5 days in one resort:
5 days in whatever resort, and not necessarily 5 consecutive days:
Check the N'py website, for more information.
There are other ski resorts not belonging to the N’PY group, and there is good skiing too (Artouste, Cauterets, Gedre-Gavarnie and others).
In all ski resorts there are at least 2 equipment hiring shops, and generally (well, I only rented once, I have my own equipment) the material is in good shape. In many resorts there are ski-schools, for all levels, if you want to learn or improve: the good and official one is: ESF (Ecole du Ski Français), and you can book here: http://www.esf.net/fr/ecoles/reservation.php, again in French, but it seems easy
I cannot give tips about accommodation, as I live in the area, and when I go for several days I have special offers through my office; and on the web there are a lot, I do not know how reliable they are.
For general information about accommodation, I guess, the best is to check with the tourist office in Pau
Office municipal du tourisme
they are working on an English version of their website. . . .
Adresse : Place Royale 64000 PAU France
Tél. : 05 59 27 27 08
Email : email@example.com
Site : www.pau-pyrenees.com
A general remark about Pyrenean ski resorts: they are very “popular”, in the sense they are not frequented by the must be seen here like the luxury alp resorts. It is not as prestigious as the Alps, but the important is ski, not to show or to be seen, and the tracks are as good (as proof, there are some champions (France or even more coming from the Pyrenees where they learned skiing)
main picture : Tourist office near the city hall.
picture 2:Gourette, bottom of tracks
picture 3:La Pierre St Martin; high on the tracks.
picture 4: Try to avoid school holidays or you will endure queuing; . .
picture 5: High on Luz Ardiden
Some more Carnaval Biarnes, and at night.
As written in the previous tip, the Carnaval happens also at night. Music on the streets and music, dance, drinks, in a big tent on Place de Verdun. Except drinks, it is all free. At night also is the bear hunting (see website), the burning of St Pançard, the evil “patron” of this carnival. I am not tourist here and during day I am supposed to work, and, well, I will try to participate to the bear hunting next time (as a bear, because, it is something like girls try to catch the boys more or less disguised as bears. . . )
main picture % Here at the entrance to the tent at night, lots of nice encounters can be done. . . and it is a lot of fun.
picture 2% a This butcher. . . not sure he drank only water tonight !
picture 3: These are also pigs strolling around during carnival;
picture 4: Ah as the French elections for president are coming soon (well, 2 month), some people even disguise and mock the politicians; the names are written in Bearnese, and I like a lot Sarkozy as Schtroumpf des banlieues (suburbs smurf, as a reference to the unrests in some French suburbs last (2005) winter where he explained his conception of law and order.
picture 5: Some random pictures taken on a Saturday; giant figures, disguised people, good mood, . . .
Parlement du Navarre
The Parlement du Navarre is an impressive yet somber building that faces the Château de Pau. It is a reminder of not only the Ancien Régime, when France was not structured along the lines of a rigidly centralized Republic, but of further in the past, when Pau was the capital of an independent Kingdom uniting Béarn and Navarre. The somber grey walls and rather plain and simple lines of the building contrast quite well with the Château, although it should be noted that this is the second building constructed on that spot – the first was destroyed by a fire in the 18th century. The Parlement du Navarre was originally constructed in the 1580s and used as a Palais de Justice. It was converted to a Parliament by Louis XIII when Navarre and Béarn were attached to France in 1620. I don’t know that you can actually enter the building and tour its rooms (I didn’t try) but I don’t imagine that there is a lot to see in any case. It is more interesting in the way that it completes the entire scene of the historic centre of Pau and its somber atmosphere contrasting the lush greenery of the gardens and the Pyrenees.
Inside the Chateau on the Ground Floor
The largest room in the Castle is on the ground floor and it is able to be set up for dinners that seat 100 people. The lateral walls are covered with eight Gobelin tapestries. They are related to King Henri's daily life and were probably the first tapestries created at the Gobelin workshop in Paris since they T only began in Henri's last decade of life. On snother wall is a statue of Henri. The next room is the anteroom and beyond is one of the early examples of an interior staircase.
The King of Sweden is Bearnese!
Well, not Bearnese, but from Bearnese ascent . Bernadotte, a general for the French First Republic served then under Napoleon who made him field marshal was born in Pau in 1763. The Swedish Parliament elected him Prince-heir of Sweden in 1810 as Carl Johan and after the death of king Carl XIII in 1818, he becomes King of Sweden as Carl XIV Johan and reigns until his death in 1844. In the meantime he participated to the 6th coalition against Napoleon and annexed Norway. The Bernadotte dynasty is still reigning on Sweden with King Carl Gustav.
The House of the Bernedotte family is a museum with lots of pictures of Bernadotte at the Battle of this or the battle of that, portraits, a mini cult of personality museum. The second floor is more interesting for the 19th century bearnese furniture. . . . On the first floor are pictures of the descendants of Bernadotte, so if you are in the mood you can learn a lot about the Swedish royal family. . . . and on the ground floor, various artefacts donated by the royal family and a few paintings by Prince Eugen.
This Museum (seriously) is worth a visit for the architecture of the house and the decoration, and if it is a rainy day. . . . and not a lot else to do.
On the main picture the wooden balconies of the house and the other pictures show examples of what can be seen inside.
Entrance 3 Euros