I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life. FERNANDO PESSOA

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Pau

I left Morlaàs early next morning, passing the church of Sainte-Foy on my way out of town:



I was soon walking through the popular recreational area of the Fôret Dominiale de Bastard (Bastard State Forest!) After miles of long, straight forestry tracks I reached the race-course at Lartigue, a northern suburb of Pau. Although Pau is slightly off-trail (the waymarked pilgrim route stays on the northern edge of Pau and heads directly for the ancient settlement of Lescar) I'd decided earlier that I wanted to explore this city - so I took a bus for 3.5 km into the centre.

Pau (population 80,000) is the capital of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in the region of Aquitaine, and capital of the former province of Béarn. The British have long been associated with Pau - ever since Wellington left a garrison there on his way to Spain during the Napoleonic Wars - and they have the dubious distinction of establishing the first ever European golf course there. Famously, Pau is the birthplace of French king Henry IV (1553-1610) - and his spirit lives on in the town in the form of tourist bric-à-brac, civic sculptures and, magnificently, the imposing château:


As well as a guided tour of the castle - I remember the tapestries were particularly fine - I stocked up on even more culture by looking round the Musée des Beaux-Arts, which contained paintings by Rubens, Vuillard, El Greco - and this beautiful representation of the female form:

2 comments:

Jay said...

That was interesting. I had no idea where Pau was, but I looked at that church and thought 'That looks like a wonderful Norman arch'.

Presumably, I'm right, since the Normans did come from France, did they not?

The Solitary Walker said...

Yep, over here we say 'Norman' about pre-Gothic architecture (rounded arches etc)when referring to Britain and 'Romanesque' when referring to France. Lots of Romanesque churches in France and Spain. And I saw quite a few on the Camino walk I'm writing about. Confusingly, in France they don't say 'Romanesque' but 'Romain' (Roman) - in French 'romanesque' means 'romantic'.