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Pau France French Destinations

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Pau began life as a crossing for flocks of sheep on their way to and from the Pyrenees, and then gradually grew until it was capital of Béarn in 1464 and of the kingdom of Navarre in 1512.

Marguerite d'Angoulême, sister of the French king, came here after her marriage to Henri d'Albret, sovereign at Pau, in 1567. She was a nonconformist thinker and writer, and she turned Pau into a seat of learning and the arts. Pau's most celebrated character is Henri IV who renounced his Protestant religion when he became king in 1589, announcing that "Paris is worth a mass" and that he was giving France to Béarn rather than Béarn to France.

Pau airport information

He also invented the poule au pot recipe, chicken stuffed and cooked with vegetables, and said that no one in his kingdom should be so poor that they could not afford a poule for their pot once a week. His alleged cradle, a turtle shell, is on display at the chateau (€4.42), alongside Napoléon III and Eugénie's holiday apartments.

Pau's connections with England date back to Wellington's arrival in 1814, and throughout the 19th century the English swarmed there because they believed it was good for their health. They brought with them parks in which they played cricket, polo, hunting, horseracing and, importantly, golf. The first 18 hole golf course in Europe, and the first course in the world to admit women, was built here in 1860.

There are no really essential museums or sights in Pau so just relax and enjoy the atmosphere of elegance and refined pleasures. Behind the boulevard des Pyrénées are some nice streets for a wander. There are several good eateries around the chateau, such as La Brochetterie at 16 rue Henri IV, with fish and grills on menus from €13, or lighter snacks are available at Chez Maman, a crêperies at 6 rue du Chateau. Two star accommodation is available at the Commerce, 9 rue Maréchal Joffre (05 59 27 24 40) and the Postillon, 10 cours Camou (05 59 72 83 00), both with rooms from €30 40. There is a good campsite, the Base de Plein Air (05 59 06 57 37) on the other side of the river from the train station.