Saturday, May 23 - Pau and Jurancon

This day was spent exploring Pau. We began with a lecture by Gabrielle on Pau. Here are more cribbed notes from the Internet:

The site was fortified in the 11th century to control the ford across the river, Gave de Pau. It became the seat of the viscounts of Béarn. Pau was made capital of Béarn in 1464. During the early 16th century, the Château de Pau, made more habitable by Gaston III, count of Foix, became the residence of the kings of Navarre, who were also viscounts of Béarn. Pau was birthplace of Henry IV of France. His mother, Jeanne d'Albret, crossed France to ensure her son would be born there. The baby's lips were moistened with wine and rubbed with garlic shortly after birth. When Henry IV left Pau to become King of France, he remarked to local notables that he was not giving Béarn to France but giving France to Béarn. Napoleon III refurbished the château and Pau added streets of Belle Époque architecture, before fashion transferred to Biarritz. Pau is still a centre for winter sports and equestrian events, with a steeplechase. Charles XIV of Sweden was born in Pau, in 1763. The Château de Pau was once used by Napoleon as a holiday home during his period of power. It has a small garden that was tended by Marie Antoinette when she spent much of the summers in the city. The château now is considered a French historical monument and contains a nice collection of tapestry.

The English discovered Pau and its climate and left their imprint, partly because Wellington left a garrison there in 1814 towards the end of the Peninsular War. Vacationing British began arriving before the railroad established the Boulevard des Pyrenées, the first full 18-hole golf course in Europe - laid out in 1856-1860, and still in existence - and a real tennis court.

We had lunch at our hotel restaurant and then walked to see the Chateau. We had a special guide there although Gabrielle accompanied us as well. The Chateau is on the Boulevard des Pyrenees, running east-west along heights and with a view toward the Pyrenees. That day there was a auto race and we could hear the engines but could not see very well from the Boulevard.

We returned then to the hotel and at 5:30 left for visit to a winery in Jurancon. This is an area some distance to the south and the bus really took us out into the rural area. After about 45 minutes we got to Domaine Bellegarde and were greeted by an extremely friendly dog named Kelly. We spent some time just walking around the site. They had a sort of viewing monument on a nearby hilltop identifying the sights in different directions. The gardens were beautiful as were the panoramic views. After the obligatory viewing of vats and kegs, with detailed discussion of the reason their approach is the best one, we went in for dinner and wine. Both were just fine and we returned to the hotel full and happy.

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