Freshly back from my recent trip to the south of France to follow the Tour de France as it made its way from the Pyrenees across to the Alps, I posted last time about my general Tour de France experience. I’m not going to plague you with lots of posts about the trip but I did think it would be helpful to run a few posts about the places I stayed in, particularly as there are not too many guidebooks or tourist information of any kind about either Pau or Rodez.
And it is the holiday season, after all…
I was naked of information on my trip, but you needn’t be. Or at least, you could be bikini-clad after this… not promising anything mind you 😉
First off, and ahem, most importantly…
You think when you go to France there will be bakeries on every corner. True but also just not true. They seem to be one of those kinds of things – you seem to see them all the time when you’re not looking but then when you want one, you can’t find a single one.
Now, Pau does have a few excellent boulangeries so I would like share this valuable intel. The ones I would recommend are:
1. Brioche Doree – Avenue de Lattre (Just off Boulevard des Pyrenees)
This was the best croissant I sampled while in Pau and also, probably overall during my entire south of France excursion. It was slightly more expensive (at 1.20) but I grabbed a coffee and croissant deal for 2 euro which I was pretty damn impressed with given that you wouldn’t get either a coffee or a croissant of this quality for less than 2 euro in Ireland. You can also sit outside and enjoy your brekkie if you like. Or you can do what I did and wander the half a minute down to the Boulevard des Pyrenees and enjoy your breakfast while admiring the stunning views into the mountains.
2. Boulangerie at corner of Rue Cazaubon Norbet and Rue de Camot
If you happen to be staying anywhere around Rue de Camot, this is a great, traditional, small bakery and they do excellent bread and croissants – again for pennies. This place was half a minute from where I was staying so it was my go-to. However, if you don’t get here before 10:30am, don’t bother. The croissants will be gone.
3. Le Pain Pascal – At the corner of Rue de Liege and Rue Bayard
Good croissants, bread and some gorgeous other baked goods, including fruit tarts and patisseries. Again, you need to get here early for there croissants or you’ll be leaving empty handed. Or with hands full of french patisserie… Up to you, really.
Getting to Pau
Pau is a place I probably never would have visited (or even heard of, if I’m honest) if it hadn’t been selected by the Tour de France organisers as the finish/ start point of a stage of the race. It’s a small french town in the South, not exactly used to the same flow of people as say, Paris.
Impressively, however, you will find that Pau is very accessible. There is a solid train station and a regular train service, with trains travelling from Biarritz, Toulouse, Paris and most other large cities in France – the train service in France is generally excellent. I have found that you can pretty much make up whatever route you like and the rain service will work with you to help plan your trip. Unlike the Irish rail system, the french trains are brilliantly well run, very regular and the system operates wonderfully. I accept that I have limited experience, but I have always found it a good experience.
The train station is located 5 minutes walking distance from the Boulevard de Pyrenees and the main town area. I would however, point out that there is a breath-taking climb from the train station up to the town – don’t be shocked when you emerge from the station and see what’s facing you. Either embrace it and heave ho….or take the funicular. Your call.
Pau also has its own airport, if you’re less into trains and more into the easy-get-me-there-quick options. It’s not far from the town and there is a shuttle bus that leaves from the airport every hour. On return to the airport, the shuttle bus departs from the train station again every hour, from 7.05 am onward and tickets cost a massive 1.50 euros.
What to do in Pau
Pau is a beautiful old french town perched on top of a hill with stunning views of the Pyrenees mountains. If you like to cycle, I’d recommend bringing your bike as you’re so close to the mountains that you’ll find once you leave the town, you’re into the mountains within about 15 minutes.
Needless to say, the climbs are good and the views are worth the effort.
Pau is a what you might call “a big town” – small enough to be able to walk around to everything but big enough that there you won’t find yourself always eating in the same restaurant or drinking coffee from the same place every day. By day three, I had got my bearings and knew my way around pretty well. There is a big shopping area, if you like to shop and there is generally a nice buzz about the town, full of people and a nice atmosphere.
In terms of what to expect from Pau as a destination, it’s a pretty, relaxed, quaint French town and somewhere to chill out for a few days. Bring your “ready to relax” hat, a book and pick up some great local wine, cheese and fresh bread from the town and you’ll be well set to recharge the batteries.