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Introduction

Pau is a city in Pyrénées-Atlantiques. The town was fortified in the 11th century, and the château de Pau was the birth place of Henri IV of France. Pau has a population of around 85,000. Pau is the capital of the Pyrenees-Atlantiques and encompasses the Basque and the Bearn people. It is a perfect base to explore Southwest France and the Pyrenees mountains.

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Sights and Activities

  • Le château de Pau - the birth place of Henri IV of France. Beautiful architecture. It can only be seen on hourly guided tours which are only given in French. It is free on the first Sunday of every month. Guided tours are usually very informative and well planned, the permanent collection and the château being in constant renovation. Unlike many French Chateaux, the Chateau de Pau is fully furnished.

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Getting There

By Plane

Direct flights from:

  • Paris CDG and Orly with Air France
  • Brussels - 3 flights per week with Ryanair - flying time 1hr 50min
  • London City Airport - 2 flights per week with Air France(CityJet) - flying time 2hr 5min

By Train

There is a train station very near the centre. Outside, there is a funicular railway, which will carry you and your luggage to the main area, which is higher than the station. If you arrive or depart very early or late, the funicular will probably not be open. There are a couple hundred stairs instead; an excellent mountaineering challenge with cases! Alternatively, taxis are available. Trains come and go from the destinations you would expect, Paris, Bordeaux, Bayonne, etc.

In addition to the local trains, Pau is a stop on the TGV (high speed train) service to Paris with stops in Bordeaux. It takes approximately 5 hours to go from Paris to Pau on the TGV.

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Eat

Just opposite the main gate of the chateau there is an creperie with outside tables. It is an excellent place to soak up the sun and admire the architecture.

The brasserie 'Le Berry' on rue Gachet offers a variety of French and regional fare in gigantic portions for unbelievably low prices. The steak tartare, magret de canard, fish, and salads are especially good. Be sure to order half portions as these are generally larger than the normal-sized portions at other restaurants. This is always packed with locals so you may be forced to wait a few minutes for a table.

The restaurant 'Le Goxoki' is a basque restaurant and offers several local dishes such as 'La poule au pot'. The portions are large enough to fill a rugbyman's appetite (there are lots of rugby-based items in the restaurant).

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Drink

Le Garage is a British-themed bar rather near the centre of town. It has decent 'pub-grub' food, but the reason to go is to meet French university students with an interest in meeting English speakers.

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Keep Connected

Internet

France is one of the best connected countries in the world, with data speed for upload/download ranked among the top 5 in the world. Most hotels and hostels would have in-house facilities to provide free internet access. Many major cities also have initiatives put in place to provide free wi-fi connection in public spaces. Alternatively there are internet cafés available in most cities/towns at a reasonable rate. Some private businesses, such as local cafés (or even the Starbuck's chain), may also provide wi-fi connectivity - keep an eye out for the signs by the shop windows/doors. Also look for the @ symbol prominently displayed, which indicates internet availability. However, with most homes now wired for the internet, cyber cafés are increasingly hard to find, especially outside the major cities.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

To dial an international number from France, the IDD is 00, followed by the country code that you wish to dial, the area code and the phone number.
To call France from abroad, start with the international direct dialing (IDD) code from the country you're in, followed by French country code 33, the area code (drop the first zero in front of the area code), and the phone number. French telephone numbers are rarely given without the area code. The telephone number, including the area code, is made up of 10 digits. They are written in a set of 5 pairs of digits (i.e. 01 xx xx xx xx xx).
In France, the area code designations are: 01 - Paris Area ("Région Ile-de-France"), 02 - northwest, 03 - northeast, 04 - southeast, 05 - southwest, 06 - mobile phone providers. From 2010 onwards, 07 will also be assigned to mobile phone providers in order to cater for the surging demands for mobile phones.

Emergency numbers are 15 (medical aid), 17 (police station) and 18 (fire/rescue). You can also use the European emergency number 112 (perhaps a better choice if you don't speak French). These calls are free and accessible from virtually any phone, including locked cellphones.

France uses the GSM standard of cellular phones (900 MHz and 1800 MHz bands) used in most of the world outside of the U.S. There are several companies (Orange, SFR, Free, Bouygues Télécom and some others MVNOs like Virgin Mobile) offering wireless service. The country is almost totally covered but you may have difficulties using your mobile phone in rural or mountainous areas. If you stay for some time, it may be advisable to buy a pre-paid cell phone card that you can use in any phone that supports the GSM standard on the 900/1800 MHz bands. Then incoming calls and SMSes are free.

Post

La Poste in France is also referred to as the PTT (short for postes, télégraphes et téléphones). The mailboxes are painted bright yellow and often there is a slot for local city mail and another slot for "outside mail". Normally there is a queue in the post office, but most of the post offices have the self service machine installed which is quite easy to operate. Nowadays many of the tabac and even some of the souvenir shops also sell postage stamps. Normally an overseas postcard costs almost as much as sending a letter. Mails sent in France also have a zip code. The first two numbers represent the administrative department (e.g. in Paris' case that would be 75).

Post offices are generally open from 8:00am to 7:00pm Monday through Friday, and 8:00am to noon on Saturdays. Apart from the basic job of mailing letters, most of the post offices do some banking activities also and some even have photocopy machines and cyber cafes for internet access.

For international package services, you might also check options with companies like DHL, UPS or TNT, which have competitive services and prices and might be faster in most cases.

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This is version 2. Last edited at 11:48 on May 15, 19 by Utrecht. 4 articles link to this page.

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