Having hosted the Tour de France an impressive sixty six times, the Tour is no stranger to this hospitable place. Well into their long race to glory, Wednesday 15th July will see the riders start Stage 11 from Pau and finish in Cauterets, covering 188km in race distance. Featuring some of the Tour’s most demanding climbs, Stage 11 sees the peloton tackle five categorised climbs and one hors catégorie, making this a brutal day in the mountains where the Polka-dot Jersey contenders can show their strength.
Pau, the southern French city known as the capital of the Pyrénées, is situated off the northern tip of the mountain range, which lends itself to a temperate climate with warm, dry summers and mild winters. A stone’s throw from the Pyrenees National Park, this setting provides some of the most stunning scenery in the world, and it’s no surprise that the French writer, poet, and politician Alphonse de Lamartine said this place to be the most beautiful view of the earth
Pau’s captivating past includes being the birth town of Henri IV, King of France for over two decades in the 16th and 17th centuries, and the city retains many sites of architectural interest from this era. One of the most prominent among these is the Grand Chateau de Pau, situated in the heart of the city, and once used by Napoleon as a holiday retreat. During this time Napoleon decorated the walls of the Chateau with an abundance of tapestries, said to be one of the finest collections in France. Now a national museum, the Chateau is open to the public so its unique collection can be displayed. Beyond this magnificent castle are the spellbinding 16th century gardens, consisting of several hectares of well-kept parks and quaint, quirky trails, available to the public for them to use at their leisure, and now one of the most popular sites in the Pyrenees region.
Finally, one cannot forget the Boulevard des Pyrénées, a breath-taking thoroughfare that gazes up to the distant Pyrenees, lined with terraces abundant with cafés where you can relax with a coffee or a beer, perhaps read a book, and enjoy the view after a good day’s ride.