It’s time for an eclectic tour of Pau, a lovely city located in the southwestern part of France. So close to Spain you could probably see it if it wasn’t for the beautiful Pyrénées! Either way, you win!
First, let’s talk accessibility. I love a city that can be walked all over and let me tell you, Pau is one such city. Not to mention, it’s very safe as well. I’ve walked from my home (close to the university) to downtown several times and it takes me about 20-25 minutes. It’s also possible to rent a bike for a few euros a month. Alternatively, there is a great bus system, 15€ per month will earn you unlimited rides! All are great options, so pick what works best for you and you’re good to go! Literally.
Pret à Manger!
Now I know you’re thinking it… where the heck can I get a delicious meal around here? Let me be brutally honest… I wish I was as lucky as you, reading this right now because it took me a few tries to find some good places! I am quite the picky eater but trust me, I’ve got some excellent recommendations:
1. HELIOS – A Greek restaurant located downtown with amazing pita bread sandwiches and mezze platters. You can’t go wrong here! They have an all-day special for students: 6€ for your sandwich, fries and a drink. The waitress is super nice and she speaks a little English in case you’re a bit shy about your French. It’s the perfect dinner pick for your first night out. I dream of that chicken pita sandwich every night, to be honest. It’s something I’ll miss for sure when I’m gone!
2. LE VINTAGE CAFE – A French/American fusion restaurant with the best brunch I’ve ever had. Located close to the chateau of Pau. Gather up some people and go there first thing on Sunday. The brunch special does go for 20€ but hear me out… it’s totally worth it! You get juice and tea/coffee with a basket of pastries (not just sliced bread but REAL French pastries). Then you get a cup of fruit with a sugar crepe and slices of cheese (your choice). And for the final course, a full plate of salad, scrambled eggs, potatoes and your choice of meat. It’s meant to be this big because meals are the best time to socialize with friends. For that reason, please take advantage and don’t rush! Savor each bite, chat it up with your pals. You won’t regret it!
3. COCO VIET – Now who doesn’t love a little pho? It’s starting to get chilly here in Pau as the winter is approaching so it’s a good thing I’ve stumbled upon this excellent Vietnamese place. Tons of options, vegetarian-friendly, and a beautiful garden area.
Feel free to google these places when you get here to get the full details! I can’t list all my faves but this will get you going.
Dans La Ville
One of my favorite and most scenic places to walk down from is the bande des pyrénées. As the name suggests, it overlooks the beautiful mountains as well as a few parks and leads to the Chateau de Pau.
If you decide to study here in Pau, the USAC team will definitely give you a tour through these places but I suggest you also come on your own or with a group of friends. You’re going to want to take your time, maybe stop at a cafe and sit for a moment while you take in the sun and the sights.
There are plenty of sitting areas where you can relax for a moment. Read a good book, or call a friend back home as there is also free wifi throughout this whole area!
The chateau district is probably the most beautiful area of Pau. The buildings are historic and adorned with flowers on the windowsills. The roads are cobblestoned and the walls are painted with a myriad of colors. You will find antique shops, bars, cafes, and restaurants on your walk through this gorgeous area of the city.
So now you’ve watched the most beautiful sunset from the boulevard des pyrénées and you’re ready to see whats next. The warm colors of the sky have now transformed into shades of purple and deep blue and the stars are waking up the night sky once again.
Incidentally, there is actually something even more interesting happening below the city levels. A not so secret, secretive path, leads from the grounds of the chateau through paths below and under certain areas of downtown. At night, they are filled with holograms of figures and patterns of various colors! Don’t call it a night without first exploring this cool hidden gem.
I also suggest you catch a movie while you’re here. One of my favorite independent movie theaters is Le Mélies. Tickets are extra cheap for students and you’ll find a careful selection of excellent independent films as well as a few mainstream Hollywood flicks. Other regular theaters also offer discounted tickets to students. If you go, I suggest you keep an eye out for the VO symbol as this tells you the film is in its original version. This means it will be in English with French subtitles if the film is originally in English.
You’ll come to find that the city is very much alive at night. Take this time to get to know your peers and meet locals. You might find even more cool things to do!
One last thing I’d like to note is how easy it is to travel to other cities and countries while you’re studying here in Pau. Rest assured, that if you want to see many places while you’re abroad, it’s definitely possible!
For this past vacation, many of my friends went to Greece, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Amsterdam, England, Ireland and other cities in France. If you’re attentive, as a student, you can find many travel discounts and cheap flight tickets. Don’t wait! Get together with other students and you’ll be surprised at how much you can see!
Studying abroad should not have to confine you to one place. If that’s what’s holding you back, then release yourself now! The USAC team also organizes plenty of outings one of which takes you to the beautiful Basque Country in Spain. The time has come, for you to put in that USAC application, hope to see you here next semester!
I hope that my suggestions have inspired you to try something new and exciting.
Ulises Gonsalez is a digital communications intern for USAC who is studying abroad in Pau, France for Fall 2017 and Spring 2018. He attends Portland State University.