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Written by Bob Nicholls on 06 Aug, 2000
Any mountain chain is majestic and awe-inspiring, and the Pyrenees are no different. Over a period of weeks, I headed to the Col d'Aubisque, Col du Somport, Pic de Midi and other passes and peaks within driving distance of Pau. I was never disappointed.…Read More
Any mountain chain is majestic and awe-inspiring, and the Pyrenees are no different. Over a period of weeks, I headed to the Col d'Aubisque, Col du Somport, Pic de Midi and other passes and peaks within driving distance of Pau. I was never disappointed. I was treated to superb scenery and the sights and sounds of waterfalls, creeks, birds, and even traditional cowbells. In North America we don't find them used, so it is surprising to me that cowbells are so common. However, their music is a welcome addition. Fields covered in yellow, white and mauve flowers were delightful, and there was even some snow at times, enough for snowballs! Cliffs, bizarre rock formations and snow-capped mountains are more of the beautiful vistas.
One June day, while travelling with a fellow student, we came across canoeing and kayaking. Later on, while enjoying coffee in a goregous mountain valley, we listened again to the ringing of cowbells, and watched clouds float lazily overhead as parasailing enthusiasts drifted gently to the valley floor. Later, a makeshift picnic alongside a cool mountain stream would provide for a relaxing lunch. Just one of the many memorable days in the Pyrenees!
Written by Bob Nicholls on 05 Aug, 2000
Spending three months in Pau (pronounced po), a medium-sized city in the south-west of France, was an opportunity to study French at the Universite de Pau et des Pays de L'Adour, and to learn much about the region. Pau is not exactly one of…Read More
Spending three months in Pau (pronounced po), a medium-sized city in the south-west of France, was an opportunity to study French at the Universite de Pau et des Pays de L'Adour, and to learn much about the region. Pau is not exactly one of the main tourist sites of France, which is one of the reasons I chose it - a chance to learn more French, and discover more about a new region. Why I didn't buy a beret as a souvenir I don't know.
Starting in April was a wonderful time of year. In addition to daily classes with students from throughout Europe, the city itself had much to offer, even before visiting the surrounding region. There was always something to do - concerts, Formula 3 car races, a steeplechase, a street music festival, a triathalon, plays, band concerts in the park, watching the men (and the occasional woman) playing boules, markets, parks, or happening across a fete in one of the quartiers while out for a nightly stroll.
Pau is the birthplace of no less than Henry IV (1553). A lovely chateau in the center of the city includes a famous tortoise shell, his supposed cradle. (Okay, so I'm a bit skeptical. Don't we all wonder about some of these claims we come across when travelling?!) The tapestries were the highlight for me, in fine condition and with excellent colour.
The Musee des Beaux-Arts had a good variety of French, Italian and Spanish, plus modern and abstract works. Even El Greco and Rubens were represented. There were also several pictures of local scenes, which give you the opportunity to see some of the history of the area. One of the sculpture highlights was an exquisite bust of Eve, with braided hair falling in front and back, and a snake around her neck. It was stunning - even the eyes were superb.
Pau had a good selection of bars and restaurants, so there was no shortage there. But one activity which was always sure to provide some pleasant relaxation was sitting at a cafe terrace along the palm-tree lined Boulevard des Pyrenees with a good, strong cup of coffee (or perhaps a good glass of wine!), visiting with other students, and looking off into the distance at the picturesque beauty of the Pyrenees (when they weren't obscured by clouds!). I could go on about almost being run over by a motorcycle while in one of the terraces, but that's another story.
I have since had another opportunity to make a brief stop in Pau, this time with fellow teachers and students, and Pau hasn't changed much. Its charms remain. But this time, I bought that beret!
Written by Bob Nicholls on 04 Aug, 2000
The first sight of La Cite, as it is called, the Middle Ages walled town of Carcassonne, is truly incredible. Approaching from across the Aude River, it rises above the new town and is very imposing from a distance. What ramparts, towers and turrets, and…Read More
The first sight of La Cite, as it is called, the Middle Ages walled town of Carcassonne, is truly incredible. Approaching from across the Aude River, it rises above the new town and is very imposing from a distance. What ramparts, towers and turrets, and seemingly intact! I was to learn later that many have been reconstructed in the mid-19th century, but not all according to the authentic architecture of the era.
Nevertheless, it makes for a most enjoyable and historic visit. After crossing the drawbridge, I am immediately reminded of Mont St. Michel and narrow, shop-lined streets, though this does not require the same tiring climb. As expected, touristy shops now abound, but the chateau, towers, buildings, church, homes and other historical elements more than make up for it.
While wandering through the town, I can't help but imagine what the streets would have been like hundreds of years ago, filled with people and animals, likely filth in the cobblestone streets, and the smells and sounds adding to the overall atmosphere. Carcassonne was used for filming of one of the many Robin Hood movies, suiting the era.
The Romans established a town here, Julia Carcasso, though there had been people here long before that. Those days may be long gone, but Carcassonne remains, according to some, the most complete medieval walled city in France, and Europe. It is definitely worth a trip.
Written by courtie on 17 Jun, 2005
So, this is for all of you who are either going to live in Europe or stay for a long period. When it is first decided (by personal choice, of course), it feels like a dream. As you go to get all the paperwork in…Read More
So, this is for all of you who are either going to live in Europe or stay for a long period. When it is first decided (by personal choice, of course), it feels like a dream. As you go to get all the paperwork in and your visa, it begins to feel real. You begin focusing on language study (if it's not English) and learning traits of the culture so you don't screw up.
I am going to Southern France in the fall, and I am very apprehensive about certain aspects. I've been doing a lot of reading about France, and it's beginning to worry me. The no-smiling, complexities of the language, the expectations that will be placed: they are all scary.
So, here are my tips for preparing: After getting all your papers and such in, you should concentrate on the area where you are going. Paris, for example, will be very different than Bordeaux. I recommend "Culture Shock: France" as a book to read. Although it is meant to help one survive in Paris, it can give you a general idea about life in France, too. She also talks about dealing with "culture shock," which is useful for EVERYONE leaving the country. Learn as much French as possible. (This is what I’m in the process of doing.) If you've taken it in school, take out your notes and look online; there are plenty of ways to improve your skills. Initial transition will be that much easier if you take the time to learn as much as possible now and fix/fill in the gaps later when you are there.
I joined a site called guidedenuit.com because I enjoy going out to bars and clubs. This has details of different things to go and do at night in all areas of France. It also allows you to send messages to French people that are members. Most are more than willing to have a conversation, not to mention correct your mistakes.
Anyone who is in a similar situation and wants to contact me, feel free! I love meeting new people, especially ones who love to travel.