Friday, 18 October 2013

The prize was Pau.

A few weeks ago, when my friend Jan was visiting Caunes, we spent an interesting couple of hours at L'hotel de la cite, in Carcassonne.


Mark had played in a golf tournament in Carcassonne earlier in the day. He had enjoyed it, played reasonably well, and thought attending the prize giving reception at l'hotel would be interesting, as we had never been inside it before.

It was a pleasant evening, wine and canapés were served and the views from the back of the hotel, where the reception was held, were fabulous.

all views in Carcassonne are fabulous, but some are hidden, like this one, from the gardens of the hotel.

Mark, on the right, with another prize winner.
Then....surprise, surprise, as les prix were being announced, I heard Mark's name. He had come second in his particular group. His prize, was 2 nights in a hotel in Pau. We were delighted. I was particularly delighted as this prize did not take the form of a revolting plastic golfer or cup or badge or other monstrosity, the like of which are banished to a hidden corner of a bookcase in Hebden Bridge.

Yesterday, we returned from our trip to Pau. We went by train, from Carcassonne, changing at Toulouse, through Lourdes and onto Pau. It was a brilliant train journey. The Pyrenees looked fabulous, Lourdes looked as bizarre as it always does, and we were able to chat, read and relax as we watched the country side go by.


Sharing a compartment with a young French man, pony tail tied into a stylish top knot, while he read Zola's " Germinal" seemed perfect. ( Note to self: I will read "Germinal" in French sometime soon ).

The free funicular railway, connecting the railway station with the terraced walkway which gives visitors to Pau such a fabulous view of the Pyrenees.



Pau is a great city. We wandered, visited the chateau, (and took the excellent guided tour....in French, and coped ! ), ate good food, looked around Galeries Lafayette, spent some time in the hotel pool and spa, saw an amazing sunset, people watched and mountain watched.

Much of the chateau was renovated by Louis Philippe and then Napoleon III in the 19th century, but it had been the birthplace of "Le bon roi Henri IV", from the late 16th & early 17th century.

Spectacular tapestries are found in the chateau, most from the  16th and 17th century.....and we were allowed to take photos as long as the flash was turned off. The colours were stunning.

Henri IV as a boy


Sunset over Pau.

The sun shone, we walked for miles, and I particularly liked the shadow of this balustrading which ran for several hundred metres along a terrace, providing long distant mountain views.

All this would have been good, but the whole experiences was considerably enhanced by the hotel deciding to upgrade us. Instead of the normal ( very nice) hotel room in this 5 star establishment, we were given a suite, with living room and balcony overlooking the mountains, bedroom, with balcony overlooking the mountains, dressing room and bathroom. The bed was huge, and the complimentary cakes, bon-bons, fruit juices, nuts and other little treats kept appearing.

view from our balcony, over the park and to the mountains
We checked on the prices of the stay......the room suite alone would have cost us well over 1000 euros for the 2 nights. So, I continue to be impressed by the quality of prizes at the golf club !

 I have suggested to Mark that he introduces such sponsored prizes at his golf club in England.....where they delight in awarding monstrosities as previously described. I don't hold out much chance. However, if Mark wants to carry on playing lots of golf in Carcassonne, I will continue to approve and wish him luck every time he heads off to play.

Me, wrapped in the sumptuous towelling robe, after a swim and a sauna.....reading on our balcony.


27 comments:

  1. Wow - what a wonderful prize. Well done Mark! Pau looks marvellous - you have really captured some spectacular photos of it too. Travelling by train was a stroke of pure genius, possibly inspired by your recent long journey by car, but it is a great way to relax along the way if you have great weather and fantastic views as you had.
    Delighted you enjoyed your stay - bet it felt longer than just two nights too.
    Axxx

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  2. You would have been smitten by the young man we shared a train compartment with...he was just your type, and I might have been willing to share ! It was a really good trip. Hope you are well settled back at home...and that the car is fixed. xxxx

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    1. Thought you'd manage a quick photo, Janice! I had a real Zola-craze when I was a teenager but never read any in French. Don't think I'd start with 'Germinal'...Axxx

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  3. I can see your husband being whipped out to the golf course every day from now on...a fabulous prize.

    Pau used to be an English 'colony' from the mid nineteenth century round to the twenties; starting as a place to take the waters and at one point having its own hunt and racecourse, not to speak of top class hotels and the like.
    I have a feeling it figures in the novels of Dornford Yates.....but cannot be sure.

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    1. It had the feeling of previous splendour, but to be honest we explored only a very small area of the city, just between the chateau and our hotel, all linked by the impressive terrace walk. It was certainly a good place for a brief ( and as it happened, luxurious, break )

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  4. What a lovely surprise! It sounds like a brilliant weekend, and you took some amazing photos, especially the view of the Pyrenees and the balustrade.

    Germinal is a good read -- I read it years ago. There are technical mining terms, but once you've looked them up once they keep cropping up, so you remember them.

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    1. Germinal was my first Zola read, which began a year or so of reading nothing else ( I must have been about 22 or 23). I think now is the time to attempt it in the original.

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  5. Well done Mark, What a great surprise. I'm wondering what first prize was.

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    1. I think it was a 2 night stay in a hotel in Naples. It was even more of a surprise as mark had no idea he had won anything when we arrived at the reception.

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  6. Wonderful photos, as ever. We have never been to Pau but have been close when I was writing an article about the world's only beret museum at Nay, which is not terribly far away. I have my own reasons for loathing Lourdes but Tarbes looked a really nice place. A visit down there is long overdue. Yes, do read Germinal.

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    1. We spent some time in Tarbes a few years ago, and liked it. I can think of a million reasons for loathing Lourdes. I visited a few years ago, and have never hated anywhere more vehemently before or since. Pau is certainly worth a visit though.....and I can recommend a very luxurious hotel !

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  7. Gosh - I didn't realise that being a golf widow could be so rewarding!
    Good luck with Germinal - it was the only Zola novel I failed to read in my moody teen years.

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    1. Sorry, Nilly - had to laugh that you too had read Zola as a moody teenager! Axxx

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    2. I was in my very early 20s when I read it...but was still pretty moody. I think the young man on the train was probably about 25.
      As for being a golf widow....it's never worried me, as long as I haven't had to be dragged along to too many golf club functions. My view of these things may mellow even further if functions continue to involve good wine and canapés in delightful hotels on summer evenings in the south of France.

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  8. What an amazing prize! There are certainly advantages to being a golf widow :-)

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    1. It was a delightful treat Ayak. Hope your' cold is better now that you have arrived home again.

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  9. What a wonderful unexpected surprise, sounds like a super trip so glad you had a lovely time..

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    1. It was good, and so unexpected.

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  10. Wow, that's what i call a prize worth winning and you both really deserved a wallow in the lap of luxury after the past year. Pau looks like a wonderful place in your super photos and there's nothing like a guided tour for honing one's language skills. I haven't read any Zola since finishing my university degree. Perhaps now is the time to revisit him.

    PS That shadow reminds me strongly of Annie's pentangling.....

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    1. The guided tour was excellent, and we felt so good when we understood her little jokes. Pau is interesting, but the highlight was the upgraded suite ! I think I may dip into some Zola again, having been inspired by the youth on the train, but possibly Germinal is a bit long for a first stab at reading a 19th century novel in French.

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  11. What a fantastic second prize which leaves me wondering what the first prize was!
    A superb account of your break in Pau. Like you I think Mark needs to be encouraged to win a few more prizes....

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    1. Yes, he is being pushed out the door now, come rain or shine..." Go win good prizes !" being shouted at him as he heads off. I don't know what 1st prize was, but there someone told me they thought it was 2 nights in Naples. That would have been difficult for us, we only really just about had time to fit in our 2 nights in Pau, a 3 hour train ride away, before heading back to the UK ( tomorrow ).

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  12. So there's no point in persuading my husband to take up golf, unless it's in France? Shucks!

    It does look like you had a fabulous time :)

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    1. Well, I certainly wouldn't recommend a certain small golf club in West Yorkshire, where the prizes tend to be the awful aforementioned plastic statues or pie and peas suppers. Lovely !

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  13. Now, that is the golf prize of all golf prizes, Janice. Such an elegant reward for Mark's golfing. Your photos are fabulous. I've always held an unexplainable desire to ride through the Pyrenees, Now I know why.

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  14. Perfect blog title leading into a wonderful account of the prize.The photos are wonderful Janice.I sat down to read this on a wet East Coast afternoon.I enjoyed reading it so much i went to pour a glass of wine and read it again.Well done to Mark and keep chasing the prizes.

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  15. What a gorgeous place and congratulations on Mark's Golf'ing wins and what an awesome prize.

    Glad you had a fabulous time.

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