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The Basque Country, Gascony, and Hautes-Pyrénées Travel Guide


The stunning views, mild climate, and elegance of Pau—the historic capital of Béarn, a state annexed to France in 1620—make it a lovely place to visit and a convenient gateway to the Pyrénées. The birthplace of King Henri IV, Pau was "discovered" in 1815 by British officers returning from the Peninsular War in Spain, and it soon became a prominent winter resort town. Fifty years

later English-speaking inhabitants made up one-third of Pau's population, many of them believing in the medicinal benefits of mountain air (later shifting their loyalties to Biarritz for the sea air). While here, the Brits not only introduced fox hunting and popularized tea drinking—they started the Pont-Long Steeplechase (still one of the most challenging in Europe) in 1841, and created France's first golf course in 1856.

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