'TWIXT FRANCE AND SPAIN;
Or, A Spring in the Pyrenees
E. ERNEST BILBROUGH.
Trains and steamers—Bordeaux and its hotels—Lamothe —Morcenx—Dax—Puyoo—Orthez—First impressions of Pau—The hotels and pensions—Amusements—Pension Colbert—Making up parties for the Pyrenees—The Place Royale and the view—The castle of Pau and its approaches—Origin of name—Historical notes—The towers—Visiting hours—The tapestries—The wonderful bedstead—The delusive tortoiseshell cradle—The "Tour de la Monnaie"—The park—The Billeres plains—Tennis and golf—The Route de Billeres and the Billeres woods—French sportsmen—Hunting—Racing—Lescar and its old cathedral—Fontaine de Marnieres—The bands—The Parc Beaumont —Ballooning—The Casino—Polo—The cemetery—The churches of St. Martin and St. Jacques—The "old world and the new"—Rides and drives—to Betharram—The start—Peasants and their ways—Vines trained by the roadside—Sour grapes—The "March of the Men of Garlic" —Coarraze—Henry IV.'s Castle—Betharram—The ivied bridge—The inn—The "Via Crucis"—Assat and Gelos—The Coteaux—Perpignaa —Sketching with a donkey-cart—Over the Coteaux to Gan—The drive to Pietat—Picnicking and rejected attentions—The church—Feather moss—Bizanos—Carnival time—"Poor Pillicoddy" —"Idyllic Colbert."
BAGNERES DE BIGORRE.
Backward spring—Hotel Beau Sejour—Effect of the war of '70 on the English colony—The "Coustous"—The Church of St. Vincent—Geruzet's marble works—Donkeys—Up the Monne—Bains de Sante—Bains de Grand Pre—Salut Avenue and baths—"Ai-ue, Ai-ue"—Luncheon—Daffodils—The summit and the view—The "Castel-Mouly"—The Tapere—Mde. Cottin—Mont Bedat—Gentians—The Croix de Manse—"The Lady's Farewell to her Asinine Steed"—Market-day—The old iron and shoe dealers—Sunday—A cat fight—The English Church—To the Col d'Aspin—"The Abbe's Song"—Baudean—Campan, its people and church—Wayside chapels—Ste. Marie—The route to Gripp, &c.—Payole—The pine forest—The Col d'Aspin—The view from the Monne Rouge—"The Plaint of the Weather-beaten Pine"—The Menu at Payole—Hurrah for the milk!—Departures—Divine music—Aste—Gabrielle d'Estrelle—The ivied ruins—The church— Pitton de Tournefort—Gerde—The pigeon traps—The cattle market —The Jacobin tower—Theatre—Grand Etablissement des Thermes —Hospice Civil—Eglise des Carmes—Mount Olivet—Madame Cheval, her cakes and tea—Bigorre in tears
The journey to Tarbes—The Buffet and the Nigger—Lourdes station in the wet—Importunate "Cochers"—Hotel des Pyrenees—"Red tape" and Porters—Lourdes in sunshine—Sightseeing—The "Rue de la Grotte"— "The Cry of the Lourdes Shopkeepers"—Candle-sellers—The Grotto—Abject reverence—The Church—Saint Bernard—Interior of church—The panorama—Admirable effect—Rue du Fort—The castle—The view from the Tower—Pie de Mars, or Ringed Ousels
Road v. rail—Scenes, sublime and ridiculous—Hotel d'Angleterre—Questions and "The Argeles Shepherd's Reply"—A forbidden path—The ride to Ges, Serres, Salluz, and Ourous—Argeles church—Route Thermale—Ges—The tree in the path—"A regular fix"—Serres—"It's a stupid foal that doesn't know its own mother" —A frothing stream—A fine view—Pigs in clover—Salluz —Ourous—Contented villagers—The high road—The bridge on the Pierrefitte road—Advice to sketchers—"Spring's Bitters and Sweets"—The "witch of the hills"—Large green lizards—"Jeannette's Lamb"—Round the Argeles valley—Chateau de Beaucens—Villelongue— Soulom—The old church—Hotel de la Poste, Pierrefitte—St. Savin—The verger and the ancient church—Cagots—"The Organ's Tale"—St. Savin's tomb—The Chateau de Miramont—Jugged Izard—Market-day—Sour bread and the remedy—Arrival of the first parcel.
Hotel de la Poste, Pierrefitte—The Gorge—Its majestic beauty—The resemblance to the Llanberis Pass—Mrs. Blunt becomes poetical—Zinc mines—Le Pont de Mediabat—Entering the town—The Rue Richelieu and Hotel du Parc—Winter's seal upon them still—Thermes des Oeufs—Thermes de Cesar—The Casino and Esplanade des Oeufs—A good dinner and the menu—The start for the Col de Riou—The Grange de la Reine Hortense—The pines—Miss Blunt's "Exhortation to the First Snow"—The dogs and their gambols—Defeated, but not discouraged—To the Cerizey Cascade—The baths of La Raillere, Petit St. Sauveur, and Le Pre—Cascade de Lutour—The Marcadau Gorge—Scenery—Pic de Gaube—At the Cerizey Cascade—The Pont d'Espagne and Lac de Gaube—Pont de Benques—Lutour valley—Various excursions up same—The "Parc"—Allees de Cambasque—The Peguere—The "Pagoda" villa— Promenade du Mamelon Vert—The road's up again—Blows and blasts—The bishop's arrival—Enthusiasm, pomposity, and benedictions—The pilgrims at large—They start on an excursion—The market and Hotel de Ville—The grocer's opinion—Pyrenean dogs and their treatment—The dog-fancier—Smiles and temper—Bargaining displaced—No dog after all!
LUZ AND BAREGES.
Rain at starting—A blighted view, yet lovely still—Pont d'Enfer—Nature's voice—Sere and Esquiez—Luz—Its situation and status—An old house—The ancient church of the Templars—La Chapelle de St. Roch—Pyrenean museum—Hotel de l'Univers—Chateau de Ste. Marie—"The Jackdaw's Causerie"—A new "diet of worms"—The new bathing establishment—To Bareges—Pic d'Ayre—Esterre—Viella —Betpouey—Mill conduits—Cercle des Etrangers—Opinion of the town—Grand Etablissement—Promenade Horizontale—Hospice de Ste. Eugenie—"The Jay of Bareges"—Wood anemones—Hepaticas—Valley of Lienz—Pic de Lienz—Pic d'Ayre's summit—Pic de Neouville—Mountain rhododendrons—Anemone vernalis
Pont de Pescadere—Sassis—Gave de Gavarnie—St. Sauveur—Hotel de France—Pont Napoleon—Napoleon's pillar—Bee orchids—Chapel of Solferino—The view from thence—Ne'er a hermit but for gold—Luz cemetery—Luz post-office—Short cuts—Pharmacie Claverie—Jardin a l'Anglaise—Ascent of Pic de Bergons—Villenave—The shepherds' huts—Lunch—Snow, its use and abuse—On foot—"Excelsior"—Dangerous footing—The last crest but one—The view—Gavarnie and Argeles in sight—A lazy guide—A "fast" bit—Mountain flowers—Mr. Sydney to the fore—A short walk and a good view—To Sazos and Grust—The bathing establishments—Sazos: the old church—The belfry—Chiming extraordinary—Various promenades—Gems of hill and vale
A "falling glass"—The wonderful echo—Cascade Lassariou—Sia and its bridge—Pont de Desdouroucat—"Changing scenes"—Bugaret torrent—The Pimene—Bue—Gedre—Breche de Roland in the distance—The "Grotto"—Scenery at fivepence per head—Daffodils—Lofty summits—Cascade d'Arroudet—Chaos—Valley of the "Ten Thousand Rocks," Amoy—A dirty avalanche—The Sugar-loaf—Travellers' troubles —Importunate females—Hotel des Voyageurs—Poc—Guide or no guide—Chute de Lapaca—The guardian summits of the Cirque—Cascade du Marbore—Chandelles du Marbore—The Cirque—Its marvellous beauty—Reluctantly returning—"The Guide's Auction"—"Two women enough for a market, and three for a fair"—A Yankee tale—Sketching and flowers—Tempers and appetites
FROM LUZ AND ST. SAUVEUR TO BAGNERES DE LUCHON.
A smiling valley—Lourdes again—The chapel in the crypt—St. Peter's statue—Burnished toes—Solemn quietude—Preparing for the great pilgrimage—"Ornamented" crosses—Mr. Sydney's new vocation, "Guide, Philosopher, and Friend"—Bigorre again—An open-air concert —Harmonious echoes—Paying through the nose—The fete at Payole—Sport a la francaise—Costumes—The view from the Col d'Aspin—Arreau—Quaint houses—La Chapelle de St. Exupere—A whining "gardien"—Eglise de Notre Dame—The river Neste—Hotel de France—Borderes—Avajan—Louderville—Oxslips and cowslips—Wild narcissus—Col de Peyresourde—The view—Garin—Cazaux—St. Aventin—Lovely avenues—Our destination
BAGNERES DE LUCHON.
The bathing establishment and its surroundings—The lovely Allees—Montauban church and cascade—The Villa Russe and its genial host—Various excursions—Orphanage of Notre Dame de Rocher—The Vallee du Lys—The Rue d'Enfer and cascades—A lively scene—The view from Superbagneres—Loading wood—"The Oxen's Appeal"—Visit to the Orphanage—A "holy" relic—To Bosost—St. Mamet—"A stumbling-block"—Cascade of Sidonie—Horse tricks and jockey dodges—Lizards in flight—Fashion on a donkey—On the Portillon 'twixt France and Spain—The valley of Aran—Snug Bosost—A curious inn—Children with artistic bent—A bright pathway—Missing much, but thankful still
ST. BERTRAND DE COMMINGES.
Keeping to old friends—Valley history—Entering the Garonne valley—The picturesque St. Beat—St. Beat to Viella—Memories of the lovely Thames—Baths of Ste. Marie—Loures—The cross-roads—Weak walls—Entering St. Bertrand—An ancient house—The inn—A charming garden—The cathedral—A national disgrace—"The Crocodile of St. Bertrand"—The tomb of Hugues de Chatillon—Travelling desecraters—St. Bertrand's rod—The ruined cloisters—Desolation—Swine feeding—Montrejeau—The buffet—No milk!—French railway officials—Trying experiences
EAUX BONNES AND EAUX CHAUDES.
Carriage v. diligence—Early birds—Height of absurdity —Diminutive donkeys—A whitened region—"Crystal clear"—Washerwomen and their gamps—A useful townhall—A half-way house—Moralising—A much-loved pipe—An historic ruin—A noteworthy strong box—"Ici on rase"—Where are the bears?—Women in gaiters—Picturesque costumes—A lovely road—A "perfect" cure—A spring scene—A billiard-playing priest—A well-placed pavilion—The Valentin and its cascades— Through solid rock—Gaps in the road—A grand scene—Wanted, an artist—A fine torrent—Professional fishers—Lucky guests —Musings—Poor Mr. Tubbins—Bonnes v. Chaudes—Over the Col de Gourzy—Peculiar teams—Guelder roses—Spinning
A warm ride—Bayonne—A "Noah's ark" landscape— Amusements—Bathing—Shells—Cavillers—A canine feat—The pier and rocks—A restless sea—"The Three Cormorants"—Dragon's-mouth Rock—To the lighthouse—Maiden-hair ferns—Mrs. Blunt's adventure—The drive round the lakes—Osmunda regalis ferns—The pine-woods near the bar—St. Etienne and the Guards' cemetery—Croix de Mouguere—Cambo and the Pas de Roland—Anemones—A fat couple—A French scholar—Hendaye— Fuenterabia—A quaint old-world town—The Bidassoa—Pasages—San Sebastien—The Citadol and graves—The "Silent Sisters"—Raised prices—Parasols and spectacles
"Where duty leads"—Resorts in the Eastern Pyrenees—Caen—"Riou"—Our paths diverge—"The Lesson of the Mountains"—Farewell
* * * * *
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
MAP OF THE PYRENEES
THE TOWER OF MONCADE, ORTHEZ
PAU (FROM THE JURANCON SIDE OF THE GAVE)
THE CASTLE COURTYARD
IN THE CASTLE PARK
THE PINE FOREST NEAR THE COL D'ASPIN
THE "PALOMIERES DE GERDE"
LOURDES (A SMALL GENERAL VIEW)
THE "OLD FORT" AT LOURDES
ON THE ROAD TO ARGELES
A "REGULAR Fix" (by Miss BLUNT)
A PRETTY BIT AT ARGELES
THE ASCENT OF THE COL DE Riou (by Miss BLUNT)
THE LAC DE GAUBE
THE GORGE NEAR PIERREFITTE
THE ANCIENT CHURCH OF THE TEMPLARS AT LUZ
THE CASTLE OF STE. MARIE
PONT NAPOLEON, ST. SAUVEUR (by Miss BLUNT)
THE VILLAGE OF GEDRE
THE CHAOS NEAR GAVARNIE
THE CIRQUE OF GAVARNIE (IN SUMMER)
"ON THE TAREES ROAD"
THE PEARL IN THE PEERLESS VALLEY
THE CHURCH OF MONTAUBAN (by Miss BLUNT)
THE RUE D'ENFER AND THE CASCADES
ON THE ROAD TO SUPERBAGNERES
ST. BERTRAND DE COMMINGES
THE CROCODILE OF ST. BERTRAND (by Miss BLUNT)
IN THE OLD CHURCH AT LARUNS
CASCADE DU VALENTIN
CRABE BRIDGE, IN THE EAUX CHAUDES GORGE
THE PIC DE GER
THE ROCKS OF BIARRITZ
THE VILLA EUGENIE
MRS. BLUNT'S ADVENTURE (by Miss BLUNT):—
SCENE I.—BEFORE THE START SCENE II.—THE ANCIENT STEED GREW YOUNG ONCE MORE SCENE III.—WHO'S MY DRIVER?
"MY PAW IS ON MY NATIVE HEATH, AND MY NAME IS 'Riou'" (by Miss BLUNT)
"SEE MORNING'S GOLDEN RAYS," &c.
"TOWERING ABOVE THE PLAIN"
PANORAMA OF THE CIRQUE OF THE VALLEE DU LYS
PANORAMA OF THE PIC DU MIDI DE BIGORRE
It has been my endeavour in this volume to provide an illustrated gossiping Guide to the Spas of the Pyrenees. Unlike previous books on the same region, it deals with the resorts in spring, when they are most charming. A certain amount of detail—which is unavoidable in all guide-books—has been unavoidable here, and the rhymes have been introduced in the hope of lightening the reading. These rhymes, as a rule, have a distinct bearing on the subject under discussion; but they are inserted in such a manner that the reader can omit to read them—if he objects to such frivolities—without losing the sense of the prose.
Very little really fresh information has been gained about these beautiful mountains since Mr. Charles Packe published his 'Guide to the Pyrenees' in 1867: a few more springs have been discovered, a few more mountains have been successfully ascended, and the towns have gradually increased in size. There have been very few of those melancholy accidents that we so often hear of from Switzerland, because, probably, considerably fewer tourists attempt these mountains than attempt the Alps. In this volume no descriptions of scaling ice-walls, searching for the lammergeiers' nests, or any other great feats, will be found. It contains a plain account of what may be seen and done by any party visiting the mountain resorts in spring, without much trouble or fatigue; and the narrative form has been adopted throughout.
M. Dore's illustrations speak for themselves; and Miss Blunt's spirited sketches are a valuable acquisition.
The Appendices have been compiled with great care; and—at the suggestion of an experienced M.D.—brief comments on the chief springs at the various Spas, and their healing properties, have been included in the general information.
I beg to acknowledge my indebtedness to M. Joanne's 'Pyrenees' and Mr. Black's 'Summer Resorts;' and I have also great pleasure in thanking Miss Blunt for her sketches, and my friend Mr. A. H. Crow, F.R.G.S., for his kindly assistance in correcting inaccuracies. As, however, it is extremely difficult to completely avoid them, I shall feel obliged for the notification of any others that may happen to exist.
E. E. B.
Considering the number of English and Americans who yearly visit Switzerland and the Riviera, it is astonishing that so few, comparatively, ever think of approaching nearer to the Pyrenees than Pau. And it is more astonishing still, that those who have been enabled to enjoy the beauty of these mountains from the Place Royale at Pau, should ever think of leaving their vicinity without a more intimate acquaintance with them.
It may be, that since the various resorts have gained celebrity for the healing powers of their waters, healthy travellers are of opinion that they will be surrounded by a crowd of sickly individuals, whose very appearance will spoil all the pleasure that they might otherwise experience. That this might be the case in the season, at a few spas, is not to be denied, but in spring not an invalid of that kind is to be met with, and the bathing establishments have no customers; but the scenery is everywhere at its best. Dr. Madden writes: "The attractions of the Pyrenees are not, however, confined to the invalid traveller, but even for the pleasure tourist offer inducements for a pedestrian excursion in some respects superior to any in Switzerland;" and there can be no doubt that they have a beauty of their own quite distinct from the grandeur of the Alps, and yet equally as wonderful in its style.
Extending for nearly 300 miles from the foaming billows of the Biscay to the azure waters of the Mediterranean, they form a huge barrier "'twixt France and Spain"; gaining their name of Pyrenees from the words "Pic Neres," which in the patois of the country signifies "black peaks!" That this title is a misnomer for all but three months of the year—viz., from July to October—must be already a well-known fact; for who would call them "black" when clothed in their garments of snow?
The highest summits are in the Maladetta group, and the Pic Nethou (11,170 ft.) is the highest of all; while the average height of this magnificent range of mountains is between five and six thousand feet.
Luxurious valleys branch out in all directions, fed by the mountain streams, and among the central heights the wonderful natural amphitheatres known as Cirques stand in majestic solitude. The Cirque of Gavarnie—the best known—possesses on a bright day in spring such a charm, in its snowy imperial splendour, as the Alps would fail to surpass. In scenes where a lake adds such wonderful effect, Switzerland is quite supreme; we know of no view in the Pyrenees, of a comparable nature, that could pretend to vie with the harmonious loveliness of the panorama that can be seen at sunset from Montreux across Lac Leman, when the water is rippleless and the mountains are bathed in a rosy flood. But for all that, in other ways—in flower-clothed slopes, in luxurious valleys, in winding rivers and foaming cascades—the Pyrenees present pictures that, with the freshness of springtime to aid them, cannot fail to delight and charm.
Four roads cross the Pyrenees from France to Spain: the Route Nationale, from Paris to Madrid via Bayonne; the Route Departementale, from Bayonne to Pampeluna via the Col d'Urdax; the Route Nationale, from Perpignan to Barcelona via Gerona; and the route from Pau to Jaca via Oloron. There are other ways of entering Spain by the Cols (passes), but over these a horse track is the broadest path.
The principal bathing resorts on the French side are connected by the splendid Route Thermale, which extends for 70 miles; but, owing to its exposed position in some parts, especially between Eaux Bonnes and Argeles, and Bareges and Ste. Marie, it is only wholly open three or four months in the year!
Of the mineral springs it is sufficient to state here that, within the same extent of country, no other part of Europe can present such a wonderful choice. There are three principal kinds—the sulphurous, the saline, and the ferruginous; and over 200 springs contribute to them. Some resorts have waters of each of these classes, and many have at any rate two out of the three.
Of these, fuller information is given in the Appendix, as well as the chief uses of each, and the affections for which they have been successfully used.
As regards sport, unattended by much labour or fatigue, the Pyrenees can hardly be recommended, except perhaps for fishing. There is very good fishing in several of the rivers, but unhappily French conservancy laws are so lax—if indeed they have any at all —that peasants may frequently be seen at the waterside with a rod in one hand and a capacious net in the other, so that if unsuccessful with the first, they will at any rate not come home empty-handed; unless some brother "sportsman" has just preceded them over the same pools!
Though the wolves have nearly all been poisoned, there are still some bears to shoot in winter, and izard (a species of chamois) and capercailzie to pursue in autumn; but the "sportsmen" are many and the game few, and the way to their haunts lies by bad and unfrequented paths; so that "le jeu ne vaut pas la chandelle." To the botanist and the geologist, however, there is a splendid field, which, varying in richness according to the locality, is more or less rich everywhere; and besides these, the entomologist will not visit this territory in vain. To the mountaineer these almost numberless summits offer attractions of all kinds, from the wooded slope with its broad mule-path, to the ice-wall only to be scaled by the use of the rope and the hatchet. There are ascents which a child almost might attempt in safety, and there are others where the bravest men might well quail.
For the ordinary pedestrian, beautiful walks abound in the vicinity of nearly every Spa, but near St. Sauveur, Luchon, Eaux Chaudes, and Argeles they are, we think, most charming. The roads on the whole are excellent, and the hotels, with hardly any exceptions, particularly clean and comfortable; and, with the one drawback of the bread (see Appendix D)—which can be easily remedied—the food is well cooked and well served.
It must be understood that the succeeding chapters only describe— or attempt to describe—scenes that every one in moderate health can go and enjoy for themselves, and it is in the hope that a few more may be induced to visit the region about which they speak, that they have ever seen the light. For accurate information about the mountains and the best means of ascending them, no better guide-books could be wanted than Count Russell's 'Grandes Ascensions des Pyrenees' [Footnote: Hachette et Cie., Paris.] in French and English, and Mr. Chas. Packe's 'Guide to the Pyrenees'; [Footnote: Longmans and Co., London.] while for information of all kinds Monsieur P. Joanne's 'Pyrenees,' [Footnote: Hachette et Cie., Paris.] in French, could hardly be surpassed. For the ordinary traveller Mr. Black's 'South of France Summer Resorts, Pyrenees,' &c., is a compact and useful companion; and for guidance in matters medical, Dr. Madden's 'Spas of the Pyrenees' and Dr. Lee's 'Baths of France' are exceedingly valuable.
With these preliminary remarks we beg to refer the reader to our experiences of 'A Spring in the Pyrenees.'
Trains and Steamers—Bordeaux and its Hotels—Lamothe—Morcenx— Dax—Puyoo—Orthez—First impressions of Pau—The Hotels and Pensions—Amusements—Pension Colbert—Making up parties for the Pyrenees—The Place Royale and the view—The Castle of Pau and its approaches—Origin of name—Historical notes—The Towers—Visiting hours—The Tapestries—The Wonderful Bedstead—The Delusive Tortoiseshell Cradle—The "Tour de la Monnaie"—The Park—The Billeres Plains—Tennis and Golf—The Route de Billeres and the Billeres Woods—French Sportsmen—Hunting—Racing—Lescar and its old Cathedral—Fontaine de Marnieres—The Bands—The Pare Beaumont —Ballooning—The Casino—Polo—The Cemetery—The Churches of St. Martin and St. Jacques—The "Old World and the New"—Rides and Drives—to Betharram—The Start—Peasants and their ways—Vines trained by the roadside—Sour Grapes—The "March of the Men of Garlic"—Coarraze—Henry IV.'s Castle—Betharram—The Ivied Bridge —The Inn—The "Via Crucis"—Assat and Gelos—The Coteaux— Perpignaa—Sketching with a Donkey-cart—Over the Coteaux to Gan— The Drive to Pietat—Picnicking and Rejected Attentions—The Church—Feather Moss—Bizanos—Carnival time—"Poor Pillicoddy"— "Idyllic Colbert."
Few Winter Resorts have gained a greater celebrity than Pau, and its popularity yearly increases. Fifty years ago its English visitors might have been counted by tens; to-day they must be reckoned by thousands. But this is only during the winter and spring; in summer it is almost entirely deserted by foreigners, few people in fact, unless compelled by circumstances, staying after May has passed into June.
For many reasons it has become a favourite resort for invalids, an important one being, its exceedingly accessible position. Notwithstanding that it is 776 miles distant from London, fewer changes are requisite than for many a journey of less than a quarter of the distance. The quickest way from London is via Dover, Calais, Paris, Bordeaux and Dax; and as a through sleeping carriage can be obtained from Paris to Pau, that part of the journey is anything but formidable. For those who prefer the sea route, the fine boats of the Pacific Steam Navigation Company which start from Liverpool are the most preferable conveyance, though the less expensive steamers belonging to the General Steam Navigation Company, sailing from London, are comfortable enough in fine weather. The former land their passengers at Pauillac, whence they proceed to Bordeaux by tender or train; but the latter boats, being smaller, can come right up to Bordeaux, which is a decided advantage.
Though the third port in France, Bordeaux can certainly not be recommended as a stopping-place unless necessity requires it, for the hotel-keepers generally succeed in reaping a rich harvest from travellers passing through.
The Hotel de Nantes is the nearest to the quay, but the Hotel Richelieu will be found more moderate and more comfortable. In the town, the grand Hotel de France has the best reputation, but "birds of passage" have apparently to pay for it, whereas old stagers concur in saying that for gentlemen—especially those who appreciate a good dinner—the best place is the Hotel de Bayonne.
Bordeaux has many fine buildings and objects of interest over which a week can be easily spent, and for this length of time the hotel prices are in proportion considerably less per diem; but in winter it is especially bleak and cold, and travellers are advised to get on to Dax or Pau as quickly as possible. The railway journey of one hundred and forty-five miles to Pau occupies as a rule about six hours, passing Lamothe, Morcenx, Dax, Puyoo, and Orthez. Lamothe [Footnote: See Appendix.] (25 miles) is the junction for Arcachon, [Footnote: See Appendix.] the celebrated winter station among the pines, situated on the shores of a landlocked bay; and Morcenx [Footnote: See Appendix.] (68 miles), is likewise the junction for the Tarbes line and Bigorre.
Dax [Footnote: See Appendix.] (92 miles) has a well-deserved reputation for its baths, and possesses several mineral bathing establishments, of which the "Grand Etablissement des Thermes" stands first. The mud baths are perhaps more celebrated than those of steam or water, being especially efficacious in severe, and often apparently otherwise incurable, cases of rheumatism. There are also some pleasant walks by the River Adour, and in the neighbourhood there is a bed of fossil salt.
Puyoo [Footnote: See Appendix.] (111-1/2 miles) is the junction for the Bayonne line, but is without other interest.
Orthez [Footnote: See Appendix.] (120-3/4 miles) is of historic interest and possesses some noteworthy remains. M. Dore has represented the Tour de Moncade, built in 1240, with mediaeval surroundings, and not quite as it may be seen now. It was the scene of many of Gaston Phoebus' greatest crimes. The old fourteenth- century bridge over the river, with its central tower, could tell some tales too, if we could discover "sermons in stones"; and the plain below the town was the scene of one of Wellington's many victories in 1814.
Two coaches start from Orthez, one to Salies (10 miles), celebrated for its salt springs, and the other to Mauleon-Licharre, a picturesque spot where fine views, cascades, and ruins abound.
Passing the ancient town of Lescar (140-1/2 miles)—of which we shall have more to say later—the train is soon drawn up in the station of Pau, and directly the traveller shows his face outside, he is hailed by the "cochers" from the various hotels in a bewildering chorus. This is the same, more or less, at every French town where English people congregate, and Pau only inclines, if anything, towards the "more."
The first impression conveyed when leaving the station and passing along the Avenue de la Gare, is, that the town is mainly composed of the castle and magnificent hotels which tower above the station. This, to a certain extent, is correct, for they occupy a large area, and the views from the windows of the hotels, as well as from those of the castle, are the finest in the town. Issuing from the Avenue into the "Place de la Monnaie," the ruins of the "Mint" tower, and above them the castle itself, come into full view, after which the road continues along the Rue Marca for a short distance, branching afterwards to the right into the most ancient square of the town, the Place Grammont.
The hotels de la Poste and Henri IV. are here situated, but the roads to the various other hotels and pensions diverge in different directions. To the right up the Rue Bordenave and along the Rue Henri IV. is the route to all the finest hotels, of which the "France" is the best, and the "Gassion" the most imposing; the others are the Belle Vue, Splendide, Beau Sejour, and de la Paix, all with the exception of the last possessing the magnificent mountain view, but although from the windows of the "Paix" only a side glimpse can be obtained, yet at the same time this hotel faces the "Place Royale," the popular resort of all classes in Pau. From the left-hand corner of the Place Grammont a narrow street leads to the fine church of St. Jacques, which is also the nearest way to the grand Hotel Continental near Trinity Church, and the Pension Hattersly in the Rue Porte Neuve. But the route more to the left still, leading up the hill and joining the Route de Bordeaux, past the Haute Plante parade ground, is the usual one followed, especially for the Pensions—Lecour, Nogues, and Maison Piete in the Rue d'Orleans; Pension Etcherbest, in the Passage Plante Hotel de Londres, on the route de Billeres; and Maison Colbert, in the Rue Montpensier.
Well knowing the comfort of a good pension, and intending to make a long stay, we drove straight from the station to the well-known Maison Colbert, and were soon as comfortable as we could wish. There are many people we are aware who detest "pensions." "We don't approve," say they, "of meals at fixed hours, of a drawing-room common to all, and of such a small house that everybody must know everyone else before the first dinner is over!" Well! why should they? They can go to the hotels; but let all those who are suffering or delicate put away thin-skinned feelings of superiority, till they have a good enough constitution to support them, and in the meantime seek peace and kindness, such as may be experienced at the Pension Colbert.
If, on the other hand, it can be taken as a criterion that those living in hotels are not invalids, then the visitor contingent of Pau must consist principally of healthy people, who prefer a good climate and lively society to the attractions that England and America have to offer from October to May. This is hardly correct, but there can be no doubt that more than half the foreigners [Footnote: From the French standpoint—i.e., English and American.] who come for that period, do so for comfort and pleasure alone. And it is not to be wondered at. Who, that was untrammelled by the cares of business, or shortened purse-strings, but would not gladly exchange the bill of fare England has to offer, of London fogs, east winds, Scotch mists, and Irish dynamite, for the handsome menu awaiting him at Pau? Drives, kettledrums, dinners, balls, lawn tennis, polo, pigeon-shooting, golf, racing and hunting; and, if he particularly wishes it, a balloon ascent as well. This last-named is an expensive pleasure, as the aeronaut, judging by the prices on the bill, requires a substantial fee, and it is besides an amusement life insurance companies do not readily countenance.
Of course, if one comes to Pau merely for enjoyment, hotel life may be preferable to that in a pension, though our experiences of the latter mode have been very pleasant ones. It is so easy to make up a small party for a drive or a picnic, and being all in one house there is but little chance of any mishaps before starting, such as individuals forgetting the time that had been fixed and keeping the rest waiting. Above all, when planning a tour into the Pyrenees, it is essentially necessary to form a party of some sort, if the trip is to be carried out in the spring; for although, as we shall endeavour to show later, the scenery is then at its best, still, since it is not the season, only one or two hotels are open in each resort, and society is "nil."
Then further, when people are going to travel in company for several weeks it is well that at least they should know something of one another, for if they all commenced "pulling different ways" up in the mountains, the safety, or at any rate the composure of each, would be likely to suffer. My own relations, who were with me at first, left for England long before the mountain trip was arranged, but we made up a very pleasant quartette before the time for starting arrived, and accordingly visited Pau in company as well as the mountains. This quartette consisted of Mrs. and Miss Blunt, Mr. Sydney and myself, and though it will be seen by subsequent chapters that the trio decided on staying a fortnight at Biarritz in preference to following my example and spending the time at Bagneres de Bigorre, yet we made arrangements to meet either at Lourdes or Argeles and thenceforward to travel in company.
To see Pau in its beauty, winter must have given place to spring. When the grass once more begins to grow, the trees to unfold their tender leaves, the rivers to swell, and the birds to sing; while yet the sun's rays cannot pierce the snowy garment on the distant heights; then Pau is in her beauty. Passing—as we so often passed —down the Rue Montpensier and the consecutive Rue Serviez, into the Rue du Lycee, then turning from it to the right for a short distance, till, with the English club at the corner on our left, we turned into the Place Royale, and, with the fine theatre frowning on our backs, quickly made our way between the rows of plane-trees, but just uncurling their leaves, to the terrace whence the whole enormous expanse of mountain can be viewed, our admiration at the magnificent scene unfolded before us never diminished. But our favourite time was at sunset, especially one of those warm ruddy sunsets that tint the heavens like a superb red canopy.
Then, leaning on the terrace wall, we admired in silence. Beneath us lay part of the town and the railway station, the river beyond, in one part divided and slowly flowing over its stony bed among the alder bushes; at another, gathered together again, rushing furiously along as though impatient to lose itself for ever in the depths of the ocean.
Beyond the river, amid the varied green of tree and meadow, nestled the scattered villages, with the hills above, here brown with bare vineyards, there vying with the meadow's green; and in the background behind and above all, the mighty range of snow mountains extending as far as eye could reach, and fading in the dim haze of distance. Then, as the sun sank lower, the soft rosy hue shone on the castle windows, glinted through the trees of the Chateau Park, dyed the swift waters of the river, and tipped the snowy crests afar. There are few, we think, who would not, as we did, enjoy fully the contemplation of such a scene.
From the Place Royale to the Chateau is a very short distance; turning to the right past the Church of St. Martin—a fine well- built edifice—and the Hotel Gassion, it stands in full view, and the broad walk passing beneath the side arches leads into the courtyard. In order to obtain a good view of the entrance and the towers that guard it, it is preferable to approach the castle by the Rue Henri IV. (a continuation of the Rue du Lycee that passes between the theatre and the end of the Place Royale), which, when the shops are left behind, suddenly curves to the left, to the foot of the bridge leading direct to the main entrance. It is worth while to stand on the bridge for a short time, and survey the whole scene, which can hardly fail to carry the thoughts back to olden times, and as the castle is so intimately connected with the town of Pau, a few explanatory historical facts will not, we trust, be considered out of place before continuing the inspection of the edifice. The origin of the name of Pau is the Spanish "Palo," a "stick" or a "stake," and takes us back to the time when the Saracens had taken possession of a large part of Spain and were making raids beyond the Pyrenees. Feeling their unprotected position, the inhabitants of the Gave Valley made over a piece of ground to a Prince of Bearn, on the condition that he should erect a fortress for their defence thereon. This he agreed to do, and as the extent of his allotment was marked out by "stakes," the castle became known as the castle of "stakes" or Palo, which in time became Pau.
Its commanding position and appearance inspired confidence, and houses soon sprang up around; and, at least a century before the birth of Henry IV., Pau had become an important place. In time it became the capital of the kingdom of Navarre, and later, when Navarre, Bearn, and the "Pays Basques" were constituted as one department in 1790, it still retained its position as chief town.
Now to resume our inspection from the bridge. The two towers in full view on either side of the sculptured facade, are the finest and most prominent of the six that flank the castle, but there is one in the interior of the court of more interest. The highest of these two is the donjon on the left, built of brick, and known as "La Tour de Gaston Phoebus" (112 feet). Its walls are over eight feet in thickness. The tower on the right is known as "La Tour Neuve," while the most interesting is that known as "La Tour de Montaueset" or "Monte-Oiseau," in which are the ancient dungeons and oubliettes. The porter has rooms on the ground-floor of the Gaston Phoebus Tower, and his wife sells photographs singly and in books. Outside, underneath and adjoining the same tower, is a small modern (1843) chapel.
The hours for visiting the interior of the Chateau are between 10 and 12 and 2 and 4 daily, and the entrance is free, though the guide expects a gratuity, say of one franc for one person, two francs for three. As we were always lucky enough to be the only people wanting to inspect, at the particular hour we went—which was always as near ten as possible—we managed by judicious means to calm the impetuosity of the guide, and induce him to tell his tale slowly. If, as usually happens, other people are there at the same time, he rattles off his lesson at such a pace that it requires very good French scholars to even follow him; to remember what he says is out of the question. Whether by "more judicious means," it would be possible to induce him to go round out of hours, we do not know, never having had occasion to try, but we certainly think it would be worth an attempt, if the visitors could not otherwise manage to hit a time when they could go over alone.
Passing under one of the three arches of the facade, we traversed the courtyard to the extremity, and while waiting for the guide to come to us at the small side door, examined the curious sculptures surrounding the window on the left. On the door being opened we passed into the Salle des Gardes, and from that into the Salle a Manger, where stands a statue of Henry IV., supposed to be more like him than any other. Then through a succession of rooms and up flights of stairs, and through rooms again, to describe which as they deserve would alone fill up a small volume, but this we do not intend to do, contenting ourselves with simply mentioning as much of what we saw as we hope may induce everyone to follow our example, and see them for themselves. To any lovers of a grand view, that which may be seen from the upper windows of the castle is almost alone worth coming for, and the tapestry which lines the walls of many of the rooms is simply exquisite.
The "Sports and Pastimes of the various Months" of Flanders work, in the "Salle des Etats"—the six pieces of Gobelin work in the Queen's Boudoir on the first floor—the five pieces of the same work, including "Venus's toilet," in Queen Jeanne's room on the second floor, and the four pieces of Brussels in Henry IV.'s bedroom—also on the second floor—are only a few of the many wonderful pieces of tapestry.
In the "Grand Reception Room," in which the massacres took place in 1569, is a fine mosaic table and Sevres vases, besides the Flanders tapestry.
There are several objects of interest in Henry IV.'s room, in which he is said to have been born 13th December, 1553, including the magnificently carved bedstead; but the chief attraction is the tortoise-shell cradle, which as a rule Frenchmen come only to see. Why they should come is quite a different matter, seeing that although a tortoise's shell might make a very comfortable cradle for even such an illustrious infant as was Henry IV., yet as he never had anything to do with the one in question, it is rather absurd that year after year they should flock to see it out of respect to him; and the absurdity is greater, since in a statement on the wall hard by this fact is made known. None of the northern rooms are open to the public, but the chief objects of interest have been transferred to the other wing!
Leaving the courtyard by the road under the side arches that leads to the terrace, the tasteful gardening of the surroundings is noticeable, and as soon as the lower walk is reached, the "Tour de la Monnaie" lies in full view below. No efforts are made to keep these ruins, in which Calvin used to preach, from crumbling into dust. "O tempora! O mores!"
From the terrace on the other side of the Castle, the remains of the old fosse may be seen, though houses are now built where the water used to lie. A broad pathway encircles the edifice, and a bridge leads from the extreme end over the Rue Marca into the Castle Park, called also "lower plantation" (basse plante) in distinction from the "upper plantation" (haute plante), which surrounds the barracks. Near the road the trees are planted stiffly in rows, but when another and smaller bridge has been traversed, the beauty of the Park is manifest.
Following the course of the river, and filled with the finest trees and shrubs, through which the beautiful little nuthatch may occasionally be seen flying, and among which many other birds sing—it is indeed, with its long cool walks and pleasant glades, a lovely promenade. The Bayonne road is the boundary on the opposite side from the river, and just beyond the limits of the Park a path branches off river-wards to the Billeres Plains, where tennis and golf are played. In the opposite direction another leads up under the shadow of an old church, and joins the Route de Billeres, which, starting from the Bordeaux road, passes the Villa Lacroix and other handsome houses, and descending throws off another branch into the Bayonne road. It then curves in an opposite direction, and ascends, while at the same time skirting the grounds of the Chateau de Billeres, to the favourite Billeres woods. From the woods it communicates in a nearly straight line with the Bordeaux road again, so that in reality it describes three-quarters of a circle.
These woods, though sadly disfigured by the demand for fire-wood, are pleasant to ramble in when the soldiers are not in possession, and there are drives through them in all directions. At one time wild duck, pigeons, and woodcock were plentiful there, but that time has passed, though the gallant French sportsmen may still be seen trooping through with their dogs after blackbirds and tomtits!
Pau dearly loves excitement. Three times a week in the winter the hounds meet in the vicinity, and many are the carriages and many the fair occupants that congregate to see the start. It is generally a very gay scene, with no lack of scarlet coats and good steeds, pretty dresses and sometimes pretty faces too; and though afterwards they enjoy many a good run, there are but few falls and fewer broken heads. But it is over the races that Pau gets really excited. Hunting only attracts the well-to-do, but all who can hire or borrow even a shandry make a point of not missing the "races." And these meetings are not few and far between, but about once a fortnight, for there is no "Jockey Club" at Pau, and consequently it pleases itself about the fixtures.
The course, which is some two miles from the town on the Bordeaux road, is overlooked by an imposing grand stand, which generally seems well filled, though the betting is not very heavy on the whole. We drove over one afternoon, and after waiting for three events which to us were not very exciting, proceeded towards Lescar. The nearest way would have been by turning to the right by a white house on the Bordeaux road (not far from the race-course), but we continued along it instead for some distance, finally turning off down a narrow lane without any sign of a hedge. After following this for a length of time, we took the road at right angles leading between fields covered with gorse, and later, descending one or two steep hills with trees on either side, we reascended and entered the ancient town of Lescar, only to dip under the tottering walls of the ancient castle—a few minutes later—and mount again under a narrow archway to the church.
P. Joanne in his excellent guide-book calls it "the ancient Beneharum, destroyed about the year 841 by the Normans, rebuilt in 980 under the name of Lascurris. In the old chronicles it was called the 'Ville Septenaire,' because it possessed, it is said, seven churches, seven fountains, seven mills, seven woods, seven vineyards, seven gates and seven towers on the ramparts." The church now restored was formerly a cathedral, and there are some fine old mosaics (11th century) to be seen under the boarding near the altar. Jeanne d'Albret and other Bearnais sovereigns are buried there.
The Castle is very old, though the square tower dates from the 14th century only.
The whole town, so curious and ancient-looking, is well worth a visit, and forms a contrast in its fallen splendour to Pau's rising greatness, such as cannot fail to strike any intelligent observer.
Passing through the town, we took the road to the right homewards, which joins the Bayonne route, but instead of continuing along the latter all the way, we branched off into the route de Billeres, and came by the Villa Lacroix and the Hotel de Londres back to the pension.
Another road leads from the Villa Lacroix over a brook, and past the establishment of the "Petites Soeurs des Pauvres" into the country, and in fact to Lescar. The brook is known as the Herrere, and by following the path to the left which runs beside it, the "Fontaine de Marnieres" is reached. The water of this fountain is considered very pure and strengthening, and many people drink it daily.
The band is another attraction at Pau; twice a week in the afternoon they play in the Place Royale, and twice in the Parc Beaumont. The music is of a very good order, and excessively pleasing to listen to from beneath the shade of the trees. The Parc Beaumont is quite near the Place Royale, the principal entrance being at the end of the Rue du Lycee, close to the Hotel Beau Sejour.
Balloon ascents were often the chief attraction on Sundays, which "all the world and his wife" went out to see. There is a casino in the Park, used occasionally for concerts, but the casino is behind the Hotel Gassion, and though it was hardly finished enough for comfort when we saw it, that defect will soon doubtless be remedied.
Polo is generally played in the "Haute Plante" (in front of the Barracks), and bicycle races take place there also occasionally. It is only a step from this pleasure-ground to the cemetery, and though this nearness never affects the joy of the children on the roundabouts or the young people swinging, yet it is another practical example that "in the midst of life we are in death."
The Rue Bayard—on the left of the Haute Plante—leads to the cemetery gates, and the tombs extend behind the barracks; those of Protestants being divided from the Roman Catholics' by a carefully kept walk leading from the right-hand corner of the first or Roman Catholic portion!
There is a charm about this last resting-place in spite of its mournfulness, and the many flowers load the air with a delicious perfume. The marble statue of a Russian lady in fashionable costume, over her tomb, is considered a fine piece of sculpture, and many people go there simply to see it.
The two principal French churches are those of St. Martin and St. Jacques, but the latter is in every way the more beautiful. The "Palais de Justice" stands close to St. Jacques, but facing the Place Duplaa, where many of the best houses are situated. The Rue d'Orleans, communicating the Place Duplaa and the Route De Bordeaux, contains many Good French pensions, which have been previously mentioned.
By following the Rue St. Jacques past the church of the same name and turning down the street which cuts it at right angles, called the "Rue de la Fontaine", the ancient part of the town can be reached. It may be here remarked the peculiar characteristics of Pau, and yet probably seven visitors out of ten fail to notice it. the other end of "Fountain Street" leads into the Rue de la Prefecture. this is one of the very busiest streets in Pau, and if after leaving one of the magnificent new hotels we traverse this busy street, and then suddenly plunge down the Rue de la Fontaine to what was once the bed of the castle fosse—where the houses are small and dirty, and the walls and slates barely hold together, so wretchedly old and tottering are they—where, instead of bustle and grandeur, there is only gloom and poverty, and in place of the enjoyment of the present, there is the longing for a lot a little less hard in the future; we feel as though we had gone back several centuries in as many minutes, and have a decided wish to return to nineteenth-century civilisation again.
We did not find the rides and drives the least pleasant of our enjoyments, and there are so many places to visit, that picnics are plentiful as a matter of course.
The chief excursion from Pau is to Eaux Bonnes and Eaux Chaudes, but as there is a slight danger of damp beds there—if you get any beds at all—early in the year, we postponed this grand trip for another time.
Another long drive is to Lourdes and back, but this we did not take, as we meant to stop a night there later; but one day we made up a party for Betharram, which is a long way on the same road, and, under ordinarily kind auspices, a delightful day's outing.
If it was less pleasant than it might have been to us, the weather had a good deal to do with it, and the other causes may develop themselves in narration. There were ten of us, and we started in a grand yellow brake with four horses and a surly coachman. The morning was excessively warm, and some of the party were of such rotund proportions, that the thin ones were nearly lost sight of, if they chanced to sit between them, while the warmth approached to that of a cucumber frame with the sun on it. We attracted a good deal of attention as we crawled down the Rue Serviez and passed the entrance to the Pare Beaumont, down the hill to Bizanos; but as soon as the chateau that takes its name from the village was reached, we met with little admiration, except from the good people jogging along in tumble-down carts and shandries. The peasants seemed on the whole a good-natured lot, taking a joke with a smile often approaching a broad grin, and occasionally, but only very occasionally, attempting one in return. The following is an instance of one of these rare occasions:—We were walking beside the Herrere stream in the direction of the Fontaine de Marnieres; several women were busy washing clothes at the water's edge, and above, spread out in all their glory, were three huge umbrellas— umbrellas of the size of those used on the Metropolitan 'buses, but of bright blue cloth on which the presence of clay was painfully evident. We asked the price without smiling, and the women, wondering, looked up. We said they must be very valuable, and we would give as much as six sous for any one of them. At this moment another woman, who had been listening to the conversation from a little garden behind, came up and said: "Those umbrellas belong to me, and they are worth a lot of money; but I will sell you one cheap if you promise to send it to the Exhibition!"
But to resume. After crossing the railway line beyond Bizanos, and leaving the pleasant little waterfall on the right, the sun began to pour down on us very fiercely, and all we could do, wedged in as we were, was to appear happy and survey the country.
It was curious to note the method of training the vines up the various trees by the roadside. The simplicity and efficacy of the method seemed plain enough, but with memories of the difficulty experienced in guarding our own fruit even with glass-tipped walls to defend it, we were forced to the conviction that in the Pyrenees fruit stealers are unknown. Perhaps, however, the "grapes are always sour," or sufficiently high up to give the would-be thief time to think of the penalty, which probably would be "higher" still.
The road continues nearly in a direct line through Assat (5 miles), but when that village was left behind, the mountains seemed to be considerably nearer, and even the snow summits—a bad sign of rain —appeared within a fairly easy walk.
The painful odour of garlic frequently assailed our nostrils passing through the hamlets, and though it is not quite as bad as the Japanese root daikon, yet to have to talk to a man who has been eating it, is a positive punishment. We would fain bring about a reform among the people, getting them to substitute some other healthily-scented vegetable in place of the objectionable one. To this end we composed a verse to a very old but popular tune, styling it
"THE MARCH OF THE MEN OF GARLIC."
Men of Garlic—large your numbers, Long indeed your conscience slumbers, Can't you change and eat cu-cumbers? Men of Garlic, say! They are sweet and tender, Short and thick or slender. Then, we know well your breath won't smell And sickness' pangs engender. Men of Garlic, stop your scorning, Change your food and hear our warning, See the day of Progress dawning, Give three cheers— Hurray!
Doubtless the fact of the verse being in English will militate against its efficiency, but before we had time to turn it into French, we had passed to the right of the quaint old town of Nay, and were entering Coarraze (10 1/2 miles). As we bore off to the right across the river, the old castle—where Henry IV. spent a great part of his childhood like any peasant child—towered above us, and the scenery around became considerably more picturesque than any we had passed through that morning. The banks of the river were more shapely, and the alternation of bushes and meadow, with the varying lights and shades on the distant peaks and the nearer slopes, would have seemed more than beautiful, if our wedged positions and the accompanying warmth had not somewhat evaporated our admiration. Though the heat remained, the sun had disappeared behind huge banks of clouds, as we at length entered Betharram (15 miles), so, instead of pulling up at the hotel, we drove on to the beautiful ivy-hung bridge, a great favourite with artists. This really belongs to the hamlet of Lestelle, which adjoins Betharram, and is so picturesque that the villagers ought to be proud of it; doubtless in the old days, when Notre Dame de Betharram's shrine was the cherished pilgrimage—now superseded by the attractions of N. D. de Lourdes—many thousand "holy" feet crossed and recrossed this ancient bridge!
In order to reach the hotel we had to ascend slightly to turn the vehicle, much to the consternation of one of the party, who, clasping the back rail with both hands and endeavouring to look brave, could not withhold a small scream which escaped from the folds of her veil.
The dining-room of the hotel smelt decidedly close, so we spread our sumptuous lunch on tables outside; but Jupiter Pluvius soon showed his disapproval of our plans, and forced us to go within, where a fine specimen of a French soldier had done his best to fill the place with smoke. However, we managed fairly well, in spite of some sour wine which we tried, under the name of "Jurancon vieux," for the "good of the house" and the "worse of ourselves." As the rain passed off ere we had finished, we afterwards repaired to the "Via Crucis," where there is a small chapel at every turn till the "Calvary" is reached at the summit. The first chapel is beside the road, midway between the hotel and the bridge, and the view from the summit on a fine day is said to be very good; but when only half-way, the rain came down in such torrents that we were glad to return to the inn for shelter. For two hours the downpour lasted, but it cooled the air and rendered the return journey a little more supportable; and when we arrived at the house, we also arrived at the decision that never again to a picnic, as far as we were concerned, should thinness and rotundity go side by side!
There is no doubt that a landau is the most comfortable vehicle for a drive of any length, although some very comfortable little T- carts, with good ponies between the shafts, can be hired too. We often used the latter for drives to Assat and over the suspension- bridge—so old and shaky—and home by Gelos and Jurancon; while at other times, taking the necessaries for afternoon tea, we drove as far as Nay, crossing the river to enter its ancient square—in which stand the Townhall and the Maison Carree, of historical fame —and then leaving the tanneries and houses behind, sought some quiet spot down by the water, for sketching and enjoying our tea.
Rides or drives on the coteaux (hills) in the vicinity are very pleasant, as the views from certain points are particularly fine. Of these the most popular is to Perpignaa, two hours being sufficient for the drive there and back. It is a nice walk for an average pedestrian, and the road is easy to find. We generally started in the afternoon, passing across the bridge and through Jurancon, and where the road forks, bearing along the Gan road to the right. Then, taking the first turning to the right, leading between fields, we reached an avenue of trees, with a village beyond. We then followed the road across the bridge to the left, and kept bearing in that direction till we reached the foot of the coteau, where there is only one route, and consequently no chance of taking any but the right one! We heard of a case of two young ladies going off in a donkey cart, intending to sketch the view above Perpignaa, who, when they reached the avenue, turned down to the right and wandered along the bank of the Gave as far as the donkey would go, and then sketched a church steeple in despair. But such a mistake is quite unnecessary; and they would doubtless have remedied theirs, if they had not found it obligatory at last to push behind in order to make the donkey move homewards. Although very hoarse and tired when they arrived, they had voice enough left to say they "wouldn't go sketching in a donkey cart again!"
From the foot of the hill the road zigzags, making a fairly easy gradient to the summit, on which stands a house whose owner kindly allows visitors to walk about his grounds and participate in the view. When riding, we followed the road that continues on the right for several miles, in order to prolong the pleasure produced by the exercise and the view.
Another pleasant ride is by way of the coteaux to Gan, and back by the road, or vice versa; but we always preferred the former, as the horses had the hill work while fresh, and then the level home. In the first instance we found this track by accident. We had passed through Jurancon, and at the spot where the road forks debated which to take, finally deciding on the left one, but this we only followed for a few yards, taking again the first turning to the right, which brought us over the railway line direct to the hills. Winding up through the trees, we passed a tricyclist pushing his machine before him, who informed us that we were on the way to Gan. Of this, after we had ridden up and down, wound round hillsides and passed through pleasant dingles, we were at length assured by descending into that village, from which we got safely home in spite of a "bolting" attempt on the part of one of the "fiery" steeds.
To thoroughly enjoy the longer drive to Pietat it is better to make a picnic of it. We started about ten one lovely morning, turning to the left beyond Jurancon, crossing the line to Oloron—on the main road—and later on, bearing more round in the same direction, and beginning to ascend. As on the hills to Gan, we were perpetually mounting only to descend a great part of the distance again, but ever and anon catching glimpses of the valley in which Assat and Nay lay, and of Pau itself, besides the lovely snow hills stretching as far as eye could reach. When Pietat was arrived at, there was but little to interest us in what we saw there of a half- finished church and two cottages; but the view on all sides after we had walked along the grassy plateau was very lovely, especially as the lights and shades were everywhere so perfect. Having selected a cosy spot and spread the luncheon, we were besieged by children anxious to sell us flowers and apples, and to share whatever we would give them. They were hard to get rid of even with promises of something when we had finished, and when at last they did go, an elderly female took their place with most generous offers of unlocking the church for us. There was an old sweet-toned bell in front of the western door, and a half-finished sculpture of the "Descent from the Cross" over it. The interior of the edifice was sufficiently roofed for a portion to be utilised for prayer, and the high altar and two lateral ones were already erected.
After culling a quantity of the beautiful feather moss from the hedgerows, we re-entered the carriage, and descended the hill into the Gave valley, crossing the suspension-bridge by Assat, and through the village into the main road, and home by Bizanos. It was the time of the carnival, and on the following day Bizanos—which has an evil repute for bad egg-throwing on festive occasions—was to be the scene of the mumming. Luckily they did not attempt to practise on us, though as we drove up through the town we met bands of gaily-dressed individuals parading the streets.
These bands consisted of about thirty, mostly men decked in a preponderance of red, white, and blue, and usually accompanied by a tableau arrangement on a cart. Every twenty yards they stopped, went through a series of antics, supposed to be country dances, to the tune of the cornet and a fiddle, and then brought round the hat, frequently embracing any woman who objected to give her sous.
A carnival such as this combines a holiday with money-making to the mummers, and as long as they can get money in this fashion, they certainly cannot be blamed for taking their amusement in such a highly practical manner.
There are several private coaches at Pau, which turn out in grand style on race days; and balls, concerts, and kettledrums abound, with private theatricals occasionally. We attempted to get up "Poor Pillicoddy," but were very unlucky about it. Firstly, when in full rehearsal, our Mrs. O'Scuttle became unwell, and we had to look for another, and when we had found her and were getting into shape again, her nautical husband put the whole ship on the rocks and wrecked our hopes by losing his voice.
However, our departure was very nigh, and packing is an excellent cure for disappointment, though we were interrupted in that one morning with a request to write "something" in the visitors' book. With the memories of our pleasant stay upon us, we do not think we can err in reproducing one contribution, which was styled
(With apologies to Mr. W. S. GILBERT.)
If you're anxious for to dwell in a very fine hotel By the mountain's wide expanse, You at once had best repair to that house so good though _chere_ Called the "Grand Hotel de France." Or if for food your craze is, you still can give your praises To the _chef_ of its cuisine_. Your taste you need not fetter, for 'tis said in Pau, no better Has ever yet been seen. But this I have to say, you will not like your stay As much as if at Pension Colbert you the time had spent, And such a time, I'm very sure, you never would repent.
If I'm eloquent in praise of those most peculiar days Which now have passed away, 'Tis to tell you, as a man, what awful risks I ran Lest my heart should chance to stray. I never would pooh-pooh! 'tis cruel so to do, Though often weak and ill, For they my plaints would stop, with a juicy mutton-chop, Or a mild and savoury pill! And this I have to say, you're bound to like your stay, And never in your life I'm very sure will you repent The time in Pension Colbert's walls and well-trimmed garden spent.
And if a tantalizing passion of a gay lawn tennis fashion Should fire your love of sport, On the neat and well-kept lawn, a net that's never torn Hangs quiv'ring o'er the court. Or if your voice you'd raise in sweet or high-tun'd lays, You'll find a piano there, And birdies too will sing, like mortals—that's a thing You'll never hear elsewhere— And then you're bound to say that you have liked your stay, And never in your life I'm very sure will you repent The time in Pension Colbert's walls and well-trimm'd garden spent.
If for hunting you've a liking, you can don a costume striking, And proceed to chase the fox. Or if you're fond of driving, perhaps by some contriving You may mount a coach's box. If picnics are your pleasure, you can go to them at leisure, And lunch on sumptuous fare, And though maybe, perforce, you'll get lamb without mint sauce. They never starve you there. And always you will say, that you've enjoyed your stay, And never in your life I'm very sure will you repent The time in Pension Colbert's walls and well-trimm'd garden spent.
As Mrs. and Miss Blunt and Mr. Sydney had definitely decided to spend the time at Biarritz while I stayed at Bigorre, I turned my attention to discovering if any other acquaintances were proceeding in the same direction as myself. In this I was successful, and in company with Mr. H—— and his two daughters, and Mrs. Willesden and Miss Leonards, bade "au revoir" to Pau, with the prospect of a long spell of beautiful scenery if the clerk of the weather could only be controlled, by longings and hopes.
BAGNERES DE BIGORRE.
Backward Spring—Hotel Beau Sejour—Effect of the war of '70 on the English Colony—The "Coustous"—The Church of St. Vincent— Geruzet's Marble Works—Donkeys—Up the Monne—Bains de Sante— Bains de Grand Pre—Salut Avenue and Baths—"Ai-ue, Ai-ue"— Luncheon—Daffodils—The Summit and the View—The "Castle-Mouly"— The Tapere—Mde. Cottin—Mont Bedat—Gentians—The Croix de Manse— "The Lady's Farewell to her Asinine Steed"—Market-day—The Old Iron and Shoe Dealers—Sunday—A Cat Fight—The English Church—To the Col d'Aspin—"The Abbe's Song"—Baudean—Campan, its People and Church—Wayside Chapels—Ste. Marie—The route to Gripp, &c.— Payole—The Pine Forest—The Col d'Aspin—The View from the Monne Rouge—"The Plaint of the Weather-beaten Pine"—The Menu at Payole —Hurrah for the Milk!—Departures—Divine Music—Aste—Gabrielle d'Estrelle—The Ivied Ruins—The Church—Pitton de Tournefort— Gerde—The Pigeon Traps—The Cattle Market—The Jacobin Tower— Theatre—Grand Etablissement des Thermes—Hospice Civil—Eglise des Carmes—Mount Olivet—Madame Cheval, her Cakes and Tea—Bigorre in Tears.
We had a bright day for our journey to Bigorre, and the country looked pretty, though very backward for April, but this was owing to the late frosts, which had been felt everywhere. Bigorre itself was no exception, and instead of all the charms of spring ready to welcome us, the leaves were only just taking courage to unfurl. Our first impressions were consequently anything but favourable, though our comfortable quarters in the Hotel Beau Sejour compensated us to a certain degree. To the French and Spaniards, Bigorre is only a summer resort, but as it is considered to possess a very mild climate, many English reside there all the year round. In fact, before the war of 1870 there was quite an English colony there, but the chance of a Prussian advance dispersed it, and many were the hardships endured by some of those who had stayed to the last moment, in their endeavours to reach the coast.
Our first two days were more or less wet, and by reports of heavy snowstorms around us, we were unanimously of opinion that we had come too early. However, with a little sun the place soon began to look more cheerful, and a few days' fine weather wrought quite a change.
The hotel looks down on the Place Lafayette and the commencement of the avenue known as the "Coustous." This name puzzled us! We tried to find its derivation in French, without success, and Greek and German were no better. Latin seemed to solve the difficulty with the word "Custos," since it is said that the ancient guardians of the town formerly marched up and down beneath these fine old trees; so we decided to hunt no further but to translate "Coustous" into the "Guards' Walk." Having settled that knotty point, we took a stroll in the avenue, and later, paid a visit to the parish church of St. Vincent which is close by. It is particularly chaste inside, some portions dating from the 14th century, but the 15th and 16th have each had a share in the construction. Some of the altars are made of fine Pyrenean marble, and the Empress Eugenie is said to have given the wooden image of the Virgin on the pedestal.
As the various marbles obtained in the vicinity are exceedingly interesting, and in many cases very beautiful, a very pleasant half-hour can be spent at one of the many marble works which the town possesses. Fired with this idea ourselves, one gloomy day after lunch we sallied from the hotel, down the road to the left of the church, through the public gardens, and—attracted by the marble pillar—down the lane to the right of it, which at length brought us to the works of Monsieur Geruzet. The huge blocks of the rough stone were first inspected, then we saw the various processes of cutting, ornamenting and polishing, and finally were ushered into the showroom, where all kinds of articles from a sleeve-stud to a sideboard were on sale. The cigar-trays and letterweights were most reasonable, but it is not necessary to buy at all—and gratuities are not supposed to be permitted.
There were some fine turn-outs in the donkey line which deserve notice, the peculiarity of these animals here being, to go where they are wanted, and even to trot about it. Looking out of the window one morning, we were immediately attracted by the tiniest of donkeys galloping across the "place" with two big men behind it; and later on in the day, a neat specimen of the same tribe passed down the "Coustous," dragging a small dogcart, almost completely filled by the form of a French female, two or three times as large as her donkey.
But like other things, the "genus asininus" is very variable, almost as much so as the barometer, and those "on hire" for riding purposes were quite as obstinate as their relations in other countries; at least so the ladies declared who tried them, and they ought to know. Their bitter experience was gained in a trip up the Monne, the highest mountain in the immediate vicinity, being 2308 feet above Bigorre, or 4128 above the sea. Our party was seven in all, supplemented by a broken-winded and coughing horse (called Towser; French, Tousseux), two very obstinate donkeys, and a particularly polite donkey boy. Add to these, three luncheon- baskets and various sticks, umbrellas, and parasols, and the cavalcade is complete. We left the hotel and passed up the Coustous in rather mixed order, which improved as we turned into the Rue d'Alsace, and leaving the Great Bathing Establishment [Footnote: Grand Etablissement de Thermes.] and French Protestant Church on the right, and the Baths of Sante and Grand Pre on the left, entered the "Salut" avenue, which in due time brought us to the baths of the same name. The ascent, which by the road is most circuitous and easy, commences from thence. But though easy, the donkeys did not attempt to conceal their dislike for the work at a very early stage, and when the blasting in the quarries was hushed, "the voice of the charmer" (i.e. donkey boy) might have been heard, painfully resembling the sounds made by the traveller with his head over the vessel's side, urging them on, "Ai-ue—Ai-ue." As we rounded the last of the minor peaks, "the keen demands of appetite" were not to be resisted; so on a nice green plateau, with the object of our desires in full view, we discussed the luncheon. Shawls were spread, plates handed round, bottles gurglingly uncorked, and chicken and "pate de foie gras" distributed until everyone was steadily at work. The mountain air seemed to affect the "vin ordinaire"; everyone averred it was as good as "Margaux," while the chicken was voted delicious, and the pate superb.
This important business over, a start was again made, and though the donkeys were still obstinate, we managed to make progress. Daffodils were growing in profusion as we neared the summit, making the hill crest seem crowned with gold. At last, after one or two nasty narrow bits of path, barely affording sufficient footing for the animals, we gained the top, anxious to enjoy the view. Unhappily, the tips of the highest peaks were hidden in the clouds, but the general view was excellent, so we endeavoured to be content. With our backs to Bigorre, we had the Pic du Midi (9440 ft.) and the Montaigu (7681 ft.) right before us, with the small Val de Serris and the finer Val de Lesponne beneath. More to the left, the continuation of the Campan Valley leading to Luchon, in which, as far as Ste. Marie, the route is visible. On the extreme left lay the four villages of Gerde, Aste, Baudean and Campan, with the Pene de l'Heris (5226 ft.) and the Ordincede rearing above them. Looking in the direction of Bigorre, we could see on our right the trees fringing the hills above Gerde, and known as the Palomieres; and slightly to the left Lourdes and its lake, with the entrance to the Argeles valley further round in the same direction and close to the wooded hill known as the Castel Mouly (3742 ft.). The Tapere (a small stream) flows from this last-named hill into a narrow glen, on the left side of which Madame Cottin wrote the "Exiles of Siberia." The hill above, known as "Mont Bedat," and surmounted with a statue of the Virgin, is a favourite walk from the town, the ascent for a moderate walker taking about forty-five minutes.
After twenty minutes to enjoy this panorama we began the descent on the Castel-Mouly side, and were very soon forced to make short and sometimes slippery cuts, to avoid the banks of snow lying in the path. We easily managed to strike the proper path again, however, and soon found ourselves at our "luncheon plateau." We now bore along to the left, finding several large gentians, and gradually, by dint of short cuts, we reached the Croix de Manse—a plateau where four roads meet. Taking the one leading from the Bedat, we were soon deposited at the hotel in safety.
The ladies were inexpressibly glad to give up their donkeys, and Miss Leonards considered her experiences so bitter as to wish them to be handed down to posterity under the title of
"THE LADY'S FAREWELL TO HER ASININE STEED."
My donkey steed! my donkey steed! that standest slyly by, With thy ill-combed mane and patchy neck—thy brown and cunning eye, I will not mount the Monne's height, or tread the gentle mead Upon thy back again: oh slow and wretched donkey steed!
The sun may rise, the sun may set, but ne'er again on thee, Will I repeat the sorry ride from which at length I'm free; I'd sooner walk ten thousand times, though walking would be vain, Than ever mount, my donkey steed, upon thy back again.
Perchance in nightmare's fitful dreams thou'lt amble into sight, Perchance once more thy cunning eye will turn on me its light. Again I'll raise my parasol—in vain—to make thee speed, A parasol is nought to thee, my wretched donkey steed.
'Twas only when at my request some kindly hand would chide, Or sharply thrust a pointed stick against thy shaggy side, That the slow blood that in thee runs would quicken once again, For though my parasol I broke, my efforts still were vain.
Did I ill use thee? Surely not! such things could never be! Although thou wentest slowest when I fain would haste to tea. Creeping at snail's pace only—while I couldn't make thee learn That donkeys' legs were never made to stop at ev'ry turn.
At ev'ry turn!—such weary work—I knew not what to do: Oh nevermore!—no, nevermore!—would I that ride renew. How very wide thy jaws were kept—how far thrown back thine ears, As though to make me think thee ill and fill my soul with fears. Safe and unmounted will I roam with stately step alone, No more to feel, on thee, such pains and aches in ev'ry bone: And if I rest beside a well, perchance I'll pause and think, How even if I'd brought thee there, I couldn't make thee drink.
I couldn't even make thee move! Away, the ride is o'er! Away! for I shall rue the day on which I see thee more! They said thou wert so meek and good, and I'm not over strong, I took their kind advice, but oh! their kind advice was wrong.
Who said I'd gladly give thee up? Who said that thou were old? 'Tis true! 'tis true! my donkey steed! and I alas was sold. With joy I see thy form depart—that form which ne'er again Shall bear me up the mountain-side and fill my soul with pain.
After such a potent warning posterity will doubtless avoid "donkey steeds" altogether.
Saturday is the great market-day of the week, and not only then is the "Place de Strasbourg," at the end of the "Rue du Centre," well crowded, but even—as happens on no other day—the Place Lafayette, in front of the hotel, and the top of the Coustous as well. The first-named is the fruit, flower, and vegetable market; the second, the grain and potato; and the third, the iron and old shoe market. The amount and variety of old iron and cast-off shoes exposed for sale is astonishing. And if the vendors were given to crying their wares they might indulge in something like the following—of course translated:—
"Now who's for an 'upper,' a 'heel,' or a 'sole'? This way for some fine rusty chain! The sum of ten halfpence will purchase the whole, And surely you cannot complain!
"Just glance at this slipper, whose fellow is lost; Here's a boot that was only worn thrice; A hammer, your honour, at half what it cost; I'm sure that's a reasonable price."
The curious characters loafing, begging, buying and selling, quite defy description, though the resemblance of many to the ape tribe was conspicuous. One ancient individual, presiding over an "umbrella hospital," presented an interesting spectacle surrounded by adult shoe-blacks whose trade did not appear to be too lucrative.
Sunday is usually a very quiet day out of the season, but on our first Sunday morning the Place de Strasbourg was the scene of a real cat-fight. The combatants quite tabooed spitting and scratching, and went to work with their teeth. After a few squeaks and a great deal of rolling in the dust, a magnanimous dog appeared on the scene, and after separating them, pursued the victor down the street. The rest of the day, as usual, passed peacefully, and the pleasant services in the pretty little English Church were much enjoyed. It is situated near Dussert and Labal's marble works, just off the Rue des Pyrenees, leading to Campan, about a hundred yards beyond the Coustous, and is reached by crossing a small wooden bridge.
Monday broke very fine, and as the market people had notified that the Col d'Aspin was now open, we made up a party of ten, just filling two landaus, for this fifteen-mile drive. We did not start till eleven, and by that time the clouds had commenced to show themselves, but hoping for better things, we went ahead. Following the Campan road, we soon left Gerde and the Palomieres above it, in the distance, and in a few moments the village of Aste as well. A little further on we met a barouche, lolling back in which sat a priest. His hands were clasped o'er his breast, his spectacled eyes were fixed upwards, and judging by the expression of his mouth and the movement of his lips, he was endeavouring to put some pleasant, self-contented thoughts into words. We took the liberty of guessing what he was saying, and set it down as
"THE ABBE'S SONG."
Oh! I am an Abbe, an Abbe am I, And I'm fond of my dinner and wine. Some say I'm a sinner, but that I deny, And I never am heard to repine. 'Tis said what a pity I can't have a wife, But I'm saved from the chance of all naggings and strife, While in my barouche I can ride where I will, Feeling life not half bad, though the world may be ill.
I always wear glasses, but that's to look sage, And not 'cause my eyesight is dim, For when sweet maids I view of a loveable age, I contrive to look over the rim. And when I'm alone with the glass at my lips, I am ready to swear, as I pause 'twixt the sips, That as long as the world does not hamper my will, I think I can manage to live in it still.
A short distance before reaching Baudean a road strikes to the right up the Vallon de Serris, and a short distance beyond, another, in the same direction, strikes up the Vallee de Lesponne, en route for the Lac Bleu (6457 ft.) and the Montaigu (7681 ft.). When Baudean and its quaint old church were left in our rear, and we were nearing Campan, we witnessed a fierce struggle between a young bull-calf and a native. The calf objected very strongly to the landaus, and wished to betake itself to the adjacent country to avoid them. To this the native very naturally objected in turn, and a struggle was the result, in which the calf was worsted and reduced to order.