I’m here. I made it to Pau and I can’t quite believe it. For the next five months or so, this little French city at the foot of the Pyrenees is where i’ll call home. And I am already slightly smitten.
I sit here with a coffee and some brie (when in Rome…) with French voices from nearby restaurants travelling on the warm breeze to greet me at the kitchen table of my Airbnb as I write. I soon move to, and start, University where life will likely get a little more fast paced. But the adventure has already begun. I have just spent the most wonderful week with my Mum who came with me to Pau. It was a complete joy to discover my new home together, to have her by my side as we soaked up the nutrients of our surroundings.
And boy is Pau a nutrient dense city. Picture this (or just look at the actual pictures). Cobbled streets littered with little boutiques and coffee shops, parks breathing life into the city from the overhanging trees, churches and a castle peeking into view overhead, all under the guise of hazy mountains decorating the landscape like watercolour. Throw in a funiculaire (pictured above) and you’ve got yourself a Pau!
It’s not a hustly-bustly city, more like a pootle-tootle city. It’s vibrant but not overwhelming, just the way I like it. Everybody here seems so friendly, and happy to listen and respond to me in French, even though I am a bit rusty after a summer of little practise. AND, you hardly see anybody on their phone. It has become so normal for people, myself included, to walk whilst texting, to talk with one eye on Instagram stories, to eat whilst mindlessly scrolling, to fall asleep with our phone ready at our bedside to be our first contact in the morning. So, walking around Pau city centre where people are engaging with each other, enjoying their surroundings, reading…it’s really refreshing and forcing me to keep my phone in my bag for when I really need it.
Apart from exploring the city, we also took a day trip into the mountains. We journeyed to Cauterets, a little town on the border of the Pyrenees National Park and the home of Lac de Gaube (pictured below), which is where we were headed. It took us a train, two bus rides, a cable car and a chair lift to get there but it was so worth it. We plumped down on rock, whipped out our cheese and ham sandwiches and listened as creation sang us a song. It was utterly breathtaking.
And, obviously, there’s the food and the wine. It’s wouldn’t be my blog if I didn’t mention food or wine. When we first arrived, we found a nearby bar and sunk a bottle of local red whilst munching on sweet garlic and tapenade on crispy bread. We also ate at a Greek restaurant (not so on brand, but still…) where all my hummus and feta dreams came true. But we had our favourite meal at a fish bar called Le Poulpe. Seared tuna and garlic-y prawns, need I say more?!
Of course, it’s not all been plain sailing. Mishaps with shuttle buses and swollen ant bites aside, I’ve had to say goodbye to my family and friends. It’s not forever and I’m not that far away, but it stings. It’s funny how something emotional can actually feel so physical. But, as my Mum would say, I’ve got to slap myself with a wet fish, get up and get going.
So here’s to the new, the scary and the exciting. I’m ready, Jesus, for where you’re going to lead me. Here goes….