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'TWIXT FRANCE AND SPAIN;
Or, A Spring in the Pyrenees
E. ERNEST BILBROUGH.
[Illustration: MAP OF THE PYRENEES
(To accompany "TWIXT FRANCE & SPAIN")
With the Principal Peaks, Rivers & Roads.]
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"
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
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
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
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
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
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
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"--
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
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.
[Illustration: THE TOWER OF MONCADE, ORTHEZ.]
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
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
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.
[Illustration: PAU (FROM THE JURANCON SIDE OF THE GAVE).]
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
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
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
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.
[Illustration: THE CASTLE COURTYARD.]
In the "Grand Reception Room," in which the massacres took place in
1569, is a fine mosaic table and Sevres vases, besides the Flanders
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.
[Illustration: IN THE CASTLE PARK.]
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
The Castle is very old, though the square tower dates from the 14th
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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"
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,
"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--
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
I will not mount the Monne's height, or tread the gentle
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
Than ever mount, my donkey steed, upon thy back again.
Perchance in _nightmare's_ fitful dreams thou'lt amble into
Perchance once more thy cunning eye will turn on me its
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
Or sharply thrust a pointed stick against thy shaggy side,
That the slow blood that in thee runs would quicken once
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
Creeping at snail's pace only--while I couldn't make thee
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
As though to make me think thee ill and fill my soul with
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
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
I took their _kind_ advice, but oh! their _kind_ advice was
Who said I'd gladly give thee up? Who said that thou
'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
After such a potent warning posterity will doubtless avoid "donkey
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
"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
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
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.
Campan is a curious old town, with a quaint marketplace, whose roof
rests on well-worn stone pillars. Turning a corner, we came on a
somewhat mixed collection of men, women, oxen, and logs of wood.
The French flag was fixed against a tree, and painted on a board
underneath it were the familiar words, "debit de tabac," with an
arrow or two pointing round the corner, but no tobacco shop was in
The peasants thronged the windows as we drove down the street, but
the greater number were weird and decrepit females, with faces like
the bark of an ancient oak-tree.
The old church, which stands near the market-place is well worth a
visit. Passing under an archway on the right side of the road, we
entered a court-yard, in which stands a marble statue erected in
honour of the late cure, and on the right of this is the entrance
into the church.
After leaving Campan the road ascends slightly through several
small hamlets, each possessing a proportionately small chapel at
the wayside, till Ste. Marie (2965 ft.) is reached. Here the road
bifurcates, the branch to the right leading to Gripp, Tramesaigues,
the Col du Tourmalet, and Bareges; the branch to the left, along
which we continued, to the Col d'Aspin, Arreau, Borderes, Col de
Peyresourde (5070 ft.), and Luchon (2065 ft.). From Ste. Marie the
grandeur of the scenery increases. Besides the Montaigu and the Pic
du Midi on the right, on the left are the Pene de l'Heris (5226
ft.) and the Crete d'Ordincede (5358 ft. about), with their wooded
crests uplifted above the range of lower hills, dotted with the
huts of the shepherds. Still ascending slightly, we passed Payole
(3615 ft.), where a head thrust out of the window of the Hotel de
la Poste showed us it was at any rate occupied, and as we drove
past at a good pace, visions of a pleasant tea rose before us.
[Illustration: THE PINE FOREST NEAR THE COL D'ASPIN.]
We were soon mounting the zigzags through the splendid pine woods,
and enjoyed the delicious glimpses down the deep moss-grown glades,
with the scent of the rising sap in our nostrils. The glimpses on
the mountains up and down the road were very felicitous also. On
emerging from the forest the road was rather narrow for the
carriage for several yards, the snow being two to three feet deep
on either side, but as soon as this was passed, another three-
quarter mile of open driving brought us to the Col d'Aspin (4920
ft.). The view from this spot is very fine, but to really enjoy the
scenery to the fullest extent, we mounted the crest on the left,
called the Monne Rouge (5759 ft.), and were well rewarded.
Although, as too often happens, the highest peaks were in the mist,
we could see the whole extent of the valleys, and the tops of the
lower mountains. The range of sight is magnificent; the Maladetta
(10,866 ft.) only just visible to the east, the huge Posets (11,047
ft.) standing out frowningly to the south-south-east, as well as
the Pez (10,403 ft.) and the Clarabide (10,254 ft. about), and many
others. While not only the valley of Seoube, just passed through,
and the valley of Aure, in which Arreau lies, are visible, but to
the northwest even the plain of the Garonne as well. As the clouds
were gradually obscuring the scene, we made our way at a smart pace
through the pines back towards the inn at Payole. One weather-
beaten old fir, hung with lichen, devoid of all its former garb of
green, seemed to appeal to us for pity; we noticed it both when
ascending and descending, and its misery at dying when all the
trees around were growing anew, we have set down as
"THE PLAINT OF THE WEATHER-BEATEN PINE."
Behold I stand by the Aspin road, an old and worn-out Pine,
The years I cannot recollect that make this life of mine:
The snows have fallen o'er my crest, the winds have whistled
For tens of years the winter's frost I managed to defy;
But now the fiat has gone forth, the flame of life is dead,
And nevermore I'll feel the storms that beat about my head.
I've watch'd the carriage travellers pass so gaily on their
I've heard the capercailzie's note at early dawning grey;
But now, alas! my doom is sealed, I have not long to wait,
For when the axe has laid me low the fire will be my fate.
Farewell to sun, farewell to storm, to birds and travellers all,
--Oh sad to think that one so great should have so great a
As some of the party had gone on earlier, we found the table spread
when we reached the Inn de la Poste; and after a warm at the
kitchen fire proceeded to discuss the repast, of which the
following is the _menu_:--
* * * * *
Remains of Cold Chicken. Remains of Pate de Foie Gras.
Household _Bread_--very sour.
Apples and Oranges.
WINES AND LIQUEURS.
Vin Ordinaire, Water with very little Whisky, Kirschwasser.
We were unable to procure any addition to our meal from the
innkeeper, except sour bread and sugar. Our tea had to be drank
without milk, as the cow had gone for a stroll up the mountain and
was out of reach of the post-office. Having suggested to our host
that a telegram might be of use, he disappeared grinning, and in
about ten minutes the servant entered with a bottle containing the
precious liquid. The shout of joy that rose to the rafters rather
startled the quiet female, but it was spontaneous, not to be
suppressed, and told of a happy finish to our not over sumptuous
The drive from thence home was decidedly chilly, but nothing
exciting happened, though occasional glimpses of the snow peaks
were enjoyed, and many fine specimens of the genus bovus, dragging
carts laden with trees (or all that remained of them), were passed
by the way.
The entire excursion occupied six hours and a half.
A few days afterwards our sociable circle at the hotel was much
reduced, and among others the Clipper family departed. We missed
Mr. Clipper greatly, for though bearing strong evidence to Darwin's
theory about the face, he was a chatty companion and capital
"raconteur," while his facility for remembering names, even of
places visited in his youngest days, was really remarkable.
Nor could we easily spare the four sylph-like Misses Clipper, for
with them vanished all hopes of delicious music in the evening. Ah,
that was music! The way they played together the "Taking of Tel-el-
Kebir" took us by storm. The silent march through the dead of
night, the charge, the cheers, the uncertain rifle fire, and then
the thunder of the cannon was so effective, that the landlord rose
in haste from his dinner, and anxiously inquired if the pier-glass
had fallen through the piano; reassured, he went back to his meal,
but whether the "taking of the redoubt," or the "pursuit of the
fugitives," or even the capital imitation of the bagpipes--which
followed in due course--interfered with his digestion (it might
have been a regard for his piano), we never learnt, but his face
showed unmistakable signs of annoyance for the rest of the evening.
The next morning--which was Saturday--Miss Leonards, Mrs.
Willesden, and myself took a walk to the villages of Aste and
Gerde. They lie on the opposite side of the river Adour, and are
within an easy walk. The market people were coming in a continuous
stream along the Campan road, some in long carts crowded sardine-
like, some in traps, some on donkeys, but the majority on foot. We
stopped two of the most crowded carts and asked them to make room
for us. The inmates of the former took it as a joke and drove off
chuckling; but those in the second took the matter-of-fact view and
began squeezing about, till, having a space of about four inches by
three, one man said he thought they could manage; however, not
wishing to "sit familiar," we thanked him, but declined to trouble
him any further.
The first bridge over the river, built of stone, leads to Gerde and
Aste, but we preferred to take the longer route, which continues
along the Campan road, till, after passing several smaller wooden
bridges, it turns to the left between two houses over an iron
bridge, and strikes straight into Aste. Before entering the town we
glanced over in the direction of Campan, and caught a fine glimpse
of the Houn Blanquo (6411 ft.), and the Pic du Midi, with a bit of
the Montaigu. Aste is interesting, formerly a fief of the Grammont
family; it has been associated with not a few celebrated
characters, and though that does not enhance the value of the
surrounding property (since the Grammont estate is now in the
market), yet of course it renders the village more worthy of a
The picturesque and ivy-covered ruin is all that remains of the
feudal castle where Gabrielle d'Estrelle [Footnote: So the oldest
inhabitant said!] lived and loved, and whither the renowned Henry
IV. (the object of that love) came over from his castle at Pau on
The church, with its Campan marble porch, is celebrated for the
image of the Virgin which it contains, and which is greatly
reverenced in the neighbourhood.
Aste was honoured with a long visit from Pitton de Tournefort, a
celebrated French naturalist, and the fact is commemorated by an
engraved tablet affixed to the house in which he passed his nights.
The tablet is on the left-hand side of the main street (going
towards Gerde), and the inscription--which is in verse--runs as
"Pitton de Tournefort dans cet humble reduit,
De ses fatigues de jour se reposait la nuit.
Lorsqu' explorant nos monts qu'on ignorait encore,
Ce grand homme tressait la couronne de flore."
Which might be translated--
"Pitton de Tournefort when tired for the day,
In this hole made his bed, on a shakedown of hay.
Our hills, long despised, he was pleased to explore,
And we thank him for lib'rally paying the score!"
Taking the path leading to the right, we managed by dint of a
little wading to reach Gerde, a village possessing little internal
interest besides the neat church, but otherwise known to fame from
the "palomieres," or pigeon-traps, worked between the trees which
fringe the hills above it. During the autumn, when the pigeons are
migrating, huge nets are spread between the trees, and on the approach
of a flock, men, perched in a lofty "crow's nest," throw out a large
wooden imitation of a hawk, at the sight of which the pigeons dip in
their flight and rush into the nets, which--worked on the pulley
system--immediately secure them. There are three species taken in the
traps: the wood pigeon, the ringed wood pigeon, and the wild dove.
Leaving Gerde by the principal thoroughfare, we came back to
Bagneres by the Toulouse road, passing the Cattle Market--held in a
triangular space shaded with trees--on the left; and the Geruzet
Marble Works, and later the Parish Church, on the right.
[Illustration: PALOMIERES DE GERDE.]
With the exception of the baths or Thermes, we did not find many
places of interest in the town. The old Jacobin tower, surmounted
by a clock, in the Rue de l'Horloge, is all that remains of a
convent built in the 15th century, but is in a good state of
preservation. The theatre is part of what was formerly the "Chapel
of St. John," used by the Templars. The porch over the doorway was
erected in the 13th century, and is of the Transition style,
utterly incongruous to the use now made of it; but this kind of
sacrilege is unhappily now becoming of common occurrence! Leaving
the theatre, in a short space we were in the "Place des Thermes,"
where the New Casino is being built among the shrubs on the right.
The "Grand Etablissement," which occupies the centre of the
"Place," contains seven different springs, and there is another in
the circular building outside, the latter being only used for
drinking purposes. On the first floor of the building are the
library (to the left), the geological room (in the centre), and the
picture gallery (to the right). The corridors leading to the first
and last are panelled with good specimens of the Pyrenean marbles,
and in the same room with the pictures is a supposed model of a
section of the Pyrenees--anybody gaining any information from it
deserves a prize.
To the left of this establishment stands the "Hospice Civil," a
fine building in grey stone.
The Carmelite Church, on the left of the road leading to Mount
Olivet, where several pleasant villas are situated, is now closed,