Saturday, May 12th – Day 8, Pau
Having basked in the sunshine on Friday, Saturday came as a bit of a shock to our systems. We woke to find low cloud and the Pyrenees had disappeared overnight, as they are occasionally wont to do. We hung about on the Boulevard for a short while but then found ourselves somewhat more restricted as to where we could and couldn’t go because our three day tickets only let us into the specific grandstand on Saturday and Sunday. The first race was scheduled for around 11 am so we caught the funicular down, then flogged back up to the entrance gate (what we should have done is walk down and save ourselves the need to go back up, but I’m not sure anyone’s brains were working properly at that point). I think we tend to just use the funicular because it’s there, after so many years when it would be stopped for the duration of the Grand Prix and we’d finish the day having to lug all our kit back from the press office, up the stairs over the bridge, swearing profusely all the way!
It did enable us to take a look at the Gare end of the track from the boulevard while we waited to get on so that was no bad thing.
Once we’d settled into our grandstand seats, we had a clearer view of Gare, and of the screen opposite, so at least we’d be kept informed – provided we could see through the fug of cigarette smoke from some of our fellow spectators. Actually, once the race started they weren’t too bad, apart from one man, and we had a reasonable view. Again, provided you are high enough up, the photography is not too bad.
The race went much as races here tend to, with people running out of talent all over the place…
And Safety Cars…
There was even some racing…
After the race ended we figured we’d head into the park, but it was starting to cloud over even more, and the rain was spotting here and there. By the time we’d reached Pont Oscar the sky was looking really ominous, and the temperature had dropped dramatically, so we decided that as it was lunchtime the only sensible thing to do was get indoors for a while and wait for it to blow over.
Luckily the Palais Beaumont was at hand, and as we knew, la Belle Epoque brasserie was open for a change. Apparently all this has become the norm since 2016, and like the renovation of the rue du Hedas is a very welcome development. When we first started to go to Pau in 1989 the whole place had an air of decay about it. Now that semi-benign neglect seems to be being reversed.
We snagged a table, and were joined by E, R and W. A round of aperitifs both alcoholic and non-alcoholic were procured and we settled in to study the menu as the wind whipped up outside and the rain started to hammer down. We watched the stall across the way, which had been happily selling sweets to stick children, being pretty comprehensively taken apart by the sheer force of the gale, as it howled round the park. It was good to be indoors!
After some study we decided that we would just go for a main course each, and a bottle of rose wine to go with it. I chose the linguine with beef, which was tasty if somewhat solid, the pasta having obviously been kept warm after its initial cooking, to the point that it had started to stick together in clumps.
Lynne ordered the magret de canard (no surprises there) which she seemed to enjoy well enough, though she inevitable left the salad leaves where they were.
The others went for the burger, which looked pretty good and was nicely presented, and came with rather good frites.
After we finished, we strung out drinking our wine for as long as we could, because it really didn’t seem to be improving any outside. People were scurrying past, umbrellas ripped inside out, and the noise of the wind was intensifying, so it seemed best not to rush off into it.
Besides, it was nice in the Palais, and we even found that there is an indoor garden.
Around 3pm we decided we’d really best go out so we watched the start of the Twin Cup from the Boulevard, in my case looking at them and thinking: “How many! How many! What could possibly go wrong?”
The grassy slopes of the park, which fill up with spectators who don’t want to pay for a grandstand seat, and who thus got in for €3 a day, were pretty much empty apart from a handful of the truly determined or truly insane.
And then it started to rain again, so we ran for it and bolted into the Brasserie Aragon, which had always been our rendezvous point if we got separated, and drank hot chocolate while waiting for the afternoon’s Formula 3 qualifying session to start. It gave me the chance to wrap the camera in it’s plastic sleeve and myself in a large, shapeless plastic mac, before going back out, equipped to take more photos.
In some ways, I really didn’t mind, because it does make the pictures so much more dramatic!
However, the rain really didn’t seem to want to stop, and in fact got heavier towards the end of the session.
It’s fair to say conditions were challenging, both for us and for some of the drivers!
As soon as qualifying ended we headed back to the apartment to dry out. It was good to be able to hang everything up and get into clean, dry clothing. That evening we were headed for le Dauphin on the Place des Etats, one of our favourite places to eat in the old town down near the Chateau de Pau. Normally we prefer to eat outside on their terrace but it was too cold a night to be anywhere but inside. And on going inside, who should we find but Mika Salo, who really does seem to be following us about these days. He was there with Robert Shwartzman, and his manager Peter, who swore he knew us from rallying…
Anyway, on getting settled we went for the house aperitif which is pretty much a peach flavoured kir made with Jurançon molleux, and is very pleasant indeed (we got through a second round while we waited for everyone else to arrive).
Olives and tapenade were also provided, which may have been just as well. Those aperitifs were quite powerful! Decisions were finally reached and food ordered. I ordered the fish soup, because it seemed like a good idea on an evil night. I failed to take a photo of it though. Lynne ordered the foie gras, which was excellent as ever, as well as somewhat architectural.
The others went for the peppers stuffed with salt cod.
After that the theme was duck, and more duck, at least for Lynne and for me. I went for the cassoulet, because there’s nothing better than a cassoulet for comfort food. This one was sticky, the meat juices binding the beans together, and the duck was tender, tasty and massive.
Lynne went for the confit de canard, which was good too (well you’d expect it to be given that the piece in the cassoulet was just what I’d been hoping for). This is not refined food, it’s solid home-style cooking decorated a bit, and it’s all the better for it.
The others went for salmon, which turned out to be an enormous fillet of said fish, with rice, an excellent sauce, and a smattering of vegetables…
Or prawns and scallops, an equally enormous portion…
You won’t be surprised to learn that none of us could manage a dessert! We had a chat with Mika, Robert and Peter (who invited us to come and see him at Prema the following day) and then headed out into the night.
Despite the weather there was again a great deal of noise going on at the Place Gourmande, so we sat up until they stopped, then shuttered everything fully to stop the sound of the remaining revelers who were able to keep up their shouting and singing till around 3 in the morning!