Travel/Food 2018 – French Road Trip, Day 9, Pau

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Sunday, May 13th – Day 9, Pau

The day started off reasonably well and it looked as if we might get some decent weather. How wrong can you be? However, the initial races of the day were run in relatively dry conditions, and we got to sit in the grandstand and be entertained!

There was much to be said for being perched where we were, especially as it’s one of the places where the optimistic driver may well try an overtaking move.

Although it’s not always easy to see the follow through that clearly!

It didn’t always work, I can tell you that.

Some of the Twin Cup runners were looking somewhat the worse for wear too.

The first F3 race of the day went fairly well too, though some people seem to prefer open-plan racing cars, and a lot of noses would need to be replaced later. The start was clean enough though.

It was after that the trouble started really.

And here’s one of those air-cooled feet jobs…

And another:

The sun came out towards the end of the race, so we headed into the paddock to see if we could find Peter over at Prema, wandering through the support race paddock over on the railway station of the Gave du Pau.

PAU 034

The old station goods yard buildings have been converted into a canvas too!


He wasn’t around so we stopped at one of the paddock stands and bought saucisse and frites for lunch, and then decided to head towards the autograph session for the Formula 3 drivers. It’s always fun watching them being rounded up; it’s rather like herding cats but possibly more difficult. The session itself was entertaining in its own quiet way, and I got some good photos so I was happy.


We managed to miss Peter at Prema, but as we’ve seen more than enough F3 teams over the years, we weren’t too worried and so we headed back to our grandstand for the start of the Grand Prix. As in previous years, there was a helicopter display beforehand, with some rather startling flying going on.


It’s certainly not the view you expect to get of a helicopter! The come from the 4th Air-Combat Brigade, with the 5th Combat Helicopter Regiment being based in Pau. It’s quite impressive when you can look up and pretty much see the pilot’s eyes.


It looked as if we might get a mildly damp race at this stage. However, the weather gods thought differently. The first laps were no problem, especially as pretty much everyone had wet weather tyres on.


We were enjoying watching the different lines people were taking – especially the one that made at least one wheel lose contact with the ground:


However, the clouds started to come back over, thicker and darker than they had been and the track conditions began to deteriorate.


You knew it was bad when cars started going off on the straights.


The Safety Car had to be scrambled, needless to say.


It got worse, with the rain absolutely hammering it down. Eventually the race was red-flagged and everyone that had survived lined up in the pits while the officials waited to see if the weather would improve. Instead it got worse and finally the decision was taking to abandon any idea of restarting it. We had predicted this would happen but we stuck it out in the grandstand until it was officially announced, after which we trudged back to the apartment and squelched around drying stuff off.

There had been a suggestion that we’d get ready for dinner and then go out and watch the final race of the day, the Formula Renault NEZ. However, having been soaked to the knickers, we’d lost the will.

As a result, we were ready for dinner far too early so Lynne, R and I staggered across the road to the wine bar, Les Contrebandiers, to get in an early aperitif and a portion or two of snack food, in the shape of some cod balls, which were lovely, and a very fine “plancha” of charcuterie. It was very impressive, and the staff were attentive and helpful.

After that we were once again dining out on the edge of the town centre, this time at l’Ardoise. It’s down a somewhat nondescript street, and it wasn’t easy to find, but it was very definitely worth it. The amuse bouches were a small portion of spelt with langoustines, lovely with seafood sweetness and a chewiness from the grains…

There was also a small portion of wild mushroom ragout, which I would have happily eaten in much larger quantities!

There was a wonderful seafood salad with potatoes and green asparagus, which went some way towards fooling us into believing that it possibly was actually summer outside!

The other starter that everyone went for was a tartare of salmon trout, with a ginger and aniseed dressing. Again, a lovely fresh thing with the tang of the sea, and perfectly soft, fresh fish, chives and dill shot through it.

The mains were pretty fabulous too. The fish of the day was a tuna steak, cooked perfectly with none of that awful, grey teeth-squeaking approach that so often gets taken in the UK, and makes me think I’m biting into a piece of kitchen foil. This was tuna as it should be, rose-coloured most of the way through, soft, tender, falling into flakes with the introduction of a fork. The seasonal vegetables included mushrooms, white asparagus, and new potatoes, along with green peppers. Lovely!

To prove that the kitchen is more than capable with fish, there was a fillet of locally caught trout, with a vegetable risotto, and an asparagus cream sauce, the skin still on the fish and cooked crisp and golden. Again, a lovely plate.

Lynne went for the locally produced lamb, again with a risotto, this time of spelt, with a wild garlic and lamb sauce. It was cooked to perfection (which was presumably why I was only permitted a single bite!) and more than made up for its apparent simplicity in taste terms.

After the tuna I couldn’t possibly manage a dessert, so I went for the cheese, which came with a very fine mirabelle jam. I love mirabelles (I’m currently trying to grow a couple of trees from the stones of some I found a few years back; they’re around a metre tall now) in any form and I love brebis cheese so I was content.

I gather those who did have dessert were more than happy too! The chocoholics in the party went for the dark chocolate brownie with nuts, cream and a supreme of blood oranges.

The exotic fresh fruit with sorbet looked fabulous, and indeed fresh, with sharp pineapple and crunchy pomegranate seeds to give contrast to the sweet sorbets.

It was a good dinner, and we wandered home happily to one more night of noise, saying goodbye to D and O, who would be returning to the UK in the morning (and were not at all jealous, really). Tomorrow we would be on the move again, back in the direction of Bordeaux. There was some serious wine buying to be done in the second week of our trip.


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