Pau (pronounced like the po in ‘podunk town’) is a small town near the Pyrenees Mountains in southern France. As with most USAC locations, you won’t find many tourists here, and you will have to learn to speak the native language, in this case French.
On par with the few European cities I have seen, Pau has an old town center, built before the US became a nation, complete with a catholic cathedral, a royal palace, a castle, and some nice cafes amidst cobble stone plazas. Outside of downtown the town opens up to individual homes on small lots, much like back home in the US.
USAC housed me for the week in a French home. My host was a pleasant French lady. Now empty nested, she enjoys hiking in the Pyrenees and buying locally grown food. Over breakfast and dinner each day I enjoyed conversation with her (she speaks excellent English), learning about the French people and Pau.
If your looking for diverse night life and abundant museums, Pau is not for you. But if you would like a peaceful time abroad in the green southwestern French countryside, this quaint town of 84,000 people may be what you’re looking for. The French here are friendly (even to Americans), and if you’re studying the French language, I am told you’ll be well received. USAC is located on a 12,000 student public university, in other words there are plenty of French students to befriend.
With the Pyrenees close by, outdoor enthusiasts will love the hiking and biking opportunities. One student raved about how wonderful the road biking was through the flat French farms, moderate foothills, and steep mountains. If you’re more inclined to sand and waves, widely renown beaches and surfing are a 1.5 hour train ride away.
The USAC staff: Robina, Ryan and Pauline, were great – thanks guys for everything! Pauline, a French student working part-time for USAC, was producer, guide, and translator for the week.
In between Bilbao and Pau I had a week off due to the gap between Spring and Summer sessions. I hung out in Bilbao for a few days relaxing, and then met up with my friend Daniel Xu to hike the Pyrenees in the tiny country of Andorra. Daniel lives in Geneva, Switzerland, so we met in Toulouse, France, and caught a bus to Andorra. Since I wasn’t shooting video, I shot lots of photos. You can see the best my photos of this beautiful country here.