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Visiting the river known as the Gave de Pau: not at Pau, but at Lourdes, France

Updated on July 23, 2013
Flag of France
Flag of France | Source
Gave de Pau at Lourdes
Gave de Pau at Lourdes | Source
Gave de Pau at Lourdes
Gave de Pau at Lourdes | Source
Gave de Pau at Lourdes
Gave de Pau at Lourdes | Source
Hotels and the Gave de Pau, Lourdes
Hotels and the Gave de Pau, Lourdes | Source
Gave de Pau, Lourdes
Gave de Pau, Lourdes | Source

Names and places

No, the photo images on this hubpages of the scenic river known as the Gave de Pau are not at Pau: an historic city in the south-west of France.

Rather, they are all taken at another French city, 44 kilometres distant from Pau: the city of Lourdes.

So since Lourdes is probably more famous a city than is Pau, why isn't the river named for Lourdes instead of Pau?

Well, therein lies a tale. Lourdes may now be world famous for its religious shrine, but until the mid-19th century it was a small town of hardly 4000 inhabitants, which the world may be said to have passed by, and it was Pau — a significant, urban centre from Medieval times, which was deemed really to have put the river known as the Gave de Pau on the map, so to speak.

The word Gave refers to a rapid mountain river, and is a term used widely to describe watercourses in the French Pyrenees. The Gave de Pau rises high in the Pyrenees, and after its course takes it through Lourdes and Pau, it achieves a confluence with the Adour, which eventually flows into the Atlantic at the Bay of Biscay (which, interestingly, in French, is known as the Golfe de Gascogne). The total length of the Gave de Pau is 180 kilometres.

Rapids, floods and vantage points

The river passes through the Downtown area of Lourdes and some of the city's many hotels overlook it, steeply built up several stories. The river is fast flowing and passes over rapids, again, close to the Downtown area. Flooding is somewhat of a problem when rainfall in the Pyrenees is significantly higher than average.

One of the best vantage points from which the picturesque, winding Gave de Pau may be viewed — together with the 19th century Basilica — is from the city's Medieval castle (1).

Another good vantage point is the nearby Béout hill.

Lourdes is located in the Hautes-Pyrenées department of south-western France.

July 23, 2013

Lourdes from the Béout hill.
Lourdes from the Béout hill. | Source
Map location of Hautes-Pyrénées department, France
Map location of Hautes-Pyrénées department, France | Source


(1) I have described this castle in another hubpage (see links, below).

Also worth seeing

Pau (distance: 44 kilometres); the castle at Pau has historic associations with the kings of Navarre.


How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York Newark to Paris (Aéroport Paris-Charles de Gaulle ) (Paris-Lourdes road distance: 830 kilometres), from where there are also air links to Toulouse. Car rental is available at Paris and Toulouse airports. The French railroad company SNCF maintains services from Paris to Lourdes and to Toulouse. For North American travellers making the London, England area their touring base, Ryanair flies from London Stansted Airport to Carcassone (Aéroport de Carcassonne ), from where car rental is available. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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