In Praise of Pau’s Shameless Frenchness

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

One thing I love about Pau is that you never 100% know what’s going on, or what is going to happen next.

That unknowing is owed in large part, I think, to a language barrier that neither side seems that excited to scale. But little breakdowns in communication can be fun or frustrating, depending on your sense of humor. Maybe they hand the winner a ribbon, send ’em on a victory gallop, and everybody packs up and goes home, or maybe tiny men in horse suits gallop out and the next thing you know everybody around you is line dancing. Frankly, I’d prefer the latter. Je ne sais quoi. 

We have some tools for bridging the gap. Take Google Translate, for instance. It tries so hard to be a smart technology, yet has a tendency to turn perfectly normal phrases into steaming hot piles of hilariously random speech.

Exhibit A: Google Translate’s stab at translating the Pau CCI4* dressage test. Mixed results, I’d say.

Medium walk = no way! Or this adorable Facebook translation:

And then there’s the culture itself. I do not mean to engage in undue cultural stereotyping, but there is a lot of cliché Frenchness happening around here. Like the jog-side smoking section:

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

I wish I’d taken a photo of it, but I swear I saw a mustachioed man smoking a cig while biking the cross country course.

And I’ve gotten honked at a LOT while driving — I’m sure I deserved most of it but come on, throw the clueless American a tiny bone. Your roads are hard.

And you, mademoiselle, are cranky.

The last time I was here in 2015, I tried to capture Pau’s French vibes in this music vid:

Foux du fafa. Go Eventing.

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