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400 Day LETS Odyssey
Copyright � James Taris

JAMES TARIS around the World- (2003-4)

And on my right is the building (ex-hotel) where Napoleon stayed after escaping
from Elba Island in 1815.

FRANCE - Sisteron (1 week)
Week 13 of World Tour

Sleeping In Napoleon's Bed

And I've got a photo to prove it!

Sisteron is a small town of only 7,000 people, and I was fortunate to end up in an old building in the centre of town with an interesting history.

Back in 1815, after Napolean Bonaparte had escaped from exile on the isle of Elba, he made his way north into France and on March 15th he settled for one night in . my bed! Well, maybe not the very same bed, but definitely in the same building, because there's an official plaque mounted on the wall beside the front door. He was caught soon afterwards (not in Sisteron) and exiled on another island where he eventually saw out the rest of his days. But this short moment of freedom was enough to give me the opportunity of being in the same place, though at a different time, as that of a great man in history.

I was only in Sisteron for 5 days. I'd come to have my play translated into French, but once I realised the task was going to take much longer, I abandoned the idea until I could allocate more time to it.

With the La Provence reporter who wrote an article about me and my play.

My presence attracted the attention of the local newspaper, and an article (including photo) appeared soon afterwards in that newspaper. In fact, the journalist and my host were so impressed with my play (I gave a small private performance) that the Greek Consulate of Marseille was contacted and it was suggested to them that they should consider financing me to return to Sisteron and give a series of performances to the high schools in the district.

Apart from working on my play, I did get a chance to see some of the sites. Sisteron is in a valley, with a wide river and steep mountains on either side. It is very popular with rock climbers who come to scale the smooth vertical walls of the mountains which are only a few metres from the river's edge. In fact, it's more common to see these climbers suspended from ropes on the rockfaces rather than seeing the rockfaces bare.

The Sisteron Castle, at the top of the hill, reminded me of Athens' Acropolis.

The castle (yes, another castle!) is in the city centre, and even though I didn't get to go inside, the view of the castle from a distance was quite picturesque.

And the view from my bedroom window was also magic. I can't remember ever taking so many photos from my bedroom window, or spending so much time just looking out of my window.

One morning I got up just before sunrise and simply observed the town as it woke up. My bedroom window was on the 4th floor, so it looked out the back of the building, over the river and across to the adjacent mountain. Hundreds of pigeons flew back and forth from the rooftops and cavities in the houses' rock walls, closely monitored by a single Siamese cat on the roof far below me. It focused at length on a pigeon perched on the roofs guttering, but wisely decided not to take a leap at it because it would've meant a long drop for both of them to the hard road below.

Three fishermen cast their fishing-rods into the river. Later I noticed 7 rods leaning against the river's rock wall and the fishermen gathered together having a chat. I wondered how they'd know if any of the rods had hooked a fish, then it became very clear to me. The fatter of the 3 fishermen grabbed one of the rods and began to reel it in. He didn't seem too excited so I figured he hadn't caught anything yet. But once he raised the hook out of the water, loaded with a very big and heavy lead sinker, he prepared to cast it back in the river again. But first he removed the bells fixed to the tip of the rod! These bells would obviously sound when a fish became hooked on the line and struggled to get free. But these bells would also go flying off the rod if they weren't removed before casting the line back into the water.

A young lady placed a couple of rubbish bags into the large dump master (garbage bin), then after spotting a few empty coke cans, collected them and dumped them in the bin as well. Soon she walked into the adjacent house, so she was simply cleaning up her own backyard.

The climbers had also arrived and begun their quest to reach the top of the mountain's wall. And I was starting to get hungry. After all, I'd been spying on these people for nearly an hour now, and it was way past my breakfast time.

This article is taken from the ebook,
400-Day LETS Odyssey

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