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400 Day LETS Odyssey
Copyright � James Taris

JAMES TARIS around the World- (2003-4)

The Bre family.

FRANCE - Aurillac (1 week)
Week 14 of World Tour

Tall Man In An Attic

Francois came to pick me up at the station as promised. He seemed happy enough to see me, but when I put my hand out to shake his, he totally ignored it, then leant over and gave me a big hug. From that moment on I realised that I was back amongst family again.

Yaou, Francois' young wife, was also happy to see me. And after the traditional French welcome, 3 kisses on the cheeks, I was introduced to the newest member of the household, little Madeleine Mahatma Bre. At 3 months old, she was only 2 months younger than her sister, Maina, was when I visited there exactly 12 months ago.

That was during Aurillac's famous 5 day Street Performers Festival which grows the town's population from just 50,000 people to up to 150,000. Francois takes advantage of this period to fill his house with guests. At least a dozen manage to sleep indoors in one of his numerous beds while the others set up their tents in the back yard. This year Francois had 22 guests in his home, so I'm glad I postponed my visit this year until the week after the festival had finished.

So I had 3 floors of beds to choose from. Maybe it was the 'child' in me, but I decided on sleeping in the attic. I'd never slept in an attic before (isn't that every child's dream?), so up to the attic I went. But then I had to choose from 4 beds. The larger room had 3 beds in it, all of which were just matresses on the floor, but the smaller room had a double bed on slats. So I chose to sleep in the smaller room.

But I soon realised I'd made the wrong decision, because it's dangerous up there! In fact, it made such an impression on me that I coined a new quote .

"As dangerous as a tall man in an attic." (James Taris)

As you may have just guessed, I banged my head on the roof beams on more than one occasion. In fact, it was 4 times to be precise. And after the 2nd night, I even changed beds, because on the 2nd morning I got an acute backache and could hardly move at all for most of that day. I didn't go very far, just to the double bed in the larger attic room, but the change seemed to be for the best, though I was more careful whenever I came near those dreaded lower roof beams.

But Aurillac has much more to do than just with my sleeping arrangements.

Aurillac is a very tranquil city high in the southern mountains of France, with a beautiful central shopping area with narrow streets and beautifully presented boutique shops. The buildings are centuries old, but well preserved. I couldn't resist buying a chocolate coissant (1.3 euros or AUD$2) but after deciding to have a cup of hot chocolate in a French Café, I quickly walked out again after noticing one of the customers smoking. In my home state of Victoria (Australia) last year, it became illegal for customers to smoke in cafes and restaurants where food is being served, and I've become so used to eating and drinking in a smoke-free environment that now I find it hard to tolerate smokers while dining.

Beautiful hues in the Cantal Mountain backdrop.

A couple of Francois' friends, Terry and Ida, came to visit, and they also took us for a drive into the countryside. Aurillac is famous for its hills and volcanic mountains. This was the first week of spring and the hills were a beautiful blend of rich green and brown colours. We stopped along the way to collect what was left of this season's wild blackberries, and we also visited the local Grotte, or small cave, which used to have a thatched house built around it back in the 18th century.

But while I'm travelling, I'm more interested in the people I stay with and what happens all around them. Like the grey and white cat that (every morning) jumps 1 metre (3 ft.) up onto the kitchen door, hooking its paws around the iron moulding, begging for us to let it in and give it some food. And the small wooden barrier Francois uses to keep the chicken out of the basement accommodation, because it isn't 'house-trained'. And the swinging basinet that Francois made for Madeleine, using 4 bicycle straps suspended from a hook in a roof beam, which he suspends directly above his bed, and which proves successful every time she needs to be rocked to sleep. And the "Liberta" (Freedom) graffiti sign which Francois wrote on a wooden gate after last year's graffiti sign was removed. And the black texta complaint he wrote on the park notice sign, when he found it almost impossible to push Madeline's pram along the stone paths. He wrote, "Danger, this park is not safe for prams." And Francois' addiction to signing petitions. If someone is petitioning against something, you can bet that Francois will want to be part of it too.

But on Saturday morning I was on the internet, or more precisely, on www.afl.com.au. Collingwood (my team) was playing Brisbane in its first finals game, AND WE KICKED THEIR BUTTS !

Ah, some memories will just never fade.

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

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