Little House in France, Saint-Flour

Kitchen table, Rue Sorel, Saint-Flour, Cantal, France

...........”My” little house- built about the time of the Revolution between the buttresses of a church...

The setting...................the market...................Trash and treasure here includes busts of Beethoven, Limoge vases, statuettes of Romulus and Remus.............................the shops..........................the neighbours......................................


I believe that when what you expect doesn’t happen, then something new can happen instead. Lots of new stuff happened since I left Nova Scotia!

Half way across the Atlantic realised that I hadn’t filled the rental car with gas before returning it and that I’d probably paid a bomb because of it. Today I found the key to my room at Canning still in my Jeans pocket! Oops.

Several people I know hate Heathrow Airport (near London), but I actually enjoyed it. Flying over London : red rooves and nicely behaved parallel and right angled roads and town-houses with neighbours side-by-side-by-side, meandering brown River Thames , London Eye (which I haven’t figured out yet) , bridges, parks, the odd palace.

At the airport I had to get to Terminal 5 and I had to take a TRAIN to get there! It was free, not hard to get to, a nuisance not being able to continue with the trolley my bags were stacked on, but a hoot as we were warned to “Hang On!!!” before it lurched hysterically into motion. The trip took 4 minutes, according to the (necessarily) short film that was played to us, in which a very friendly and nicely dressed young man who seemed truly chuffed about the train we were on, suggested we check the safety procedures on the card in the pocket on the seat in front of us then showed us a quick Creature Comforts video. There was hardly time enough to read the card let alone have an emergency.

Once at Terminal 5 I managed to grab a seat and lie down for a bit of sleep while I waited to find out what gate the flight to Paris would leave from. would take 10 minutes to get to A gates, 15 to B gates, 20 to C gates. And the gates were only announced 40 minutes before the flight was due to take off I discover it would require a lift and a train to get to the gate! No film, but we arrived with lots of time to spare.

I had managed a meal and enjoyed hearing the British accents all around- it felt like I was in The Bill, or Dr Who.

Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport looked relatively shabby after the flashily upgraded Heathrow and aspiring flashily upgraded Halifax. Luggage collected, I looked for the Navette (shuttle) promised on the Hotel internet site. I got to practise my French quite a bit as I discovered there was no such thing. I would learn that the shuttle only takes people TO the airport. Bus into the Gare de Lyon (Rail Station) where I haphazardly made my way to the Hotel by an unintentionally circuitous route (as my French improves, the distances when I follow directions will shorten)- smaller backpack on my back, one wheeled backpack and one suitcase rolling along computer’s teeth were rattling...over picturesque cobblestones...with a few updated directions sought along the way. The shuttle would have known where to go!

Small, claustrophobic, functional hotel room. Dinner at a sidewalk cafe sipping Semillon. Two Semillons! (Do two Semillons make one Llon?)

Next day back to Gare de Lyon to catch my train south. I didn’t quite understand directions at first but found the platform and train and my seat. I felt utterly happy and comfortable. Until the two charming women pointed out that I was in their seat. Right seat, right car, right day, wrong month! My ticket had been issued for September instead of August!!!!

Found le Conducteur who eventually found me a new seat, The silver lining, it was facing forward and the original seat had been facing backwards...but for an extra 15 Euros!

We reached Claremont-Ferrand (I LOVED the countryside and villages and wonderful fairytale houses along the way) where the rest of the journey would be completed by bus, but by the time I discovered where the bus left from, I’d missed it. No matter, my ticket was re-issued for a train AND bus later that day.

I learned how to get Madeleines (special French pastry) from a vending machine, how to get money from a teller machine enclosed in a locked glass booth, how to Compost (stamp) a rail ticket (I have no idea why), how to discuss tipping and Australia with a man at the next table (Australia is a rich country, non? Interesting question...) and how to use an automatic toilet: First you surreptitiously watch for as long as it takes to have watched enough others figure it out to have some idea what to do.
Next, you approach the booth cautiously, and insert 50 centimes. You are allowed in, do whatever you need to do (even with all of your bags squeezed and stacked in with you), then turn around (even with all of your bags squeezed and stacked in with you)(if you’re a girl, boys are probably already facing the right way) and insert your hands into a cubby-hole into which water flows to wash them (the French are always on about “Wash your hands”) then, miraculously you aren’t electrocuted with your luggage as hot air now issues with Boeing gusto from the cubby-hole and with which you dry your hands. The interior of the booth is all metal. A sign tells you that you have 15 minutes maximum. And if one were to exceed that time? Once you exit and close the door behind you, there’s an almighty swooshing and churning and sucking as the booth hoses itself out. Presumably, after 15 minutes, it hoses itself out whether you’re still in there or not.

The train I had been waiting for arrived. I was to change to the bus at Massiac. Halfway there, we were told that the train would now terminate (it always worries me when they say that...) and there was now a bus to take me to my bus. The longer this journey went on, the smaller segments it was breaking into and the more vehicles I was requiring.

The flat cultivated countryside with patchwork fields and dotted higglety-pigglety villages had changed into rolling hills as the first bus headed south. My bag had been pushed by other bags into some nether regions and I wondered at one point if the driver actually believed me that it was there when it was time to change to the “car” (bus) to Saint-Flour. This final (I hoped) bus chugged and climbed up the highway to the highest village in France, Saint-Flour, where umbrellas were once made.

I asked if I could get a taxi from the now defunct rail station bus terminal to the upper city where my little house is...and the driver said he’d take me there! Once at the Ville Haute (Upper city) he showed me where to go on my little map, so with a “Merci”, off I trundled, my various wheels bumping over the picturesque cobblestones again, several confusions and back-tracking, then there it was, in front of me! Little window boxes full of geraniums, and a baguette and bottle of red wine on the table!

Today, all in French, I wandered, ate at a restaurant, didn’t buy a little marble head of a cow, had a tiny delicious coffee and connected to the internet, bought the local paper and carried it under my arm, eavesdropped on conversations and chatted slightly with two women commenting on the infantile behaviour of the young lad on the noisy dirt-bike racing around the narrow streets. I also believe I now know how to get a new SIM card for my phone and prepaid credit for when I hire a car and need to be prepared for emergencies. At least, that’s what I WAS in French...time for an evening meal.

Ah, bonjour France!..................................................................