Monday, February 27, 2006

On Pins and Feathers

Aveyron has not yet been hit by bird flu, but the news of 11,000 turkeys being culled in the Ain department (East Central France) has sent a shiver through the farming community. What will be the consequences of an outbreak here? The area's inhabitants now seem more worried about economic consequences on the agricultural sector than about a global flu pandemic.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Floating Over Millau

Aveyron has a lot of remarkable sites, and now we can add the Millau Viaduct to the list of places to see. I have driven back and forth over it twice, but of course when driving, one doesn't get a feel of the height. Sometimes, though, I quickly glimpse down and see the town of Millau far, far below.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Four days in Montpellier -- not in Kansas anymore!

I hadn't been out of Aveyron for four months, and breaking out of La France Profonde had become an almost physical necessity. So, what did I notice about the big city of Montpellier?

1. Surprising architecture. One would expect Montpellier to be colorful and vaguely Provençal, but it actually appears more Parisian. Was I really in the South?
2. Gays. They are somehow still invisible in la France Profonde, although I wonder how long that situation can last. The Montpellier Tourism Office caters directly to gay tourists, something we're not going to be seeing soon in Rodez!
3. Sandwiches. Along with crêpes, pizzas and hamburgers, that seems to be what the largely student population is eating around the Place de la Comédie and in the tramway.
4. Films in English, thank heavens! A group of alternative movie houses, the Diagonal, shows ALL foreign films in their original version, which is a once-a-week treat here in Rodez.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Save Our Trains!

France has a reputation for excellent rail service, but concerns over profitability threaten many of the less travelled rural lines. Over 700 people demonstrated on Saturday in Aveyron to protest against the planned elimination of the "Aubrac train" that travels from Paris to Béziers through Clermont-Ferrand. It crosses the Aubrac plateau as it goes south, the only train to do so. Already Rodez has had to fight to keep its night train to Paris.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Virtual Tour of Aveyron

In the 11 years we have lived in Aveyron, we have had a number of guests from the USA, and all of them have been entranced by the natural beauty of the region. Sometimes they have had big plans to travel down to Provence -- after all, it's only three hours away -- only to find themselves taken in by the quiet charm of this little known department. To see what I'm talking about, you can take a virtual tour of Aveyron on the local Tourism Office site. Quality is variable, but you will get a good overall view of the layout and attractions of the region.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Getting Out of La France Profonde: Montpellier

It's been a long winter, and I haven't set foot outside of Aveyron since late October. So it is definitely time for a getaway to a big city: Montpellier beckons. Last year my daughters and I stayed with a friend there for a few nights during the February school holiday, and we're ready for a repeat of the cultural, and commercial, experience. Tomorrow we will cross the Millau viaduct to a more sophisticated, more Mediterranean world.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Buy a Hamlet?

I'm always surprised at the number of Europeans who own summer homes. Often the houses are part of the family heritage, but sometimes people buy into them. It is even conceivable to purchase a whole "hameau" -- hamlet, or small village -- as this article from the magazine l'Express indicates. Six families from Bruges went in together to buy this hamlet in Aveyron , and are now able to drink their apéritif together on the town square.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Aveyron Tourist Attractions

Aveyron is an area of great natural beauty, but also contains a lot of impressive cultural and architectural sites. In the next few weeks on this blog, we will take a tour of these sites one by one, so that you will know what you could do on a vacation in Aveyron. (Photo of Rodez cathedral courtesy of Tom Smith-Vaniz)

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Shopping Center Wars

Ever since we have lived in Aveyron, we have been aware of a persistent rumor: there will soon be a Décathlon superstore in the Rodez area. This time, though, there is some truth to the matter: on February 22nd, the Commission Départementale d'Equipement Commercial will vote on whether to allow the construction of a 16,855 square meter shopping center that would include a Décathlon superstore, among others. The local Chamber of Commerce, one of the six members of the commission, just announced it will vote against the project, but the mayors of Rodez, the Rodez district, and neighboring Onet-le-Château will likely vote for it. Rodez is currently without a huge suburban chain store zone, but for how long?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Winter in Shades of Grey and White

In Aveyron, we have a real winter. To me, it's one of the advantages of the region, but once February arrives, the season gets to feeling long and grey. Here is the view from my living room window today: winter in shades of grey and white.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Aveyron on TV

Decazeville, Aveyron's half-abandoned mining town, will be featured tonight in a program on the Arte TV channel. The show, entitled Où sont passés les ouvriers, will discuss the struggles of the Decazeville miners over the past 40 years. For the photo source, click here; it's an interesting site with photos of postcards from all over France.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Bosch: Cautious Optimism

The number one employer in Aveyron is the Bosch factory, which produces diesel engine parts for Volkswagen. Recently VW announced that they would discontinue the use of these parts in three years, leaving the Rodez area to wonder -- and worry -- about the future of the plant. In this age of outsourcing and globalisation, manufacturing plants are by definition fragile affairs, and the cancellation of a huge contract would seem to be cause for pessimism. Not so. My friends who work at the plant tell me they aren't even thinking or talking about the issue, and other locals who should know assure me everybody is very optimistic that a new production activity will be found. Let's hope that's the case, because the loss of up to 2,000 jobs in the area would be an unbearable blow to the local economy.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Getting Out of La France Profonde: Toulouse

In Aveyron, there is a lot of talk of enclavement and désenclavement: being hemmed in and opening up to the outside world, respectively. The nearest big cities, Toulouse and Montpellier, are two hours away. Of the two, we prefer Toulouse for a big city getaway. To see more of this beautiful city, you can go to an excellent blog with daily photos of la Ville Rose.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Tragedy for Aveyron Farms

Last weekend's snowstorm was no more than an adventure for most of us here in Aveyron, but for some farmers, it became a tragedy of disastrous proportions. Over 40 barn rooves collapsed in the area, killing 974 sheep, 6,300 rabbits and 1,400 ducks. Fortunately the snowstorm brought about few, if any, human casualties: one man was found dead in his car in St. Affrique in Aveyron, but it is not clear if the death was caused directly or indirectly by the snow.