Wednesday, March 11, 2015

20 minutes in Espalion

Espalion reflecting in the Lot river

Spring finally sprang this weekend, which made me want to get out and go anywhere and everywhere.

On Sunday, besides taking a nice hike on the nature paths around my house, I made a lightening-quick visit to nearby Espalion: population about 4,300.

Espalion is one of Aveyron's larger villages, or smaller towns, and every time I head north to it, I tell myself I should go more often.

Unique indeed....

Espalion has plenty of personality. It is home to a most unusual museum, Le Musée du Scaphandre, which somehow sounds much better in French than "The Diving Suit Museum."

I'm not sure if it's the only diving suit museum in the world, but I would bet that it's the only one housed in a church.

So why is this off-beat museum here? 

According to Wikipedia: Benoît Rouquayrol was born on June 13, 1826, at Espalion... In 1864, with the help of the French Navy lieutenant Auguste Denayrouze (also of Aveyron), Rouquayrol created the first diving suit. This diving suit won the gold medal at the 1867 World's Fair, and drew the attention of author Jules Verne. Verne included the diving suit in his fictional depiction of a contemporary submarine voyage, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.
Rouquayrol died on November 14, 1875 at Rodez, Aveyron, France.
So that is how we have ended up with a diving suit museum in Aveyron. 
I've been there before, but I think it is time for a new visit once the museum opens for the tourist season.

Aveyron or Provence? 

Much like Rodez, Espalion does not display an overwhelming degree of architectural unity. 

Definitely Aveyron -- not Provence

But I find this fascinating, and would like to know of the history behind the many different architectural styles of the area.

A cool book shop

There is a lovely little bookshop in Espalion and, given the problems independent booksellers are having here -- as everywhere -- I vowed to come back on a Saturday and buy a few paper books. 

A new word for me...

Boulangerie, sandwicherie, boucherie, crêperie...I thought I knew every word ending in -erie for a French food establishment. 

How could I have missed "Tarterie"? 

This looks like another good reason to go back to Espalion on a Saturday...


Sarah said...

What a delightful looking place. That museum looks fascinating! I'm sure it must be the only one in the world, and I love the connection to Jules Verne.

Rebecca Beesley said...

my goodness these photos are stunning. I especially love the ones with reflections - amazing! x

Betty Carlson said...

Rebecca -- On your next trip to France, you should check out Aveyron. It is, of course, not Paris but people who come nearly always love it. However, a car is really needed to get around.

Jeanmi said...

Je suis devenu Aveyronnais par mariage (à Conques) depuis 46 ans. Malheureusement c'est devenu un département en voie de sous-développement, coupé des grandes voies de communication, pas un seul kilomètre d'autoroute, abandon des dessertes SNCF. Essayez donc d'aller de Marseille à Decazeville par le train !...

Perpetua said...

I love the thought of the inventors of the diving suit both originating in Aveyron. Your photo of the houses by the river is simply stunning! I love the jumble of roof levels.

Betty Carlson said...

Jeanmi : C'est vrai, depuis que j'y habite, 1995, ils parlent de désenclavement mais ce n'est pas encore fait, même si la route Rodez-Albi ne cesse de s'améliorer. Et puis "pas un seul kilomètre d'autoroute" n'est plus vrai, il y a l'A75 avec le viaduc de Millau qui facilite quand même la montée à Paris ou la descente à Montpellier -- mais certes en voiture, et assez loin de Decazeville, je vous l'accorde!

Betty Carlson said...

Perpetua -- I'm interested in getting back to that museum. I haven't been in years and maybe there has been some remodeling or other work done to it. It is really an off-beat place.

I agree, the view of the Lot river with those houses along it is a classic. Espalion is also on my banner photo for the blog.

Phoebe @ Lou Messugo said...

The first photo of the houses on the river looks decidedly un-French I think, though I don't know where it looks like. Very unusual at any rate and certainly very beautiful. You keep showing me more and more of Aveyron that I need to explore.

Betty Carlson said...

Phoebe -- That is an interesting comment, that the first photo looks un-French. My banner photo is also of Espalion, with a view onto the bridge I was standing on to take the photo you are referring to. (if you can follow that.) Does the banner photo look French to you? Just curious.