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France Part 3: Peyrusse-le-Roc

Around the World

20 July 2017

Meeting Fabien was a good thing. From the first encounter, it was clear we had a few mutual interests. To start, we both went to university for Architecture and were both deterred in pursuing the practice for similar reasons.

He stopped going to school after three years. I finished my degree after four. He’s now working with architects and designers on a regular basis with his construction company; I’m not in the field at all—the difference between certification and qualification. If you want to do something, you do it. Don’t let a piece of paper hold you up from your dreams.

While walking through the farm one day, Fabien told me of his plans to build a simple terrace for the Little House. So in my downtime, I pulled out my tablet and drew a few sketches for him. Showing him these drawings took me down a forty-minute session of trading illustrations and seeing the entirety of his plans for the Little House unveiled. It won’t be so little once he’s done with it.

The first week of my stay, Fabien was spending all day at school finishing his current degree in agriculture. The second week, he was still busy running around town with errands to get the property ready for the upcoming tourist season. It wasn’t until the third week that we actually got to spend some time together.

One day, Fabien invited me to visit a client of his while he and a partner looked over a bathroom redesign for the property. It was nice getting a reintroduction into the architecture world like this. It’s been years since I sat down and sketched out plans for anything, and now site visits.

It’s funny where this world will take you if you just step out of the routine every once in a while. Never would I have imagined this trip would have me hanging out with a designer while working on a farm in the middle of France.

On the way back from that site visit we stopped to get a pizza, one of the only meals we had outside of the farm. We discussed various topics of life, travel, and business. He has a friend in Guatemala he wants me to meet. I’m trying to make arrangements to fly there as a final stop before hitting the US in October.

Main Street

Peyrusse-le-Roc, France

As for this post and all the pictures in it, on my last full day with Fabien, he wanted to show me one of his favorite cities in the area, Peyrusse-le-Roc.

There is a new and old part of the city, but the difference is clear. One half is standing erect with some houses newly renovated, while the other is in complete ruin. A whole section of the city in shambles. Streets and houses crumbled down to a few walls and reclaimed by nature’s green embrace.

Peyrusse-le-Roc was once the most affluent city in France. At the time, the King was trying to draw people away to Toulouse, so he offered the people to move to Toulouse in exchange for no taxes. Little by little the inhabitants left, the population dwindled, and the city came to ruin while Toulouse flourished.

This city is incredible. Winding stone-paved paths leading from one ruin to the next. Some houses are being rebuilt and renovated, but only a few close to the current, inhabited city. The further you follow the path, the further you walk into a past disconnected with modernity.

A cathedral built into the side of a mountain stands roofless, its 800-year-old walls towering with questionable integrity. The groundskeeper is the only force keeping the trees from taking over the nave and transept. Everything else remains as it is.

Our Lady of Laval

Peyrusse-le-Roc

Though the weather was rather dreary, it added to the charm in its own way. I can’t imagine what it looks like during the sunset. As such, it’s found its way onto a list of treasured places I’ve seen around the world.

It may be cliche, but it’s a place I’d happily propose to my wife in.

The next building we come across is a four-story hospital. An empty shell. I wonder how many people passed through these buildings during the inhabited timeline? How many people have passed through them since their destruction? If walls could talk.

We move further down the hill and a river tumbles along the same black stones that were used to build the city. The fairy tale vibes I felt while in France grew their strongest along this river.

Crossing the river over an old stone bridge, we completed a circuit of the ruins and trekked back up to a final mountain-top view of the city’s crown jewel, two stone towers standing atop a neighboring mountain like ancient sentries.

With a final look of admiration, we leave the ruined city and wander back into the present. It was a lovely farewell to a beautiful stay in the southern region of Aveyron.

Fabien became a good friend is the short period of time we got to know one another. I’m already making plans to visit him in the next two years, and I’m anxious to see how things progress with the Mas de Jammes over time.

• • •

A Final Evening

Toulouse, France

The next day went by faster than expected and I was back in Toulouse by early evening. I met up with my previous Couchsurfing host and her roommates. We had an evening out at an English pub watching a Wimbledon game and a late night kebab for dinner. With them, I said my goodbyes to France.

Next stop, Barcelona, Spain.

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