Friday, 14 March 2014

A Year in Aurillac

The year abroad is, for most people, a breath of fresh air and a chance to spend some time in a foreign country absorbing their culture and broadening their own horizons. This roughly translates to finding the coolest bars, meeting as many English speaking people as you can and spending your entire erasmus grant on foreign booze. This year provides students with the opportunity to forget everything they've ever learned, including how to read/ write/ be a functioning member of society. In between schmoozing with the erasmus elite in quirky jazz bars that you wouldn't have heard of and writing a pretentious blog about how they spent all weekend reading the complete works of Kierkegaard whilst sipping an iced macchiato in the Jardin de Luxembourg, they might learn a bit of French. Maybe. If they're not too hungover after their night of drinking absinthe with a group of haunted artists in that club that doubles up as a library in the day.

You get the gist.

So why am I so scathing of my peers when I am also a year abroad student and am probably involved in relatively similar activities? The answer is simply jealously. Unfortunately for me, I was not assigned to a cultural hot spot for my year abroad and instead of forming meretricious memories that I'll be able to fondly recount at dinner parties, I am spending my precious year abroad in Aurillac. Aurillac is a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, about 2 hours from the nearest motorway where the percentage of suicides is higher than the literacy rate. The locals delicacies consist of a few variations of cheese and potatoes (sliced and fried, mashed together etc.) and tripe. As hard as I have tried to live vicariously through my various friends in Paris, Munich and Rio de Janeiro, it has been one of the toughest challenges of my life not to go insane living here. I'm not even sure I've succeeded in that on second thoughts...

Apart from it's particularly high altitude and number of people that take their own life (I assume out of sheer boredom), Aurillac is renowned for its umbrella manufacturing. The town has one club, le Bateau, which lets in children as young as 14 simply because otherwise they would not get enough custom to make a profit or fill their dismally small dance floor. They have had the same playlist playing on all 6 of my visits and the owners fully exploit the fact that you have to be off your face drunk to even have the remotest chance of enjoying yourself by charging 8 euros for a very narrow glass of vodka coke.

There is a university at the top of one of the many, many hills here but none of the students hang around during the weekend because painting the town red in Aurillac is actually more boring than watching it dry afterwards. This means that there are very few people in Aurillac my age as those who would be there have all gone off to university in the big cities and surprisingly enough they don't come home during the weekends. Probably because Aurillac is one of the world's least accessible places. I island-hopped in Indonesia with greater ease than I have had trying to escape this godforsaken town.

Despite this witheringly scornful review, Aurillac does have a couple of saving graces. Firstly is their prospering rugby club which is full of imported (and thus anglophone) players. They're usually busy training and playing matches, but on the rare occasions they happen to be out about we have had some interesting nights out together. Although trying to understand some of the accents has sometimes been pretty challenging. As has been trying to keep up with their alcohol consumption.

Secondly it is a beautiful town, surrounded by mountains with a river running through the centre and a little park right in the middle of the town square. The perfect place to raise children or wait to die. Not ideal for anyone between the ages of 14 and 30 or anyone who likes city life. However, if you want a few kodak moments there are worse places in the world to whip your camera out. They also have some crazy street festival throughout the month of August to which tourists flock in their multitudes. Unfortunately, seeing as my contract started at the beginning of October and finishes at the end of April, this is of little value to me as it is highly unlikely I will ever be returning after my emancipation date.

So in summary, Aurillac is almost certainly France's most boring town. I do not recommend ever coming here unless you want to spend your holiday looking at cows or eating the inside of their stomachs.

No comments:

Post a Comment