The UK has been like home to me for all these years and I often used to hear anecdotes on the glamour of the South of France from those who has been there. Names often tell us a lot and one need not be an expert on general knowledge to stir up a bright concoction of glitz filled starry images in the mind when the mention of places like Cannes, St. Tropez and Monte Carlo pop up. Yes that’s the French Rivera, the famed millionaire’s pad where money can make you the neighbor of Brangalina or rub shoulders with the super rich Russian Oligarchs. It almost sounds like something out of a James Bond movie and to work in places like that would be; to put it very mildly EXCELLENT.
It was on a crisp and sunny but chilly morning in Scotland when such an opportunity came my way. Well it may not have come exactly from any of those places I had mentioned about earlier but this was the closest I could get. The places was Toulouse, in the South of France, the head quarters of the Airbus, more popularly known as the pink city of France because of the color of its architecture. It was almost a dream come true in terms of the excellent career prospect it brought along and to put a cherry on the top, the pay was excellent as well. However as the initial excitement mellowed down a bit, reality came knocking at my door with the bare facts. UK, as I said before felt like very own. The culture, the infatuation of the British towards Indian food and most importantly, the language are so deeply inter twined in such a way that most Indians who had lived there for some time find it very easy to go about their daily lives in a supposedly Alien country. If heaven is where my real home is in Assam, then this was definitely almost heaven. So by all angles it felt like a huge preposition at that time and if going abroad was a big deal, I was about to go abroad from abroad.
However I did what I did and since this article is called the French rendezvous there are no marks for guessing what I did. I lived in France for a year and it had been quite a journey in my life, before I moved on to greener pastures. Today, if not all, I wish to share some of those sights sounds and moments with you. I came to Toulouse to work as a Bioinformatician, which was a supposedly a prestigious position. Basically I am a Veterinarian by profession but ever since I came to the UK for my masters in Bioinformatics my life has been all about genes and DNA and computers. When I first came to the UK to study, some one very modest told me that I will learn only 20 percent in the university and the rest of it, the big chunk of 80 percent, will come from my experiences. I am referring to the cab driver who brought me to my university accommodation after I landed. Even since, that has been the fact and it was no different in France.
Let us talk about Toulouse first and then I will take you to Luchon, a mountainous hamlet nestled deep in the snow capped Pyrenees and a picturesque French village called Clarcq where I spend a night with the family of one by best French friend.
Toulouse lies in South west France and I would argue in favor of the fact that its position is very coveted. If you love the mountains the grand Pyrenees are just one and half hours drive away and if it is the sea that really lifts your spirit that’s roughly two hours drive as well. The choice does not end there as Toulouse lies half-way between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea meaning the calm and relaxing waters of the Mediterranean for faint hearted souls like me and boisterous surfs of the Atlantic on the west for the more adventure minded. Toulouse is the 4th largest city of France after Paris, Lyon and Marseilles and is a major hub of the European aerospace industry. Also home to the largest space centre in Europe, popularly known as CNES, the city is perhaps more famous for being the head quarters of AIRBUS and more recently the assembly point of the famed AIRBUS A380, the largest airliner in the world. My excursion to the AIRBUS A380 assembly unit was quite over-whelming and all the adjectives that came to my mind to glorify the structure were about size, and on a massive scale. It is said that during summer the assembly building sometimes form its own cloud as the roof is so high up. But then again its purpose is equally massive. The AIRBUS A380 carries 850 passengers which is about 35 percent more than any other jumbo jet. Its wings are so massive that 70 family cars can be parked on each. It’s the only airline that has got passenger seats on both the upper and lower decks along the entire length of the fuselage, that’s almost 164 feet long. The engineers here have really thought big and that too, very very literally. As for me I just had an ice cream and a fantastic French crepe at the AIRBUS café after the tour slowly letting out the fizz from my inflated experience and returned to my real world of modest sizes.