Navigating Najac: A Day in a Fairytale Town

Hi! My name is Lucy, I’m going into my fourth year at Birmingham studying French, Spanish and German. This year I will be taking on the roles of Secretary and Spanish Editor at the Linguist. I am really looking forward to being a part of the team especially after enjoying reading the Linguist throughout my first three years at university. 

When I think of memorable travel experiences, what first comes to mind is the fact that since the pandemic I feel so much more fortunate that I am able to travel. I have just finished my year abroad, studying in Toulouse, in the southwest of France for semester one, Tübingen in southwest Germany for semester two, finishing off the year in Alcalá de Henares in Spain, for a four-week language course. Despite the challenges of this year with countless covid tests, paperwork and visas that were necessary to travel, I have often found myself this year thinking about how I did take travelling for granted before covid. Over the last twelve months, I have had the opportunity to discover the countries that I have been studying in (with the help of cheap rail fares and deals that we do not benefit from in England), and my mindset has really changed after these crazy two years. 

I not only visited well-known cities in my time abroad, but also went on day trips to nearby towns and villages, which, realistically, I would never fly to France or Germany to visit. Some of my most memorable travel experiences this year have ended up being in these towns, that I had never even heard of before my time abroad. One that comes to mind is a tiny town in France called Najac. An hour and a half train journey away from Toulouse, this fairy-tale town is on ‘must-see’ lists, when looking up day trips in the area. I admit, I was not counting down the days until this trip; it looked like a lovely place, but I was more excited for trips to Bordeaux or Montpellier. Upon arrival, we were the only people to get off the train and suddenly saw the huge hill that we had to climb up to reach the town. It was a clear, sunny November day and despite it being winter it was relatively warm. What struck us immediately was how unbelievably quiet this town was (especially in comparison to the bustling streets of Toulouse) and it was entertaining to see the confused locals, not used to hearing any language apart from French. It was a relaxing day, sitting in the sun, admiring the views that spanned for miles and strolling around the beautiful, traditional French streets. After reaching the castle, the main attraction of the town, we realised it was closed, only being open April to October. We took some photos of the views, drank a diabolo (grenadine and lemonade – trust me on this) and headed back to Toulouse. Despite it not being the most eventful day trip, it is one of the most memorable and I realised the beauty of travelling to places that you never normally would. I continued this in Germany too, visiting many tiny towns and impressive historical castles. 

On my return home to the UK, I would like to experience more places in and around Birmingham (admittedly I spent most of my first year on Broad Street or on campus). I have loved visiting so many places this year and I have learnt so much about different countries and cultures. So here’s to more travelling, and to finding more hidden gems like Najac!

Lucy Rowen

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