Rick served his sentence and was released from jail a week before Christmas. He didn’t look worse for the wear. It was only a three-month stint. He got some education and a couple of free meals.
Rick moved to France with a visa long séjour, a 12-month visa that is granted to family members of a French citizen (that would be moi.) The requirements to get the visa renewed are two-fold: show a basic understanding of French and attend a couple of classes of instruction civique. After an initial evaluation at the Immigration Office in Toulouse, he was prescribed 100 hours of French.
We drove to Cahors for the civics classes, a full day in November, another one in December. He was afforded a personal English translator: he happened to be the only English speaker… He also received meal vouchers and had lunch with his interpreter while I explored la vieille ville (yes, you can expect future posts on Cahors.) Luckily, the language classes were scheduled in Gourdon. The program called for a semi-immersion where Rick spent 7 hours every Wednesday in a classroom. It turned out to take place in an exceptional setting: la Maison du Roy i.e. the King’s House.
During the French monarchy, la Maison du Roy used to be the city jail. The archives do not list any notable prisoner and we’re left to assume that jail only housed drunkards and chicken thieves.
Built inside the fortified city, la Maison du Roy shares its southern wall with the old ramparts that were a defensive barrier against potential invaders: these stone walls are about 6 feet wide! Interestingly enough, the now-defunct courthouse shared that wall –and a door, for the sake of convenience– with the old jail. In spite of their restoration, the window openings on the northern side hint at what a massive structure it really is.
The view from the second story windows showcases the Saint-Pierre church (14th century) up the hill. In the (very) old days, it would have afforded a nice view on the medieval castle that was destroyed by the English at the end of the 100-year war.
Flanked by the Maison des Jeunes et de la Culture and by the city library, la Maison du Roy now houses a few rooms available for rent (meetings, conferences, etc.) And perhaps an old jail for students who don’t pass their French language test…
Le long séjour: long stay
L’instruction civique (f): civics class
La vieille ville: old town
Le rampart: fortified wall