Figeac: the genius of Champollion and the body odor of Jacques

Figeac, a well-preserved medieval town in Southwest France, is a scenic stop on The Way of St. James (Jacques) Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage trail.  Our personal pilgrimage was meant to pay homage to hometown hero Jean-François Champollion, though we unintentionally found ourselves in rather intimate proximity to a distant relative of St. Jacques (more on that later).

Jean-François Champollion, born in 1790 in Figeac, was no slacker: a largely self taught linguistic scholar, he mastered more than 20 languages, many of them obscure before dying at the age of 41.  Champollion’s most famous accomplishment was translating the Rosetta Stone, a feat that launched the field of Egyptology into inter-stellar orbit.  Without Champollion we would not know the meaning of hieroglyphics.  Imagine that, all the writings of an ancient culture lost to us!  Thank you Jean-François Champollion: you are forever in my pantheon of great humanist icons.

Figeac has a wonderful museum dedicated to the life and works of Champollion and more generally, to the history of writing.  Although I found the content of the museum fascinating, I had a difficult time engaging in the exhibits, since the wall texts were all in French, a language I can’t speak.  HOB does know French, and translated a bit for me, though I couldn’t help thinking how ironic it was that a museum about writing could only be understood by people fluent in one particular language.

After several hours in the museum I started feeling dizzy and faint.  We headed back to our hotel so I could lie down for a few minutes.  I climbed into bed and was immediately surrounded by….this smell….a funky body odor smell, the smell of a man who sweats often and takes few showers.  It was saturated in the mattress and the pillows.  As our hotel was called Hotel St. Jacques, we decided the body odor had been left by none other than Jacques himself.  Henceforth our overnight stay in Figeac spent in the man-smell-marinated bed has been know as Our Hot Night with Jacques.



Figeac was pretty and untouristy, and THE FOOD: gah!  We wandered about eating bakery treats like onion tarts and fresh baguettes with–surprise–sausages baked inside.  One day when we have a bigger food budget, we want to go back and indulge in local restaurants.


We saw this funny fellow on a church.


Musée Champollion – Les Ecritures du Monde.


Why yes, I am standing on a giant replica of the Rosetta Stone.


Writer’s place.


Impasse of blue penitents.


Money street.


How we got to Figeac: train from Rodez.

Where we slept: Auberge St Jacques.  Price: €52 for a double.  Recommended: no.


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