South West France ? Mais j’ai de la chance!

Southwest France proves to be an invaluable addition to this American’s gap year.

Katherine, a nineteen-year-old taking the opportunity to learn about the world by exploring it, arrived on the scene in South West France Monday, May 2nd.  Afforded a range of tasks to tackle, she has pruned some hedges, taken over the emails and blog , and has tried her hand at rendering exterior walls.  One of her absolute favorite parts of the whole experience, however, was the first six-course lunch at Le Poirier in Bardenac, a filling and varied gastronomic experience all in one bowl and two plates. (See more about chez Poirer at their FaceBook page)

Katherine takes a coffee break after a full day rendering a balcony wall in South West France

Coffee respite after a day rendering in South West France

The international, ever-changing community of La Giraudière has proved to be quite the learning experience for Katherine.  A colorful cast of characters come and go like the tides, making for many shared stories and quick smiles.  The surrounding countryside hasn’t stopped filling her with awe, be it because of the light purple wisteria partout (everywhere) or the gorgeous golden sunset that starts around 9:00 in the evening, creating a paradise Midas could never have dreamed of, and draws to a close around 10:00, allowing a multitude of stars to take its place.

Volunteers get together for a group picture during their six-course lunch at Le Poirier in Bardenac

The group at Le Poirier, Bardenac, thoroughly enjoying themselves

A student of French, Katherine is fully engaged in Friday morning lessons with the uncompromising and spectacular Lyn.  She hopes one day to become fluent, as it would be fascinating to know the world through another language, a different pattern of describing (and sometimes shaping) one’s experiences.

As her four weeks in southwest France draw to a close, Katherine would like to express her gratitude for this enlightening opportunity in an environment in which people of all sorts work together to make positive progress — in their lives and on the project.

Like to volunteer or maybe an internship? See how you can explore South West France without breaking the bank.

Australian’s take time out and arrived in the nick of time!

Jack and Kirstina take time out from  Australia — and just in time for their skills to be put to good use.

Kirstina and Jack, a couple with enough travel under their belts to challenge that of the Dalai Lama, were absolutely indispensible during their two weeks at La Giraudière. Kirstina graciously took over the housekeeping side of things, doing laundry galore, setting out meals, readying rooms for the new recruits, and — how did she find the time out for all this? — doing gardening, trimming hedges, and helping Karen with the newsletter project.

Australian volunteer powering through files

Kirstina powering through files

As a retired motor mechanic, Jack put his skills to fantastic use getting the lawn mower up and running again, advising the best course of action for the push mower, fixing a plethora of things on the van (the latch in the back, a door, a window mechanism, the brakes), and providing counsel on all other things vehicle-related.

Australian Time Out

Jack repairs the car window

Miraculous when it comes to the kitchen, the two made delicious fish dishes for the group, full of lemon, and spice, and everything nice (i.e., onion, garlic, and the best potatoes ever to see the inside of an oven), along with some beautiful white and green asparagus.

During the Friday French lessons, Kirstina soaked up as much as she could, putting to good use the term “je voudrais” — the polite way of asking for something, especially when ordering at restaurants.

Speaking of ordering food from French menus, Jack had quite the culinary adventure one evening.  Searching for a steak, he ordered steak tartare — little did he know, he was not about to receive a piece of beef with a lovely sauce, but one that was much closer to alive than any he had previously attempted to eat.  That’s one way to make the vocabulary stick in your memory!

With vehicles to be fixed, hedges to spruce up, years of applications to sort, and fish to be eaten, the arrival of these fantastic Australians at La Giraudière could not have been better timed.

Thinking of taking some time out then La Giraudiere will have something for you visit to read more at Time out in France

We welcome another gap year student

Charles, an American student who has made the impeccable choice of taking a gap year, arrived on the scene Friday, the 13th of May.

Perfect timing to welcome someone who has fully embraced superstiton (he doesn’t know the Stevie Wonder song).

Charles is no stranger to southwest France — or any part of the country, for that matter.  In fact, having been all across continental Europe, volunteering in Africa (Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa), and studying at the Oxford Tutorial College, he is quite the world traveller at only nineteen.

Since he arrived during the weekend, Charles has been able to adapt to life at La Giraudière at a leisurely pace.  He attended a brocante, or flea market, with the group; got to experience the market at Chalais Monday morning; and did a few hours of pruning and bonfire construction Monday afternoon.  Tuesday, he lent a hand rendering the walls of Gîte 4’s balcony and celebrated with a delicious pizza from Brossac’s restaurant L’Un Des Sens. Wednesday, he thoroughly enjoyed the group day out exploring ever-larger coastal towns.

Gap year student at work in the office and constructing scaffolding

(From left) Charles at work in the office and constructing scaffolding

His current projects involve the puzzle that is constructing indoor scaffolding, with the end goal of cementing the wall adjacent to the Old House staircase (more on that later) and continuing Karen’s newsletter work.  Who knows what plethora of new projects the next week will bring for this gap year student?

Thinking about your gap year look to see what La Giraudiere can offer Gap Year in France

Volunteer dinner out in France at O P’tit En K


Volunteers had a wonderful dinner in France at O P’tit En K, but we were missing one thing…


Fresh chips and a delectable pizza at O P’tit En K


To elaborate on this rather cryptic post, the team spent Saturday exploring the region: Karen and John took in the sights and shops of Chalais, while Zach and Katherine headed off to Angoulême, city of “bandes dessinées,” or comic-style artwork (more on the new arrivals coming soon to a screen near you).  They had a great time attempting to translate the information about the artwork in the “musée de la bande dessinée” into English and exploring the hilly environs of the city, where they happened upon a small park inabited by two gigantic sculptures of hands.  Upon their return to Chalais, Paul took Zach and Katherine to the lovely O P’tit En K restaurant, where they had the best chips and black olive pizza in the department of Charente.


Making connections with the local sculpture in Angouleme

If you would like to benefit from a dinner in France such as this, visit our website at Volunteer in France.


British volunteer arrives in France

Farhad Mustafa, a British-Bangladeshi volunteer, arrives in France to help at La Giraudiere

Hot off the heels of Zach and Choon comes Farhad, hereby referred to as Foo, to join the 2016 volunteer season of La Giraudiere.

Foo has a Bengali heritage but was born and raised in England, specifically the West Midlands but Paul calls him a Northerner. He can speak English & Bengali and studied French & Spanish at college. He decided to volunteer at La Giraudiere in order to improve his French and experience life abroad.



Foo learning how to play the French card game Belote at the local village hall in Brossac

Foo arrived on the 16th of April, bringing a deluge of British weather along with him. He spent the first few days acclimatising to Brossac, enjoying the plentiful vistas and food it has to offer. He watched a local football match between Brossac-Chalais and Barbezieux, which with his support ended 6-2 in favour of Brossac-Chalais. You can follow the football team on their Facebook page Entente Brossac-Chalais.


In his time here Foo has been supporting the team with their projects such as rendering the balcony and cleaning up the apartments. He has also done a touch of translation and has been working the emails, answering queries from prospective volunteers and interns and helping volunteers to arrange travel to La Giraudiere.

During his stay Foo has been eating plenty, thanks to all the great cooking provided by the team. He’s produced a few meals of his own which were well received. In his weekends Foo has visited Bordeaux, La Rochelle and Angouleme in order to see the sights.


French lessons every Friday morning at La Giraudiere

Foo has been keen to get involved with the French lessons and has been enjoying them very much. He has been using his spare time to study French.

————————————————— Update ——————————————————

Foo made his departure Saturday, May 7th, at 07:00, making it the earliest Foo sighting on record.

Ready to tackle any task Paul put in front of him and highly regarded by volunteers and locals alike, Foo was an invaluable member of the 2016 team.

British volunteers arrive from Germany

John and Geoff head into La Giraudiere to volunteer and lend a hand in France.

La Giraudiere continues its 2016 season with the arrival of 2 new guests. John, Paul’s brother, and his friend Geoffrey Heath came to volunteer in France for a week. They are tied for 5th volunteer of the 2016 season.

John is a Londoner through and through whereas Geoffrey is from Rochdale, however they both now reside in Germany. John works for the US army and Geoff is a retired tailor.

John was a valuable asset to the team – he assisted greatly in painting apartment 4 and the balcony rendering project by providing a constant supply of cement. He also repaired the shower in apartment 4, chopped some wood for the fireplace and cut down some weeds with the weed whacker.

Geoffrey took over housekeeping duties, keeping the apartments spick and span and making sure the table was set for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day to keep morale bursting high.

On the night of their arrival the duo were welcomed by being taken to Le Bistrot du Circuit, a local French restaurant which overlooks a Formula 2 race course. Their menu offers a wide variety of splendid French dishes and great value for money – you can get a three course meal for 18€ with a choice of 6 entrées, 6 plats and 6 desserts.

They both leant their talents to create some great-tasting German cuisine to share with the team, with rhubarb and apple pie for dessert for the weekend.


Geoff, Foo, Paul and John enjoying a drink together

They finished off their stay at La Giraudiere by attending a special fish & chips night held at The Clubhouse, a local sports bar. La Giraudiere was full of fun and laughter during the week of their stay.

World traveller finds his way to volunteer in France

John Hollister, an American Volunteer, arrives in France to help out at La Giraudiere

La Giraudiere’s 2016 season starts well and its fourth volunteer of the 2016 season makes his arrival. John is the second American Volunteer to arrive in France in order to help out at La Giraudiere.

John originates from San Diego but refers to himself as a nomad – his goal is to visit 100 hundred countries now that he is retired. To date he has visited 72 countries.

John arrived on the 18th of April, bringing sunny weather with him and putting up a good fight in a heated game of pétanque against the reigning champions.

Volunteers_working-holiday_France During his stay, John has been helping out with painting apartment 4, installing a safety barrier for the balcony and rendering the balcony walls. John proved to be a valuable member of the team with his skills.

John did not like to cook for the group and felt guilty when it was his turn for the week, especially after eating the delicious meals provided by the rest of the group. However, he compensated for it by purchasing a curry from the local boucherie to which Paul provided the rice (which is why he’s called Mr Rice) and Paul’s brother, also called John, made a lovely apple pie for dessert which was copiously covered in crème anglaise.


John made use of his days off by visiting Pons, La Rochelle and Bordeaux for his first weekend and enjoying the local festivities provided at the Brossac Fête du Muguet on his second weekend, there he shopped at the market stalls, watched the bike race and visited the brocante to buy some gifts for La Giraudiere.

John was happy to participate in the Friday French lessons and was a keen contributor to the class. He practiced his communication skills with the teacher and Foo and also by visiting the village shops.

You can read more about John’s travels and his stay at La Giraudiere by visiting his blog at   American volunteer in France


Malaysian volunteer arrives in France

Choon Poh Tan is the second volunteer to arrive to help out at La Giraudiere

La Giraudiere continues its 2016 season by welcoming Choon, from Germany, to help out. She is the first Malaysian to arrive at La Giraudiere.

Choon is a service agent at Frankfurt Airport, due to her career she is a polyglot. She is capable of speaking English, German, Chinese, Malay, Russian and basic French. Choon used her time off from work to arrive on the 9th of April. She came to La Giraudiere for the opportunity to get involved in the rural French lifestyle and to improve her command of the French language to better assist the many Francophones she deals with as part of her job.


During her stay she helped out in many ways. She spent plenty of time in the garden, getting rid of weeds and planting roses. She was also a great help around the house by cooking some excellent vegetarian dishes, setting the table for meals, organising the linen and doing a spot of cleaning. When the weather was unsuitable for gardening she helped out with painting the windows in apartment 4.

Since she came down by car, in her spare time she drove off to explore the Charente region. She visited the Chalais market which takes place every Monday and drove down to Bordeaux for a day out.

Choon took part in the French lessons with Paul and Zach. She got involved with the local community by playing belote and pétanque, lending her ample opportunity to practice French with native speakers.

We were happy to host Choon at La Giraudiere and wish her all the best in her future endeavours.

First volunteer in France

Zachary Aubin, an American volunteer, arrives in France to help out at La Giraudiere.

La Giraudiere starts off its 2016 season with the arrival of Zach. He is the first volunteer  to arrive in France this year to help out at La Giraudiere.

Zach, fresh out of high school, is a teenager from Masachusetts, USA, who is taking a gap year to explore Europe and experience different cultures before he starts college in September. He works as a life guard for a water park and has volunteered in many projects back home. He is a budding film maker who aims to become a corporate lawyer but Paul believes he has the potential to go even higher and become a politician, perhaps even the President of the US.

Zach arrived on the 8th of April, making his way down from London


Zach has been helping the team by cleaning up around the house and their tools after they’ve finished their work for the day. He fitted new lamp shades in all the apartments,  gave the windows a new lick of polish and assisted John with the cement mixing. He’s also working on creating a video to promote La Giraudiere.

Zach has been using his weekends to travel far and wide through France, visiting Bordeaux and Paris, and even going as far as Germany for one weekend.

Help Creat international volunteers partnerships

La Giraudiere looking for global partners and international volunteers

One of the projects for 2016 that volunteers and interns can help with is setting up and forming new international partnerships. Contacting associations and organisations from around the globe that operate similar programs to that of La Giraudiere.

We would contact to ask if the organisation would like to strike up a partnership with us, We have several ideas in mind but would also welcome ideas from you and also from the organisation or association,

We will be informing them that we are a non-profit organization / association based in south west France and that each year we open our doors to international volunteers, interns and groups from around the globe who wish to help or learn about France it’s culture, language and way of life in general. That our project presents an ideal oportunity for their participants.

Ideas presently on the table are,

  1. Initially we could propose an exchange of emails and messages making each other aware of our respective organizations, goals and ideas.
  2. Exchanges on social media, likes on Facebook and follows on twitter and other social media.
  3. Preparing a blog entry or webpage about our newly found partner describing the organization and their goals. Similar upon their website describing our association, our goals and opportunities in English and or the language(s) of the new partner.
  4. We would also include their project/program in our quarterly newsletter.

If you think this is something that you would enjoy setting up and or doing then apply to help now at Volunteer or Intern in France

Les Amis De La Giraudiere – France

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