Work and Pleasure Blur During Working Vacation for Volunteers in Southwest France
Volunteering at La Giraudiere, in Southwest France offers a balance of activity and leisure, pleasure as well as industry. That is what I find so dynamic about staying here for my first foray into France, or Europe for that matter.
The Beach at St. Palais sur-le-Mer Ideal for Volunteer’s Visit
The work week at La Giraudiere starts on a Tuesday and ends on Thursday leaving four days, Friday through Monday, to explore the whole of France- “pour le plaisir”. Since I arrived Thursday evening, my first days were channeled entirely towards the recreational side of the week, although work and play seem to blur somewhat while volunteering at La Giraudiere.
A delightful day trip was planned to explore a few of the villages and towns in the Charente-Maritime region of France, Pons, Talmont, and St. Palais.
The first leg of our excursion was at Pons, one of the main towns in the southern part of the Charente-Maritime.
Ideally located on the road to Saint-Jacques de Compostela, Pons became an active religious center covering churches, monastic orders and even a hospital for pilgrims. It is now a leading tourist city.
Saint-Pons-de-Thomières Tower – Cultural Immersion Southwest France
The site is dominated by the silhouette of its iconic Romanesque tower, complete with a medieval dungeon. Perched on top of a rocky promontory, the views from the hilltop where we enjoyed our morning “chocolat chaud”, coffee and a croissant, were stunning.
Volunteers in Southwest France Visit Flower Lined Homes at Talmont-sur-Gironde
The town of Talmont-sur-Gironde is, practically speaking, an island. With the exception of the town’s inhabitants, no cars are allowed within this once ancient citadel, a “walled town”. Situated on the Gironde estuary, Talmont has been awarded the famous Les Plus Beaux Villages de France. As you wander through the flower filled streets and alleyways, you are easily transported to the Middle Ages, and can see why cars are not allowed into this quaint and tiny village.
Volunteers in Southwest France Visit Talmont-sur-Gironde
While we were there, we happened upon a film crew as they were filming for a Hollywood movie. The inside of the intimate yet stunning chapel had been transformed and brought to life with monks and nuns wearing ancient garb, in a somewhat “misty” interior. There is also a charming restaurant at Talmont where one could feast on local French food. We however, moved onto our next stop, the coastal village of St. Palais.
Saint-Palais, which is a city also created because of the road to Compostelam, has a mix of ancient charm and a more “modern” flair, as many of the old buildings were destroyed during the second world war. That said, there is certainly no lack of beauty and appeal in this thriving beach city.
La Giraudiere Volunteers Enjoy Lunch at Les Quimperoises Creperie
We arrived at the lovely beaches of St. Palias just in time for lunch and relished our meal at Les Quimperoises creperie. The afternoon was spent swimming in the ocean, lying on the beach, or by a poolside enjoying a drink.
We rounded out our day with an unexpected stop at a “relais-routiers”, a French truck stop.
Dessert and Cheese Buffet at Le Relais-Routier
This fun option, for the brave, was truly a unique experience. The relais-routier, which offers food, wine, and sleeping accommodations for truckers is also open to families, holiday makers, and anyone else willing to give it a try.
We were pleasantly suprised to savor a complete meal including a main course with vegetables, a complete buffet with a variety of salads, pâté, mussels, cold meats and more, as well as delicious dessert and cheese. To top it off, you could buy a small pitcher of wine for, get this, half a euro.
We had a full and delightful day going from medieval and ancient villages all the way to a gourmet truck stop. Now that is real cultural immersion.
If you think you are a prime candidate to participate in and experience a truly uncommon and eclectic experience in the Southwest of France, visit our volunteer page for more information.
Mayra Pena (Volunteer)