New volunteers join the crew in south-west France.

New volunteers join the crew in south-west France.

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It has been a hectic period here at La Giraudiere with many new volunteers arriving and many saying their farewells. This week we had some new arrivals willing to step up for Team LG, three Londoners and a Glaswegian; Robert, David, Roy and Natalie. The veterans of the group helped us get acquainted with life at La Giraudiere and we soon felt at home.

The first full day for the new volunteers group was soon under way, helping with the restoration of the Old House focussing primarily on the main reception area. Others helped with blogging (this post for example) whilst some are helping to create a new website for the village of Brossac. This should be live next week at Brossac Village. The volunteers are generally helping to turn the derelict into a buzzing centre of life.

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Natalie, kitted out in the most sort after overalls, was making a new seating area for what will be the reception in the Old House. Natalie a third year undergraduate student  is studying Quantity Surveying so the seats should hopefully be here to stay.

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David, spent his first day repairing and testing all of LG’s bicycles. Thanks to him the volunteers and interns will be able to go for a group bike ride in the near-future.

Roy Old House Plastering

Dr Roy, a retired general practioner from Scotland, was learning how to plaster. A major change for a man who previously would have plastered your broken limbs.

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John spent the day repointing and tidying up the brickwork of the old fireplace in the Old House. The plan is for the fireplace to eventually be restored to its original red brick appearance and with this it is one step closer to a full restoration.

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We must say farewell to Niamh, whose volunteer career in France was cut short too soon. Niamh from Ireland worked on the blogging, the gardening and also in the Old House. You are sadly missed. We hope she enjoys her further travels in France.

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Jimmy from New Zealand is here on an internship and is helping with the smooth running of La Giraudiere. His current pet project is the new Brossac village website.

More blog posts by our volunteers are soon to follow.

 

Volunteers’ weekend adventures : Exploring French villages

Weekend away and learning French.

After finishing three rewarding days of work the volunteers began their weekend of fun the best way possible: the concert at the lake. What a magical night it was. We all sat on the grass among the locals sipping our drinks and enjoying the unique performance by the talented group ‘The Bukatribe’. We also got a chance to chat to the group afterwards which was an excellent way of helping us excel in French. And we even got a picture! Lucky us!!!

concert at the lake

Sunset at the lake while enjoying the concert.

We rose early on Saturday in anticipation of our day trip planned impeccably by Paul. We left La Giraudiere at half 8 heading straight to Bourdeilles – a scenic village located along the river Dronne. The main attraction was certainly ‘Le Château’.  We climbed to the top where we met a breathtaking view – certainly worth the seemingly never ending stairs we climbed.

chateau de bourdeilles

Château de Bourdeilles.

 

view bourdeilles

The view from the castle

Next we headed to Brantôme –  my favourite place I have visited so far. L’ambiance était magnifique!!! Lunch consisted of delicious gallettes, omelettes and salads in an excellent restaurant;. After dining we had a leisurely stroll along the river and into the shops where we all bought some small presents for our family. Then we explored the historical Abbey before heading to our next destination – Aubettere sur Dronne. The most impressive feature of this village was, of course the church. We spent the evening chatting to Paul’s friends while enjoying a drink and a crepe. This was an excellent opportunity to practice our French. We all tried our best to engage in conversation. They even invited us to vist them in La Rochelle!!!

brantome river

Brantôme

What a wonderful weekend of exploring three scenic historical villages and practicing our French after a week spent volunteering.

 

Working abroad in France.

A day working abroad in France.

After a delicious pasta bake made by Olivia for dinner, last night came to a close with a wonderful game of cards whilst watching the sunset. We shared stories about our home towns, our travels and our hopes for the future. I loved listening to all Rhian’s stories about her travels to places such as California, Africa and New Zealand. What a ‘formidable’ way to spend an evening working abroad. Then, we all happily headed to bed eager to start more work tomorrow.

Today saw the group doing a variety of tasks.                                                                       Olivia used her french skills to translate the Brossac village’s website from english to french. Kathryn had the very important role of answering emails and scheduling the dates of future volunteers. Later she analysed La Giraudiere’s accounts. Joanna spent the day up on the ladder painting the shutters. The difference a bit of paint makes!!! The place looks great!

Olivia working

Olivia working hard translating

 

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Kathryn doing the accounts

Joanna working

Joanna painting

Rhian got kitted out in her work gear as she spent the morning gardening. She trimmed the plants and raked away any unwanted debris. The garden is looking better already!! Unfortunately as we moved into the afternoon the rain arrived so Rhian decided to fix the bikes. I’m already looking forward to our cycle this evening!

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Rhian out in the garden

 

Niamh blog

Niamh writing the blog

 

The plan for tonight is very exciting as we are hosting a barbeque with the neighbours and then heading down to the lake for the concert and perhaps a crepe!! Hopefully the weather stays in our favour! It certainly sounds like a wonderful way to spend an evening after a rewarding day working abroad in France.

Two new volunteers hit up the French countryside.

Volunteers in French Countryside

Here I am, writing my first blog post after my first sleep at La Giraudiere. And what a wonderful sleep it was!! Upon my arrival I met a group of warm friendly easygoing people. All my nerves quickly vanished as they ensured I happily settled in to the scenic countryside. Luckily I arrived just in time for lunch. We had a tasty lunch of salads, crispy bread and delicious noodles lounging outside in the warm sunshine.

And then down to the lake we headed.  After a leisurely stoll through the breathtaking countryside of Brossac we arrived at the famous lake. It certainly was everything I anticipated and more!! The beach was full with laughter from sunbathers, swimmers and those playing volleyball.

french countryside

two new volunteers enjoying their first day.

I was excited to hear that there would be another arrival- a lovely woman from Wales who has volunteered here two times already. It was so interesting to hear her great experience as a volunteer on this wonderful program in the french countryside and to hear how La Giraudiere has developed since her last visit – 5 years ago.Then it was time for dinner which consisted of a mouthwatering chicken strawberry and avocado salad served with delicious garlic bread all made by Joanne, one of the  volunteers. Once again we ate outside as the sun began to set in the distance. We topped that off with some melon and then ice cream and drinks at the lovely restaurant Quai Sud that overlooks the lake.

After a wonderful day of strolling the french countryside, meeting the other volunteers who I’m sure will become lifelong friends and getting to practice my french with the locals I quickly fell asleep eager for the next 3 weeks as a volunteer here in the picturesque countryside of Brossac, France.

dinner time volunteers

evening dinner in the french countryside

 

 

 

 

Why southwestern France?

Why southwestern France?

In the days of computers and google, it makes the world a smaller place! Like many of those before me, they asked themseves the same kind of questions. Where to go to achieve my goals and desires? Aha now to the computer, and the search is on!

Improve my French, volunteer, intern, travel, adventure, exploration…whatever your reason may be, there are endless posibilites! I found La Giraudiere to be the perfect place for me! It is a place that welcomes individuals from everywhere, who want to share their talents and passions, while exploring France.

As I depart, a piece of my heart remains at La Giraudiere, along with the new friends that I have made (the family we formed)! La Giraudiere offered a new perspective of living, learning and exploring from within France! Au revoir for now!

Final farewell at the Club house

Final farewell at the Club house

 

French market & Restaurant Poirier

French market & Restaurant Poirier

Southwestern France has an ambience like no other! It is the perfect setting to intern or volunteer/study French and explore the country. Monday, brought us to the local market in Chalais, held once a week, where shopping opportunities abound from local wine and fresh produce to jewellery, clothing, sovenirs and more.

Chalais market fun

Chalais market fun

After experiencing the French market, we were treated to a lunch of fine, French cuisine at Le Poirier. Le Porier specializes in tantalizing the taste buds of their customers with a six course meal, but only for lunch and reservations ensure that you have a table. Also, be sure to avoid snacking at the market, prior to such a feast! What a grand day out: the French market & Restaurant Poirier!

Delightful cuisine at Le Poirier

Delightful cuisine at Le Poirier

The volunteers and interns were excited to embark upon tasting the culinary delights that awaited. The traditional French meal began with everyone’s favourite, of course, baguette and red wine! We were soon served a delicious chicken soup.  A little known tradition to travellers in France, is that towards the end your soup, you add just a small bit of red wine to mix with the last of the soup (called faire Chabrot). Sounds odd, but tastes great! We were then served with two different types of salad: green bean and beet (very delicious)! The next course consisted of a salmon dish; quite scrumptious!

Delicious salmon course

Delicious salmon

Room for more you ask? That was not all, with still more to come. We were served an entree of sausage and mashed potatoes, along with a vegetarian selection of fish and potatoes. We practiced our French admist the fine dining experience, which allowed for a break between courses.

wide selection of cheese

wide selection of cheese

We dined on a variety of cheeses and finished with a salad for a good palate.  There was a refreshing dessert of raspberry cream to follow!

delectable dessert

delectable dessert

That was almost the end of our scrumptious lunch. But, alas in France, they finish the meal with coffee. We extolled the dining delights we had experienced  as we sipped our coffee. What a marvelous dining experience, so rich in French tradition and culture! The French market & Restaurant Poirier were definitely a highlight for us today!

 

Volunteer Adventures in Angouleme

Volunteer Adventures in Angouleme

After a lovely week at La Giraudiere the volunteers and interns were off on a weekend of exploration and adventure in Angouleme. Angouleme is a city, which lies on a high plateau above the Charente and Anguienne rivers in southwestern France. We boarded the train on a sunny, warm Friday at Chalais station. A half an hour later we arrived at our destination, ready to go! To our delight, as we began our adventure, we encountered beautiful wall art on the buildings.

Wall art in Angouleme

Wall art in Angouleme

Angouleme had so many wonderful sights to see! After checking into our B&B we had a plan of action.  The volunteer adventures in Angouleme began with a train tour around the old city and ramparts (dating back to the 9th century).

Volunteers explore by train

Volunteers explore by train

Then, with maps in hand, it was time to begin our walking tour.  The cathedral stood majestic against the skyline. After much exploration of the sights, it was time for a lunch break. There were so many outdoor cafes from which to choose!  Afterwards, it was time to explore the museum of Angouleme. We practiced our French along the way! We ended our evening with a drumming extravaganza outside the church!

The next day brought the volunteer adventures in Angouleme to the infamous: Le Musée de la Bande Dessinée (Comic Museum). We explored the origins of comics through the ages: Tin Tin, Popeye and Lucky Luke to name a few.

Adventures at the Comic Museum

Adventures at the Comic Museum

It was a lovely weekend in Angouleme. There was much laughter, French conversation and exploration of the city! We ended our time with a scenic boat trip down the Charente River!

Boat tour of Angouleme

Boat tour of Angouleme

Angouleme was a city rich in culture, history and beautiful sights! The highlight of our stay was capturing all of this ambience together-from the Cathedral, parks and river, to the museums and wall art, along with the cafes and French restaurants. Angouleme has become a cherished memory!

Cathedral in Angouleme

Cathedral in Angouleme

Bastille Day Celebrations at Lake Brossac

Bastille Day Celebrations at Lake Brossac

After all the clean up activities in the morning, the volunteers and interns were excited when the celebrations were about to commence at Lake Brossac. Le Committee du Fete had done a marvellous job of setting up the venue into a picnic ground with long tables and benches and after a drink on arrival soon everyone was seated and a delicious spread of French country food was delivered to each table – sausages, terrines, cheese, melons and crunchy bread, roast pork and frites. Delicious French food in a picnic setting outdoors was a great start to the evening. Bastille Day Celebrations at Lake Brossac were under way.

Eve of Bastille Day - picnic at Lake Brossac.

Eve of Bastille Day – picnic at Lake Brossac – Volunteers enjoying the food and drinks.

Crowds of people started to turn up and take up positions all around the Lake where the fireworks were scheduled to commence at 11.00 pm. It was a little chilly outdoors so after finishing dinner our group retired to the Lake Brossac Club and Irish coffees soon warmed us up. It wasn’t too long before the time had come for us to take up our places on the banks of the Lake in a good position to see the fireworks. Now the Bastille Day Celebrations at Lake Brossac were under way with a bang!!  What a spectacular display it was! Light and colour lit up the sky and everyone was in awe of the variety and beauty of the fireworks. Lots of clapping after each burst of colour indicated that the crowd was enjoying the spectacle.

Spectacular Bastille Day Fireworks.

Spectacular Bastille Day Fireworks.

The Lake transformed by red fire.

The Lake transformed by red fire.

After the fireworks finished, sounds of funky music could be heard coming from the disco area by the bar and lots of people made their way there to enjoy the music, have a drink and bop the night away. It was the end of a long day for the volunteers and interns from La Giraudiere and we decided to walk back to LG, about a 25 minute walk along the country road, guided by the light of phone torches, single file, and made it back right on midnight. Everyone agreed that it had been a wonderful day of work and celebration, mixing it with the local community, speaking French some considerably better than others and finally enjoying the walk in the crisp country air. It is invigorating!!

LG Volunteers watching the Bastille Day fireworks.

LG Volunteers watching the Bastille Day fireworks.

Circle of friends - Bastille Day Celebrations 2016.

Circle of friends – Bastille Day Celebrations 2016.

La fête du 14-Juillet

Bastille Day 2016

Bastille Day is celebrated annually on July 14 in France and French-speaking regions around the world. To the French it is ‘la fête du 14-Juillet’ or simply ‘la fête nationale’. Signifying the start of the French Revolution, more than 200 years on it is still a central event in the nation’s calendar with celebrations including military parades and fireworks. The storming of the Bastille prison by angry crowds in 1789 in Paris may have been a violent day but nowadays it is marked peacefully by millions.

The volunteers and interns at La Giraudiere are looking forward to the celebrations on Bastille Day 2016. They got off to an early start this morning July 13 by volunteering to assist the local Brossac organising committee in preparing the area at Lake Brossac where the festivities will take place. The area needed to be spruced up worthy of the occasion to be celebrated and our volunteers went armed with brooms, rakes and loppers ready to bring the area up to a pristine state. This is another example of the community involvement demonstrated by La Giraudiere and an opportunity to mix with the local community and speak in French.

Kathryn and Emily doing the big clean.

Kathryn and Emily doing the big clean.

Bruce and Alina hedge trimming.

Bruce and Alina hedge trimming.

Celebrations kick off this evening with a BBQ at Lake Brossac followed by a fireworks display around the Lake. Authorities tell us they expect 5,000 people to attend from all around the local areas. This will be quite a spectacle to see. Of course there will be food and drinks and lots of fun. Having finished the clean up this morning; the volunteers are excited about the festivities which will commence early this evening.

Joanna wiping the bar down.

Joanna wiping the bar down.

Kathryn and Emily hard at it.

Kathryn and Emily hard at it.

La Giraudiere work, play, fun

Work, Play, Fun at La Giraudiere

Do you think work should be fun? At La Giraudiere there is a lot of talk and laughter going on while the volunteers are going about their work. This probably has a lot to do with working in a beautiful countryside environment where the air is clean, fresh and invigorating, the sky is a beautiful shade of blue and the sun shining. Pollution isn’t a word that is relevant to this pristine countryside. Work, Play, Fun at La Giraudiere is the ethos here. The teams work together, project manage and problem solve without any of the tensions or petty power plays which sometmes occur in workplaces. The seven dwarfs spring to mind as the volunteers go about their work – hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go – with a shovel and pick and a walking stick – hi ho, hi ho. There is no grumpy or lazy, just happy travellers enjoying their stint at volunteering in the countryside in the south of France.

Michelle from Canada and Alina from Russia hard at work on the property.

Michelle from Canada and Alina from Russia hard at work on the property.

Joanna and Emily from UK tree trimming. Great job!

Joanna and Emily from UK tree trimming. Great job!

Morning tea comes around quickly and then lunch around 1 pm – no fast food or junk, nutritious healthy food – tomatoes that taste like they were just picked off the vine and breadsticks so crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle, cheeses that melt in your mouth. Lunch is a lively time with discussions which range on all sorts of subjects. It is easy to forget what is going on in the world as none of it seems to matter in this peaceful environment. Work, Play, Fun at La Giraudiere is the order of the day.

Once work has finished for the day, there is plenty of time to wander down to Brossac Lake for a swim or mini golf if you like or just to enjoy the walk through the countryside and hang out at the lake. The long hours of daylight certainly allow for a lot more outside activities. Nightfall doesn’t close in until around 10.30 pm so a long walk before then can be done in broad daylight. So much safer than trying to do the same thing in the dark.

La Giraudiere volunteers walk to Lake Brossac after finishing work for the day.

La Giraudiere volunteers walk to Lake Brossac after finishing work for the day.

Lake Brossac - Emily showing Olivia from UK and Kathryn - intern from Scotland some moves. Go Emily!

Lake Brossac – Emily showing Olivia from UK and Kathryn – intern from Scotland some moves. Go Emily!