Volunteers in Southwest France Sprint to Their Next Cultural Immersion Experience

It may not be a French marathon but, this “semi-nocturnal” ramble is just right for five La Giraudiere volunteers who are keen to dash to their next cultural immersion  experience in Southwest France.

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The flyer says it all. While this is a 12km or 7.5 mile trek, unlike any other “walk” that I have ever participated in, this one comes complete with a five course meal. Or, as the flyer reads, “food over the course”. Furthermore, because this is France, there will also be plenty of vin de pays, or “country wine”, to quench our thirst, all for only 12 €.

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My walking shoes are ready at the door…how about you, what are you waiting for? Come join us at La Giraudiere in the Southwest of France for your volunteer experience of a lifetime.

A bientot,

Mayra (volunteer)

Bon Voyage to a Canadian Intern in the Southwest of France

A warm thank you to Meghan Chrisie who came to the Southwest of France from Toronto Canada for an opportunity to intern at La Giraudere, experience her passion for travel, and improve her French language skills.

A Canadian Intern at La Giraudiere in Southwest France

Yea, I’m here at the wild La Giraudiere in France and they do vegetarian too!

While here, Meghan managed the application process for volunteers and interns, handled communications, including coordinating the comings and goings of new and current volunteers, and was part of the marketing team, contributing to blogging and social sharing.

As part of her internship at La Giraudiere, Maghan received one on one French lessons twice a week, which became evident as her French language skills showed improvement from week to week.

Meghan, a travel enthusiast and amenable mixer, made easy friends at La Giraudiere and mixed well with the natives during village boules and other local activities.

Thank you Maghan for your awesome participation in and contribution to the La Giraudiere internship program. We wish you a bon voyage on the next leg of your journey and continued discovery and adventure in your life.

 

Work and Pleasure Blur at La Giraudiere: Opportunity for Volunteers and Interns in Southwest France

Volunteering or Interning at La Giraudiere explores a variety of work activities three days of the week. Find out what you can contribute as a volunteer or what you can learn as an intern when you come and visit the Southwest of France.

Grounds, forest, and back view of La Giraudiere where volunteers and interns work at La Giraudiere in Southwest France

Grounds, forest, and back view of La Giraudiere where volunteers and interns work at La Giraudiere in Southwest France

At 2.5 hecters, or approximately 6.2 acres, The grounds at La Giraudiere is a mix of rolling topography and a small forest, grassy areas, two rockery court yards (front and back), and many lovely flowers and bushes. In addition, you will find a restored two story maison de maître, or masters house, built in the 1700 along with a 1904 addition.

While the grounds and maison are delightful, there is certainly always something to be done to further develop, beautify, maintain, and promote this non for profit cultural Immersion center, where learning, work, and adventure mingle together as easily as cultures, ages, genders, and demographics.

So, what lies on the other side of those four free days of excursions into Bordeaux, the beach, and elsewhere… that much needed balance of work at La Giraudiere, or the other 3 days of the week.

Volunteers in Southwest France landscape the grounds at La Giraudere

“Oh far out! It’s been wonderful, exhausting but fun- variety.” – Maree Johns  (Australia volunteer, left)

As I mentioned in the Working Vacation post, work and pleasure really do blur here at La Giraudiere. But what might you expect to experience during your stay? Following is a list of top ten activity options for volunteering and interning, as well as quotes from current team members.

Sebastian Costa, above in the bushes, shared this short but sweet quote about the work at La Giraudiere, “…the long breaks” followed by a smile. He is French and is learning to speak English.

Volunteers in Southwest France landscape the grounds at La Giraudiere.

“…so many things, its relaxing and fun (the work), the people are brilliant, and Paul (our host) is really good. He get’s you to make the most out of the opportunity. Out of all my volunteering experience. this has to be one of the tops, and I’ve volunteered with  gorillas and elephants !” – Michelle Cocker (Australia volunteer)

Top Ten options for volunteer work and internship at La Giraudiere, not limited to just one:

  • Landscaping/Gardening
  • Household Management: Housekeeper
  • Cooking/Meal Prep
  • Construction and Restoration
  • Marketing/Social Media/Blogging
  • Handy Work or Property Maintaince and DIY
  • Bookeeping
  • Administration/Communications
  • Event Organization
  • Education
Volunteers in Southwest France

After four days of touring, beachcoming, museuming, eating and drinking, I really enjoyed the balance of work at La G. – Mayra Pena (USA volunteer, left)

Our present marketing and communications team loves Sidney, the La Giraudere mascot, and is working out a way to blog outside with him. When asked for a quote, Maghen Christie (Canada volunteer, right) said, “Sidney was a really great team member. I think her smile says the rest.

Volunteers in Southwest France landscape the grounds at La Giraudere

“I am having so much fun at La Giraudiere that I am staying an extra week.” – Noemie D’Onofrio (USA volunteer, left)

And from Lisa Quan (USA volunteer right), a philosophical quote, “If you worry too mcuh about completion, there will never be a beginning.” Letting us know to just get started and get here. We promise there will be plenty of work as well as play for you.

Wheather you volunteer or intern, contribute to the housekeeping, marketing, gardening, restoration, or any number of other activities, the work at La Giraudiere is always varied and fun. So don’t hesitate to join us for your next working holiday, volunteer or internship  experince in France.

A bientot,

Mayra, (Volunteer)

 

French Volunteer Learns English in Charante Region

French Volunteer Learns English in Charante Region

This weekend we are welcoming Sébastien Costa Lima to the La Giraudiere team. Sébastien came to the south west of France to improve his English speaking skillls, meet new people from around the world, and to gain some work experience.

French/Brazilian Volunteer learns English in France

Sébastien working in the “Old House”

Sébastien just finished his first year at university in Grenoble where he is studying medicine.

After he finishes at La Giraudiere Sébastien is heading to Brazil to live and study to become a doctor.

Welcome to La Giraudiere Sébastien! I am sure you will be a great addition to our team here and we hope you enjoy your time in the south west of France!

Australian Volunteers in south west France

Australian-French Cultural Exchange

A big welcome to two volunteers from Melbourne Australia, Maree Johns and Michelle Coker who are in France to study the French language and to experience the French culture.

Maree works as a Patient Services Clerk in the Emergency department in a hospital in Melbourne and is currently undertaking a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology and Communications. She is embarking on an eight month long journey to live, study and travel in France and has made La Giraudiere a part of her journey to meet like-minded people from around the world. Maree has taken on the responsibility of gardening and maintaining the grounds of La Giraudiere.

Australian Volunteer in south west France

Maree working on the gardens at La Giraudiere

Michelle works in Finance and Administration and is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts and Visual Culture Degree back in Melbourne. She regularly talks about her vast expriences with travelling and is thrilled to be at La Giraudiere – her top choice for volunteer programs in France. Michelle has come to the south west of France to fall in love with the French culture and to learn more about its history and language. Michelle has been a big help in the Old House by working on dry wall and other things around the property.

Volunteers in south west France

Michelle and Lisa working in the “Old House”

Welcome to La Giraudiere Maree and Michelle! We look forward to working with you for the duration of your stay and we hope you have a great time volunteering in the south west of France.

Three American Volunteers in France

American-French Cultural Exchange

This is a big welcome for three of our volunteers who have come from the United States of America to volunteer in the south west of France. Lisa Quan, Noemie D’Onofrio and Mayra Pena are all in France to have an authentic French experience.

Lisa, a volunteer from California, has returned to France after about 15 years away to learn French, learn about construction work, and to have a true authentic French experience with the local community. Lisa chose La Giraudiere because she liked the flexiblity of the program, which gave her time to travel on the weekends.

American-French Cultural Exchange

Lisa working in the “Old House”

Noemie, also from California, is at La Giraudiere to improve her French skills, meet different people and to lend a helping hand at La Giraudiere. Born to both French and Italian parents Noemie, already has an excellent understanding of the French language and culture. She is spending much of her summer exploring various areas around France before joining her family in Italy. When she returns to the states she will be taking science classes at Boise State University. While at La Giraudiere Noemie has taken on the role of lead housekeeper.

American Cultural Experience in France

Noemie collecting laundry at La Giraudiere

Our last volunteer, Mayra, is from Washington State, and came to La Giraudiere to improve her French skills, experience the French culture and to attend the VinExpo 2015 in Bordeaux. As a talented marketer back in Washington, Mayra was well-equipped to take on social media and blogging at La Giraudiere.

American Volunteer in France

Mayra working on the La Giraudiere blog

Welcome to La Giraudiere Lisa, Noemie and Mayra, here to volunteer in the south west of France and to have a rich French cultural experience. We are so glad to have you as part of our team this spring!

 

 

 

 

Celebrating at a Village Fete, Volunteers in Southwest France Dance The Night Away

Volunteers in Southwest France learn to mix and mingle at a local village fete celebrating St. Joan of Arc.

Volunteers in Southwest France light Chinese lanterns at village fete.

Celebrating Joan of Arc, volunteers in Southwest France light Chinese lanterns at village fete.

The fete, or French festival,celebrates religion, historical stories, art, wine, and food, as well as music and film. It is a wonderful opportunity to sample regional food and cultural ties.

Ubiquitous throughout the year, one can participate in a fete all over France, in the large cities as well as in rural towns and villages. After spying a poster for a fete celebrating Jeanne d’Arc or Joan of Arc, our fearless leader and La Giraudiere host, Paul Rice, phoned in reservations for seven curious volunteers to participate in the local fete.

Like many small hamlets in Southwest France, the village of Passirac holds any number of fetes during the warm months, which not only brings the community together, but brings much needed funds into the village coffers.

The delightfully warm evening started out with formal introductions to the French locals as well as some English expats. While I observed that all the locals greeted each other with “les bisous” or kisses, we simply shared a friendly handshake and smile. Introductions were quickly followed by apéritifs, which was an opportunity to work our narrow language skills. I however, quickly realized that the real challenge was to come, that of mixing and  mingling with the locals, and the art of small talk.

I found that the best tactic was to use as much body language and lively facial expressions as possible, in order to supplement my limited French. This seemed to work very well and got me past a number of bonjours without the embarrassing silence that can often follow. While the village only charges 1 – 1.50 euro per drink, this is where they make their money, so the apéritif hour was pretty long. We all however, made it through to the diner hour happy, hungry, and with a lighter heart.

Volunteers enjoy cultural immersion at village fete in Southwest France

Volunteers enjoy true cultural immersion at a village fete in Southwest France

We rounded the evening with a bonfire symbolizing the burning of Joan of arc, followed by the lighting of Chinese lanterns and lively dancing back in the hall. Everyone, both young and old, locals and visitors, as well as the shy and gregarious, danced the night away in honor of St.Joan of Arc.

As we said our bonjours, I knew we had made inroads into the community when a few of us received bisous upon our departure.

Join us this Summer at La Giraudiere and experience true cultural immersion in SouthWest France.

à bientôt,

Mayra Pena :) (Volunteer)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cultural Immersion for Volunteers near Bordeaux in the Southwest of France

Have you ever dreamed of a French cultural immersion experience in the southwest of France? Five adventurous volunteers from La Giraudiere did and share there experience here.

French Cultural Immersion: Visit to the Bordeaux Museum of Arts

Pieter Brueghel (1564-1638). dans l’aile sud at the Bordeaux Museum of Arts

The culturally vibrant city of Bordeaux is an art lover’s playground, filled with grand architecture, elaborate bridges, sculptures, museums, galleries, and fine art that spans the ages. With that in mind, a group of five La Giraudiere volunteers in southwest France set out for a weekend visit to what is often referred to as the “Little Paris”, Bordeaux.

Traveling by Train:

La Giraudiere - Volunteers in Southwest France: Chalais Train Station

La Giraudiere – Volunteers in Southwest France: Chalais Train Station

 We were dropped off at the nearby Chalis “gare” (train station), where we were well on our way. The trip took little over one hour as the train passed through rural towns and villages before arriving at the Bordeaux-Saint-Jean, the main railway statin in Bordeaux.

After a quick stop at the nearby tourist office, where we bought a two day city pass for 30 euros, we set a meet up time for the evening]s dinner and split up into different groups. As for myself, I decided to go solo.

Map of the south of France in the Bordeaux Saint-Jean Train Station

Map of the south of France in the Bordeaux Saint-Jean Train Station

Travel Tip – Buy the Bordeaux City Pass

I would highly recommend buying the Bordeaux City pass for one to three days.  It provides access to museums and temporary exhibitions, guided tours, etc., and unlimited use of all forms of public transportation, for example the tram, bus or boat shuttle.  It offers a  “hands free” use, as you will not need to take out any money or sign for a credit card. Instead, you can enjoy the convenience of just flashing a card.

I used the city pass to enjoy such sites as:

  • The Aquitaine Museum or Musée d’Aquitaine, which has a collection of objects related to the history of Bordeaux and Aquitaine from prehistoric to the modern era.
  • The Museum of Decorative Arts or Musée des Arts decoratifs, located in the hotel Lalande, presents ceramics, furniture, paintings, prints, sculptures, glassware and silverware.
  • The Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux is the fine arts museum. It is one of the largest art galleries of France outside Paris.  Its collections include paintings, sculptures and drawings. The painting collection is the largest one and its strong points are works by French and Dutch painters.
  • Glidding along the Gironne on the “BatCub”, shuttle boat, to enjoy the extraordinary view of the facades along the waterfront, and the bridges of Bordeaux.
UNESCO facades, enjoyed by volunteers in Southwest France, along the Garonne in Bordeaux

UNESCO facades, enjoyed by volunteers in Southwest France, along the Garonne in Bordeaux

All in all, the City Pass was well worth it, as it paid for itself and more.

To learn more about how you can realize your dreams of cultural immersion in France, visit our website here.

à bientôt,

Mayra Pena :) (Volunteer)

Working Vacation: Cultural Immersion for Volunteers in Southwest France

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.

Saint Palais for Cultural Immersion in Southwest France

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.

Pons

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

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.

Talmont-sur-Gironde

Volunteers in Southwest France at Talmont-sur-Gironde

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

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.

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.

Cultural Immersion in Southwest France

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.

Relais-Routiers

We rounded out our day with an unexpected stop at a “relais-routiers”, a French truck stop.

Cultural Immersion Experience in Southwest France

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.

à bientôt,

Mayra Pena :) (Volunteer)

 

A New Zealand Volunteer in France

A New Zealand Volunteer in France

This week we said goodbye and thank you to Carolyn Nimmo, a volunteer from New Zealand who came to the south west of France to improve her French skills and to experience the French culture.

Carolyn quickly immersed herself in the French culture by participating in regular games of Pétanque, speaking French with locals and other volunteers.

A New Zealand Volunteer in France

Carolyn gardening at La Giraudiere

In New Zealand Carolyn works with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to arrange and support people who are coming from developing countries to New Zealand to study. A dream of hers is to live in France for about 6 months and she is definitely well on her way to being able to speak the language fluently.

At La Giraudiere she took on many housekeeping and gardening duties.She regularly planted new flowers around La Giraudiere and taught new volunteers a little bit about gardening.

Thank you Carolyn for your help at La Giraudiere. It was a pleasure to have you on our team and to work with you!