Jul 24

Working Day La Giraudière – Part Two

Working Day at La Giraudière  – Part Two


Last week I wrote a post about a typical workday at La Giraudiere.  As I become a more seasoned

Workday Part two

Precision is the key as Matthew measures a wall in the main house of La Giraduiere

observer and participant here, I’ve come to realize there is no such thing as a typical workday.  Last week, I watched Marlene and Colin happily working in the garden.  The weeds and neglect had required some tender loving care which they were happy to provide. But with the garden taking on a new life, they have moved onto other ventures.  Colin has joined Matthew and  Paul in the main house to try his hand at plastering.  Matthew, under Paul’s guidance has becoming quite proficient and may be find himself soon in the capacity as a supervisor. Meanwhile, Marlene has taken over the kitchen for preparing lunchtime fare.  Everyone takes a turn at preparing a meal at La Giraudiere but sometimes lunch can be a catch as catch can affair.  Under the watchful eye of Marlene, however, lunch is often as nutritious and delicious as the evening meal.  Not one to forget her past loves, Marlene can still be found in the garden on most afternoons but she has stepped up her game a bit, pruning roses and clearing ivy.

Workday Part two

English Rose Marlene prunes her French cousines.

Last week Sal  restored the aging picnic tables back to their youthful luster with fresh coats of paint.  He enjoyed the task so much that he took his expertise to the front gates. Looking a bit like Tom Sawyer but refusing to give up the brush, Sal claimed he had been able to listen to all of Beethoven’s nine symphonies as he brought back the youthful vigor of the picket fences. A music student from Queens University of Belfast, he may never find a paintbrush in his hand again or possibly he may take a fancy to  listening to all of Mozart’s concertos and find painting to be the perfect excuse.

Workday Part Two

Colin tries his hand at plastering

Leon and Bridget arrived last week just as the work week began.  Besides a couple of suitcases, they also arrived with a massive case of jet lag, as they had traveled directly from Melbourne, Australia.  Just the assorted odd job here and there was suitable for their somewhat fragile conditions.  A good long weekend restored them to the vitality so associated with the folks from The Land Down Under.  This week they could be found on ladders plastering and smoothing out the seams of the drywall. It’s a skill that will follow them home and come in handy whenever they buy their first home.

Jacques, back in the office, however can ill afford to take time off to pursue other pursuits.  The daily operations of La Giraudiere require that someone be on top of the daily correspondence, bills and phone calls.  However, don’t let the French first name fool you.  Jacques will be an Englishman Abroad next year as

Workday part two

Bridget and Leon make good partners as apprentice plasterers

he takes a year to study in Bordeaux.  Several times a week he takes a little time off Workday Part Twofor an advanced French lesson. Although the rest of La Giraudiere volunteers get weekly French instruction, he is literally in a class of his own.  His volunteer work at La Giraudiere coupled with his French lessons are leaving him with a confidence that he will manage quite well in his year abroad.

Finally, your blogger, although keeping the same task, gets to live vicariously through all the activity that makes La Giraudiere thrive.   Taking pictures and interviewing the other volunteers gives me a great appreciation of all the contributions the volunteers make at La Giraudiere.


Workday  Part two

Jacques maintains a pleasant office atmosphere


Workday Part Two

Sal shows Tom Sawyer a thing or two as he paints the gate.


Posted by Travel writer Terrence Cremin while on  working holiday at La Giraudière

Terrence Cremin

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Jul 24

La Leçon Française at La Giraudière

La Leçon Francaise


La Giraudière volunteers come to Southwest France for many different reasons.  However, most visitors will mention that at least one of their purposes is to learn more about the French language.  Few would foolishly expect to become fluent in their three week stay, but even in such a short visit,  the most basic beginner will pick up a wealth of knowledge about the language.  Whether, it is improving your ear for the sound of French or adding vocabulary to what you already know, the weekly French lessons at La Giraudiere are a boon to the volunteers.

Precisely at ten o’clock Madame Lynn arrives from the village of Brossac.  A cheerful woman, her perfect French belies the fact that she is really from London. She greets everyone with  Bonjours and Comme ca vas and then proceeds to converse with everyone as if they are native speakers.  Surprisingly, much of what she is saying is understandable by the volunteers.  Of course, many words are lost but the gist of her dialogue breaks through the curtain of language barriers. Guessing that perhaps one or two people may be totally lost, she kindly peppers her conversation with English words to facilitate some basic understanding.

Madame asks us to join her in the living room where we gather around her as she invites us to sit down,  Assisez -vous, sil vous plait.  The hand motion towards the chair is a marvelous visual cue to her request.  She jumps right into the lesson by passing out a rather sophisticated quiz about French history – all written in French, of course. This appears a bit daunting at first, as it tests not only our knowledge of the French language but of French history as well.  its a coin toss as to which one we are most deficient in. The first question is a total washout  Ou se trouve St. Malo?  Many of us have the background to understand the question, Where do you find St. Malo.  But no one knows its in Brittany or en Bretagne.  However, the speed at which we decipher the question puts us at ease for the rest of the quiz.  The next question proves we are more experienced with France than we realize.  We are asked what is produced in Bordeaux.  The word produit is an easy translation and as we have had many encounters with the pride of Bordeaux, we know the answer is vin. Real life experience is invaluable.  By the last question we don’t really care which Louis built Versailles.  We are just proud of the fact that we understood the question.

Next Madame takes us on an imaginary shopping trip to the village.  She spreads word cards across the table with a few picture cards and asks us to categorize them. Some of the words are instantly recognizable – chemise is in the same group as jeans, patisserie with pain (we have already learned those words well on outings into the village;  But cuir gives us pause and quincaillerie doesn’t look like anything recognizable. Amazingly the word cuir comes in handy the next day at the market when one of our group wants to buy a leather belt, une ceinture cuir. A quincaillerie is a hardware store.  That can come in handy if you need to buy a drill (une perceuse.)

By the end of the lesson, everyone remarks how comfortable they have felt withe their exposure to the French language under the friendly guidance of Madame Lynn.  No one expects to be holding lengthy conversations with the villagers at the next petanque game, but perhaps ordering a vin rouge or a biere peche wont be such a frightening task.  Most amazing of all is that everyone is looking forward to next weeks lesson.  Cest Marveilleuse, Madame!



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Jul 23

La Giraudière Volunteers in Bordeaux

La Giraudière Volunteers in Bordeaux


La Giraudière volunteers are blessed with the opportunity to visit Bordeaux, only an hour away by train.

Sunflowers of Bordeaux

La Giraurdière volunteers view sunflowers from the train en route to Bordeaux

The sixth largest city in France, Bordeaux dates back to before Christ when it was inhabited by a Celtic tribe. However, archeological digs show evidence of Neanderthal Man in the region.  All this can be learned at the marvelous Musée d’Acquitaine in the heart of the city.  But I get ahead of myself.  On Saturday July 19th, six La Guardière volunteers set off in the wee hours of the morning for Chalais  to catch the train to Bordeaux.  Beautiful fields of sunflowers, surrounded by sweeping green hills dotted the landscape as the train sped to its destination. A quick breakfast in the train station put us in the right mood to take on the city.  But not before Salwan had a chance to show his impressive piano skills on the upright in the train station.  Accompanied by Marlene on vocals, he played American standards, Irish folk songs and religious hymns.  So caught up in his music, a nearby shop girl, with pen and paper in hand, left her station to inquire of the name of his last song.

Volunteers play piano

La Giraurdière volunteer Marlene accompanies Sal on the piano as Colin looks on.

For the record, it was Danny Boy.  Leon, Bridget and Sal headed off on their own while I joined Marlene and Colin for a quick trip on the tram to the city center.

The tram itself deserves some recognition.  Opened in 2003, it is rightly so, the pride of the city.  Looping through the most dense part of the city, it fans out to the more modern areas.  For four Euros you can buy a day pass that allows you to ride the tram all day, getting on and off wherever you please.  Marlene was immediately captivated by the markets that seemed to stretch on endlessly along the river quay.  Colin and I headed for the Basilica of San Michel with the goal of climbing its 114 meter tower.  The church, built in the 14th century, was heavily damaged during World War II.  All of the precious stained glass windows were shattered.

Rooftops of Bordeaux

The rooftops of Bordeaux from the Tower of San Michel

Restoration has been imaginative with contemporary styling of the restored glass; it gives the basilica a timeless appeal.   Priceless art fills the church but nothing is more impressive than the Pieta dating back to the fifteenth century.  A Roman catacomb and cemetery was found under the church in the latter half of the nineteenth century.  Mummified remains were then displayed for a hundred years until the bodies were finally laid to rest in the 1990s. Dignitaries such as Victor Hugo and Gustave Flaubert visited them.  Evidence of this can be found in their writings.  The Tower of San Michel yields some of the most breathtaking views of the city.  The Bridge of Thirteen Arches along with the modern bridges are sharply in view.  The vantage point from the top of the tower gives a stunning glimpse of the splendidly dense red clay rooftops of Bordeaux.

Bordeaux is a food lovers dream with streets of outdoor cafes specializing in local produce and seafood. We chose a salad buffet bar which served up ample portions of fresh greens and vegetables.  The meal was topped off by a delicious creme fraiche parfait.

The afternoon was spent wandering around the City Center taking in the sights.  The Hotel Bordeaux with  the facing reflecting pool gives up one of the  most spectacular views in the city.  Children adore frolicking

Bordeaux fountain

Children and adults alike frolic in the reflecting pool in front of the Hotel Bordeaux.

in the pool and we older folks found the water refreshing on the feet.  Every so often the pool would send up a cooling spray which also afforded the possibility of  haunting photos as a ghostly effect spreads across the pool.

People watching is also a grand sport in Bordeaux.  The tram lines, tourist center and markets all come together in the Grand Place.  The Opera House, or The  Grand Theatre de Bordeaux anchors The Place and is a worthy destination in its own right. Imposing in the day, it is beautiful when it is lit up at night. Cafes ring The Place providing great views of the Opera House and the passing people.  We wound up the day having a marvelous meal along the quay watching the sunset and the lights of Bordeaux twinkling in the distance.

Sunday morning rose cool and gloomy making it an ideal day for a museum visit.  Despite the rather

Bordeaux fountain

The Hotel Bordeaux is stunningly reflected in the fountain across the street.

mundane name of Musee d’Acquitaine and the academic archeological focus of the museum, it proved to be a warm and inviting display of the history of the region.  Dating back to pre-historic times with artifacts of the Neanderthal, Bronze and Iron Ages, the viewer gets a sense of the rich history of the area.  The collection of Roman era statuary and mosaics is very impressive and fills you with a sense of awe and wonder knowing you are standing on the very ground that the ancient  Romans once walked upon. The rest of the exhibition follows the growth of Bordeaux until modern times.

The sun poking through the clouds, was the signal that it was time to return to Gare St. Jean to catch the train back to Chalais.  A holiday so memorable that two of our small crew booked accommodations to return for their Easter holiday next year.


Terrence Cremin  posted while on a working holiday at La Giraudiere, France

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Jul 21

Volunteers Weekend France

A volunteers weekend in France

Although the volunteer work is pleasant; it doesn’t compare to the volunteers weekend at La Giraurdière.  Technically, though the volunteers weekend at La Giraudiere may start on Friday, there really is no reason to wait that long.


Volunteers Weekend concert

Singer Alice Francis entertains La Guardiere volunteers at Lac Brossac during their weekend break

On Thursday evening, the local village or Brossac features a music concert alongside the picturesque etang valliere or Brossac Lake.

This week, the song stylings of Alice Francis, are featured.  A somewhat mysterious singer, rumored to be anything from Romanian to German to American, she got the crowd up on their feet and she didn’t let them go. 

Think Beyonce with a European flair and you’ll have a good idea to what the audience was treated.  Marlene and Colin were so enamored with her that they walked away from the concert wearing tee shirts with the image of Alice Francis emblazoned on their chests.

In the small neighboring village of Bardenac, only 5 km or so from La Giraurdière, there is a small restaurant devoted to serving lunches to the area workers.  The ambiance may be simple but the food is anything but.  There is no menu as the daily course of food is pre-set.  It’s anyone’s guess what the offerings will be for the day but that is irrelevant, as no matter what is served, it is sure to please.  And did I mention it is a seven course meal?!  

Vegetable soup with bread is followed by a vegetable platter of locally grown produce.  Crab wrapped in salmon is next up and feels like it could be the central plat.  The pork that follows gets that honor and it is a melt in your mouth affair.  A small salad follows to clear the palate before the cheeses arrive.  Brie, Gouda and Blue Cheese from local dairies are a feast in themselves.  Somehow we all find room for the pudding topped with blueberries that rounds out the men



Volunteers weekend chilling out

Of course, wine is plentiful throughout the entire meal and only adds to the high spirits of the lunch.  a meal like this, if it could be found at all, in Paris might set you back a weeks wages; But in the little village of Bardenac our wallets leave only 12 euros lighter.


After necessary naps, the evening is spent relaxing to a game of petanque. Hoping to show off new found skills learned earlier in the week, the La Guardiere volunteers are disappointed by the more seasoned villagers who prove they are not to be trifled with.

Volunteers Weekend at Bardenac
Bardenac neighboring village to Brossac
Saturday and Sunday is devoted to exploring the local area. Some volunteers head to Bordeaux, only an hour away by train. (Read about this in another post.)  Other volunteers stay back to participate in a local sports day.

They prove La Giraurdière proud by placing  first in the tire roll.  A marvelous video of this is posted on Facebook and Youtube visit Volunteers weekend Intervillage


Warning – it is as dizzying to watch it as it must have been to 


After the long weekend, Monday is relatively quiet, but an outing to The Monday Market in Chalais is a must for anyone who wants to capture the true flavor of the region.  A sleepy village during the week, like a real life Brigadoon, it comes alive when vendors from all over the region set up tents in the winding street of the village. Everything from pigs and chickens to leather goods and artisan crafts can be found while the crowds are entertained by the strains of  “La Vie En Rose”  wafting through the air provided by street musicians.  

A peaceful communal meal will end the volunteers weekend as everyone gathers together to share stories of their adventures for the past four days.  Tomorrow will be a workday, but for now everyone just basks in the memories of a magical weekend.







Post Volunteers weekend in France Written by Terrence Cremin USA whilst on his working holiday volunteering in France 

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Jul 18

A Typical Volunteers working holiday work day in France

Working Holiday workday in France

Vacationers taking part in a volunteer workday sound a bit strange to you?  Maybe the idea of a working holiday, combining work and pleasure into one vacation feels a bit daunting. After all you get plenty of the former and perhaps little of the latter in your everyday world.  it’s a fair concern but not one that presents a problem at La Giraudière.  The week is divide into two sections with four days, Friday through Monday devoted to free time and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday set aside for volunteering.

french working holiday

A volunteer learns “doublage” or dry linning

Program Manager Paul spends time with each volunteer to assess their particular interests and how he or she feels they can best contribute to “Project La Giraudière.”  At he heart of the project is the restoring of the main house, a beautiful stone and stucco maison some parts of which are dating back to the 1700s.

There are plenty of tasks perfect for the skilled or amateur builder. But what makes La Giraudiere special, is that Paul and other more skilled volunteers relish training a novice in the art of restoration. If you are willing to pick up a paintbrush, a sander or a hammer, you may  find yourself leaving your volunteers working holiday  with more skills than when you started.

Building not your cup of tea?  Pas de probleme, as the locals say.  Maintenance is a big part of the operation at La Giraudière.  Keeping the kitchen stocked, weeding and planting the gardens, cooking and maintaining the order of the household are all essential elements of a well run organization.

Jacque helping with the administration at La Giraudiere

Get enough of that at home?   Clerical duties (answering correspondence, keeping track of volunteer arrivals and departures, billing, accounting  etc…) may be more to your liking.  Keeping the website up-to-date  through blogging, reporting on the many activities associated with the volunteer experience and supporting social media sites such as Facebook  are enjoyable workday skills that are put to good use at La Giraudière.  If you still don’t see something to your liking, then Paul is quite creative in tailoring your volunteer activities to your needs and desires.

The current crop of volunteers are a diverse group ranging from ages nineteen to sixty two, university students to retired teachers and nurses.

Some have come from as far away as Australia and America and as close as Toulouse, France or The United Kingdom.   Matthew, our third year physicist from The University of Birmingham, spent his last year studying at Toulouse in the south of France. He considered  La Giraudière one more good opportunity to learn more about French culture and language before returning to England for his last year at the university.


Working holiday gardening

Colin gardening on his working holiday in France

From Tuesdays to Thursdays you can find him with a drill or saw in his hand, ably framing doorways or windows under the watchful eye of Paul.  He’s not averse to doing a little edging or trimming in the gardens, also   Married couple, Marlene and Colin have nursing and social work backgrounds but have proven to be adept at restoring order to the sometimes chaotic structure resulting from so many people of different backgrounds joining together.  Happily they have taken over kitchen maintenance, overseeing daily lunchtime preparations as well as tidying up the common living areas.  Gardening has also proven to be their forte as they restore life to areas overgrown with weeds.  Jacques, still a teenager, busily keeps up with the correspondence and social media necessary to keep La Giraudiere running smoothly and accessible to people all over the world.  A second year university student, he will be studying the next year in Bordeaux,  France, improving his already impressive French skills after his internship here is complete.



France volunteers working holiday

Salwan from Northern Ireland repairing garden benches during his working holiday in France

Musician and raconteur, Sal, from Northern Ireland, admits his French language skills consist of little more than “Bonjour” and “Au Revoir.”  However, he does not see language as a barrier when mixing with the local villagers.  Nor has he found it difficult to transform his fingers, so comfortable with the keys of a piano, to an almost equal ease with a sander and paintbrush.  The beautiful picnic benches, just days ago suffering from the effects of weather and age, now sparkle as another of Sal’s compositions.  Leon and Bridget, our most intrepid travelers are seeing the world before settling down in Melbourne.  They will return to The Land own Under not only with an expanded vision of the world but with painting skills as you can watch them industriously adding vitality to the walls of La Giraudiere through color and a touch of pride and love.  Of course, you wouldn’t be reading any of this if there wasn’t a role for a blogger at La Giraudière



French working holiday workday

Marlene from UK helps out with the Gardening and also the housekeeping at La Giraudiere during her working holiday

The chance to spend three weeks writing in the south of France sounds like the pipe dream for all aspiring writers. Yet, here I am,  three days a week after coffee and croissants, sitting behind a computer letting my creative juices flow as I try the impossible – to capture my experiences here in words.  There are some technical aspects to the position that present a challenge.

It had never occurred to me before but its perfectly logical that a French keyboard would be different than an English keyboard. In turn, an American  has substantial differences from an English keyboard. Years of training go out the window as you struggle to find the new location of the letter a or the letter w.  The period is in a different spot and I never did find the French apostrophe.


I always had to switch to the English keyboard to find it and, of course, it is in a different place than the American apostrophe.  Its all part of the adventure and though its a small thing, I would never have learned that on a canned tour of France.

Australian working holiday in France

Leon and Bridget from Melbourne in Australia enjoy their working holiday volunteering at La Giraudiere


Terrence CreminPost Written by Terrence Cremin USA whilst on his working holiday volunteering in France 
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Jul 17

Why Volunteering in France at La Giraudière is for You

Choosing La Giraudière

In the depths of a brutal  winter, volunteering in France may be the furthest thing from your mind.

The rustic charms of La Giraudiere are a big draw.

However, the appeal of a holiday in Europe can’t be overestimated. Images of the mild temperatures of the south of France or perhaps the warm waters of The Mediterranean swirl through your head. Along with the bite of permafrost, financial realities sink in and you feel an adventure abroad is out of reach. Cast that notion aside. A trip to France need not break your bank account.

If you are willing to trade some of your skills and knowledge for room and board, the volunteer opportunities of La Guardiere may be just for you.  Therein lies the rub, you think.  Perhaps you feel you don’t have any particular talents that would be useful.  That is the beauty of La Guardiere.  There are so many interesting facets to be found here that it is a sure bet that program director Paul will be able to match  whatever your skills and interests are to a useful chore.  Rehabbing the main part of the house is a long term project requiring building, constructing, painting and drywallers (among other things.)  Notice I used the “ing” form of the word,  With a little direction anyone can be a builder or a painter.   If that still feels out of your realm, housekeeping and cooking may be more to your liking.  There are also plenty of opportunities in the garden: planting, seeding, clearing brush, or pruning.  Clerical and computer skills also come in handy when it comes to assuring the smooth operation of La Guardiere.  Someone has to write these blogs after all but, of course, it takes talent to do that well!   Traveling across the world to a strange place may also feel a bit daunting.  There’s no way to convince you that this need not be the case other than to invite you to pore over La Giraudiere’s website and look at all the friendly faces enjoying the camaraderie of fellow volunteers.  Besides working, dining and playing alongside folks from all over the world, there are plenty of opportunities to mix with local people from nearby villages. Whether you are joining in  the weekly petanque game in Brossac, teaming with villagers and volunteers alike or helping set up tables for a nearby fête, It will give you that chance to brush up on your French skills.  There it is, perhaps the most unsettling aspect of all, the language barrier.  You can put any worries about that away as well.  Volunteers come from mainly English speaking countries with a wide range of abilities to speak French. There are volunteers with no French background to the fluent and everything in between. Weekly French lessons are provided and geared to whatever level the volunteer is at.  No matter what your skill level, it’s practically impossible not to improve your ability to speak and understand French.  So what are you waiting for?  Take the first step to your French adventure by filling out an application to volunteer at La Giraudière.


Terrence Cremin

Post Written by Terrence Cremin USA whilst on his working holiday volunteering in France 

 For information on volunteering in France  or A working holiday in France
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Jul 16

Bastille Day at La Giraudière

Bastille Day at La Giraudière


Program Director Paul, in his infinite wisdom, advised me not to make travel plans from America to La Giraudière over the long Bastille Day holiday weekend. Even so, the trains were stuffed to capacity from Paris with holiday merrymakers  in the days leading up to the fete.  Regardless, I arrived at La Giruardière as preparations for the local festivities were coming into full swing.  But not before a marvelous meal of fois gras at a local “resto” in the nearby rustic village of Brossac. And not before being introduced to the endearing custom of introducing yourself to everyone in the establishment over a glass of vin rouge. “Bonjours” and “Ca vas” fill the air with each new person who joins in the revelry of a

Jacques gives a thumbs up to the local produce

night out in the town.  The meals served were the real deal with sides of frites and salade verte. And of course, the sound of “Santè” as bottomless glasses of wine clinked to everyone’s well being. A walk home under the stars, Ursa Major prominent in the French sky, topped off the evening as we were serenaded by a chorus from the local grenouilles (little frogs.)  The weather on Sunday, July 13 may have been gloomy and overcast but the volunteers of La Guardiere were greeted with warm and sunny “saluts” by the members of the Commission pour La Fete nationale française. This scene is repeated all across France as proud Frenchman gather together to commemorate one of the greatest moments in French history. On July 14, 1789 , the citizens of Paris stormed the Bastille, a prison holding political prisoners.  This event touched off the French Revolution.  We joined in to help with set up for the evening’s festivities at a nearby park.  First, however we eat!  As if out of thin air, loaves of bread, links of salami, tubs of patè and the ever present bottles of wine appear.  Once again, greetings and introductions come first, then we feast before we work.  Chatting with the local committee members is a marvelous way to practice your French or just develop your ear for the language.  They are friendly and laid back and speak with a slower cadence which points to their relaxed approach to life;such a switch after experiencing the hustle and bustle of Paris.  The rest of the morning is spent sweeping out the park shelter and setting up tables and benches where the revelers will dance and celebrate later in the evening.  It’s all done efficiently and leisurely leaving the afternoon free to explore the area before we return for the night’s events. Siesta may be a Spanish word and tradition but, wonderfully so, it is not foreign to the people of Southwest France.  Refreshed we return to the park and first we eat!  Monsieur Maire de Brossac (Mayor of Brossac) serves up fresh local melons as an appetizer, to all the members of the commission and the volunteers of La Giruardière.  Heaping bowls of frites, plates of roast pork and savory breads soon follow as everyone again toasts with fresh wines from nearby vineyards to everyone’s health and well being . Normally Le Feu d’artifice (fireworks) display would follow but tonight, besides being  the eve of Bastille Day, is a very special night that only comes around once every four years, The Finals of The World Cup!  Argentina is set to square off against Germany so the crowd leaves to go to a nearby clubhouse to watch the game.

Evenly split, the sentiment runs from “Anyone but Germany” to” Keep The Cup in Europe.”

The World Cup

La Guardiere volunteers, Sal and Jacques, watch The World Cup

The game itself turns out to be a bit of a disappointment as there is no score after ninety minutes, requiring overtime.  A beautifully played goal by the German team

makes up a bit for the dullness of the game but mostly everyone seems relieved.  Now they can go down to the lake for the evening’s main event, The fireworks. These do not disappoint.  Stars of reds and greens and blues light up the skies over Brossac to choruses of oohs and aahs from all the spectators.  Brossac may be a small village but the display is a BIG SHOW.  Set to the music of Queen, Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli, among others, the fireworks dazzled the crowd, setting the stage for the happy celebration to follow.  Back in the shelter dancing and singing went on until the wee hours of the morning until Bastille Day was suitably ushered in.   Appropriately, Monday, Bastille Day itself, is a day of rest with La Giruadière slowly joining the world by the time the sun is prominent in the sky.


Some volunteers head into nearby Chalais for Market Day while others attend to the more mundane tasks of laundry and answering emails (Does anyone send postcards anymore?)  The long and wonderful weekend of La Fete nationale quietly comes to a close with a pétanque game in the village. Americans and Italians may call it Boci Ball and the British simply Balls but whatever the name, it’s clearly an international game as the La Guardiere Volunteers join players from Belgium and the local villagers.  The more veteran volunteers are hungry to show off their skills developed in last week’s games while the rookies focus on learning the rules. It’s all good-natured fun washed down with a sparkling rosé supplied by our new Belgian friends. Au Revoirs punctuate the crisp night as all participate in what is seemingly becoming a ritual, the walk home under a full moon to the croaking of the grenouilles.





Terrence Cremin

Post Written by Terrence Cremin USA whilst on his working holiday volunteering in France 

 For information on volunteering in France  or A working holiday in France
Don’t forget to join us on Twitter and Facebook!


Jul 15

Choosing the right volunteer opportunity

Choosing the right volunteer opportunity

The Volunteer opportunity , such as the ones offered at La Giraudiere in the beautiful region of the Charente in France provide a perfect option for really getting to know French culture and the local people of this charming region.

Terrence Cremin's volunteer opportunity

Author Terrence Cremin happily makes his way to the volunteer opportunity at La Giraudiere in France

The volunteer opportunities at La Giraudiere abound with chances to mix with the locals and become familiar with the local customs and language. It’s economical as well.

Located about an hour’s drive from the bustling metropolis of Bordeaux in Southwest France,  La Guardiere offers a glimpse into a more relaxed, peaceful world. The building itself is an old stone maison undergoing rehabbing.  Volunteers can choose from construction, gardening, maintenance or clerical to aide in restoring the splendor of this proud villa.

Traveling author, Terrence Cremin, writes about his volunteer opportunity at La Giraudiere in Southwestern France.To read more visit Volunteer-Opportunity-France


You can read more about the project at La Giraudiere by visiting the website Volunteer In France

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Jul 09

An Intern’s Experience At La Giraudiere

New Intern Jacques

New Intern Jacques

I have now been at La Giraudiére for three days as an intern whose role is to assist the Project Director Paul.

I have really enjoyed my stay so far, but I seem to have brought the British weather along with me!

Apart from the clouds, the internship has been unique and insightful. Having learnt the standard procedure of dealing with inquiries via email, translating things from English to French, writing letters in French and receiving one on one tuition, I have had the opportunity to experience how a real business is run and at the same time been able to practice and apply my language skills.

On top of this I have very much enjoyed socialising with the other volunteers, in particular when we beat one of the locals at a game of pétanque. And I enjoyed watching Germany absolutely hammer Brazil in the world cup. Both Matt (a volunteer) and I were so shocked at Germany scoring four goals in six minutes that we thought they were showing replays!

La Giraudiére is a beautiful building, situated in magnificent rural France, which I hadn’t the chance to visit until now. I am sure I will highly benefit from immersing myself in the French culture, and will hence be better prepared from the internship for my year of study in Bordeaux next year.

I am excited to take part in the rest of the trips that Paul and La Giraudiére offer; and tonight it’s poker night so I’ll be off to test my Texas Hold ‘em skills against the locals!

Jul 08

My Final Week As A Volunteer

Summer Volunteer’s Last Days At La Giraudiere

I remember the day I got here vividly, as if it were only yesterday. But sadly, no. Today is the beginning of my final week of volunteer work at La Giraudiere. On Friday Paul will be dropping me and my suitcase off at Chalais train station as I head off to La Rochelle for a week before returning to England.

Volunteering has been a great opportunity, not only to extend my stay in France, but meet new friends and be welcomed into the local community. I gained a real insight into life in rural France; playing Petenque with the locals and joining in activities run by local associations.

Saint Emilion Volunteer Trip

Volunteers from La Giraudiere visited Saint Emilion.

I’ve had the chance to explore new areas of France; visiting Aubeterre-sur-Dronne, Cognac, Bordeaux and Saint Emilion, as well as local towns such as Barbezieux and Chalais. You can see some of the pictures I’ve taken on the La Giraudiere Pinterest and Facebook pages.

I hope that I’ve made a valid contribution to Paul’s volunteer project at La Giraudiere. You never know, I might return one day.

If you’re thinking about volunteering in France, I hope this blog gives you an idea of what volunteering at La Giraudiere is really like. Take a look at the webpage to find out more or apply for a place. Or give Paul a call, he’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.

A little update on our new arrivals – At the weekend new volunteer Sal from Northern Ireland arrived, and on Sunday intern Jacques joined us. You’ll hear from them soon on the blog.







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