Another Wonderful Weekend for the Volunteer Group at La Giraudiere
The Autumn Volunteer Group at Karyssa’s birthday dinner
Our Autumn Volunteer Group spent another lovely (albeit rainy) weekend here in Charente. Our weekend festivities began last Thursday afternoon, which just so happened to be my 23rdbirthday. And what a great place to spend a birthday! During our lunch break my fellow volunteers surprised me with a homemade cake, card, and wildflower bouquet. Later that night, Peggy made a delicious enchilada dinner, Dan provided some excellent wine, and Paul was ready with a box of chocolates. We enjoyed a nice, cozy evening of sitting around the kitchen table, sharing pictures and stories about each of our homes. That’s been one of the highlights of my time here at La Giraudiere: getting to know people from all over the world. It’s been interesting to compare differences between our cultures, but also to discover how just how much we all have in common.
Cheese plate at Poirier Gaston
On Friday we wanted to have one last big volunteer group outing before Dan and Grace departed over the weekend. So we choose to return to our favorite local restaurant, Restaurant Poirier Gaston. The five course meal was just as delicious (and long) as we remembered. That afternoon, the guys went off to the afternoon game of pétanque. It was quite the momentous occasion, as it was Steven’s first time and Dan’s last time playing pétanque here in Brossac. Friday night was quite eventful: we were invited to a surprise birthday party/welcome home party for a young French woman who recently returned from doing humanitarian work
Betty’s surprise birthday party
in Cameroon. The soirée was held in the Salle des Fetes of the nearby village of Passirac (every village has some kind of Salle des Fetes, basically a public hall that residents of the town can rent out for a big party or event). There was a big crowd there, made up of people of all different ages. We successfully surprised Betty, the birthday girl, and then the party got started. Plates were loaded with food, glasses were filled to the brim with drinks, and (most importantly)…a disco ball was found and installed. LG was well represented on the dance floor. We showed off all kinds of great dance moves while the French mostly looked on politely. It was a late night (later for some of us than others) and we all had a delightful time. I was amazed yet again at how the local community welcoming and inclusive the local community is.
Saturday morning we were forced to say farewell to Dan, our New
Steven at the monolithic church in Aubterre
Zealander. Dan is just about the most gentleman-ly man you could ever hope to meet, and we were all very sad to see him go. When Paul dropped Dan off at the train station he also dropped Peggy and Jimi off at Chalais to spend a few hours running errands in town. They decided to attempt an impressive 14 km trek on foot all the way back. Their journey took about four hours but led them past some really beautiful countryside. In the afternoon, Katie was kind enough to drive several of us to Aubterre. We found a restaurant and enjoyed a very French (a.k.a. long) meal of steak frites. After lunch, Steven, Katie, and Liat explored the town, checking out the subterranean church (and taking plenty of pictures along the way). Grace and I, already having done an Aubterre trip the week before, enjoyed a cup of coffee and a pleasant chat in the lovely main square of the town. That evening was a bit chilly and rainy so we had a group movie night and watched The Bucket List.
We had to say another sad goodbye on Sunday morning, this time to Grace, who decided to spend a few days on the western coast of France before returning to her native Ireland. Her enthusiasm, optimism, and kindness will be missed! Afterwards a group of us set off to Barbezieux to attend a brocante. There is truly an art to French flea markets. Row after row of tables are laid out with wares, ranging from complete junk to genuine antiques. Toys, vases, paintings, books, records, utensils, glasses, knick knacks, purses, chairs, scarves, dolls, tools, farm equipment, postcards, and pretty much anything else you could think. After a half an hour of wandering, everything started to look awfully
Fête de Patrimoine in Berneuil
similar. There were also several food stands there, including a giant pastry cart selling croissants, tarts, and meringues as big as your head. (I choose to indulge in my first crepe since I’ve been in France. Probably the best 2 Euros I’ve spent so far). That afternoon, Cordula went on an organized “bee walk” through some nearby woods. Although the cold weather kept most of the bees away, she did get to see some great scenery and interesting natural finds. Steven and Paul attended a “Fête de Patrimoine”in Berneuil, which was a big celebration of the heritage of the village. Similar festivities, aimed at promoting the
Niko cooking a delicious meal
cultural legacy of each region, take place all throughout France. People dressed in traditional garb demonstrated games, daily activities such as washing, and art that hearken back to the village’s past. Liat and I, meanwhile, ventured off to Les Antilles de Jonzac, an aquatic center in Charente-Maritime. There was a large heated indoor pool and sauna, which proved to be a very relaxing way to spend the day. That night, we had a fantastic dinner back at La Giraudiére with the whole volunteer group as well as several of our French friends: Niko, Aymeric, Arnaud, Johnny, and Elvis. Niko and Aymeric kindly offered to be the chefs for the night and cooked pasta carbonara for all 14 of us.
Monday was market day, so it was off to Chalais for the village market and to do the grocery shopping for the week. Cordula ventured into a British teashop and discovered a French conversation group at a local for French learners to get together and practice. She’s looking forward to the opportunity to improve her French. The rest of us had a mostly quiet day at home, finished off by stew and cornbread, courtesy of Katie.
Cheese vendor at the Chalais market
It was truly a great weekend…and, unfortunately, my last weekend here in Brossac! I’m leaving this Friday, and I’m already getting a little depressed at the thought of saying goodbye. The past five weeks have gone by much faster than I expected. I couldn’t imagine a better French experience spent with nicer people. La Giraudiere has a very special kind of magic, and I’m so glad I got to be a part of it for awhile!