Sep 18

Nilou Begins Working Holiday at La Giraudiere

Calgarian Nilou Davoudi Arrives At La Giraudiere to Jump Start Her Working Holiday Experience 

I first came to France when I was 16 to visit family in Normandy. Instantly I was in love with France and everything French – from the language and culture to the bread, cheese and wine to the kind, proud people who smile easily. Ten years later and I came back again with my husband to visit. The love I had for France was still very strong. So, I quit my cubicle job, left my wonderful husband, friends and family behind for a working holiday year in France.  I decided to come to France to improve my French, learn more about the culture and learn more about myself as a person too.

Heavy snow blankets the city of Calgary AB Canada on Tuesday September 9th 2014 (Ted Rhodes/Calgary Herald)

The day I left my hometown Calgary, Alberta, Canada, there was still snow on the ground and the weather was bone chillingly cold. No this wasn’t the middle of winter – it was mid September. After a long flight from Calgary to Amsterdam, another flight from Amsterdam to Bordeaux, a short bus ride, a train ride and a car ride, I finally made it to La Giraudiere – exhausted but thrilled to be there. I had seen several photos of LG before I arrived but the photos do it no justice. This place is absolutely breathtaking. I chose La Giraudiere to help me transition into my working holiday year. I had never been to southern France so this was a great opportunity to not only see the sights but also immerse myself fully into the language and culture.

Working Holiday in France at La Giraudiere

Working Holiday at La Giraudiere in beautiful south west France (http://www.lagiraudiere.com/)

 

So far I have been here for a couple of days and I am living the life! The views are stunning, the weather is a dream come true, Brossac (the village) is like a postcard and the food is to die for. The other volunteers here are fantastic and Paul and his adorable dog (Sidney) are the best hosts you can ask for. I feel right at home! I am hoping that my time at La Giraudiere will give me the confidence I need to begin a year working and living in France.

Everything here has been better than I would have ever expected and I am very grateful and glad I found La Giraudiere!

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Sep 17

Student ends his year in France volunteering at La Giraudière

Student, Matthew Harrison, ends his year in France volunteering at La Giraudière

Matthew Harrison year in France

Matthew ends year in France at LG

After spending a year in France at Toulouse University, physics student Matthew decided to spend his last four weeks in France at La Giraudière in June and July of this year.

He proved to be a very handy odd job man; and at well over six feet tall, there was no need for a step ladder! During his stay he helped with the gardening, painting, insulating, tidying, cooking and any other bits and bobs that needed doing around the house.

A regular at the local Pétanque and weekly music concerts in the village, Matthew relished the opportunity to mix with the locals.

He has a very high standard of French which stood him in good stead for his year in France studying Physics at Toulouse University. Thanks to his high standard of French he was even able to contribute towards the lessons at La Giraudière and was impressed the quality of teaching.

Now back in his home town of Hull, the LG team wish Matthew all the best in whatever he does next. Thanks for all your help Matthew, and we hope to see you back here again very soon!

This is Matthew’s testimonial  of his time at La Giraudière.

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Sep 04

Volunteer Leo says goodbye to La Giraudière before returning to Hong Kong after his Working Holiday

Leo and Jenny visit La Giraudière

Leo and Jenny visit La Giraudière

On Saturday La Giraudière was thrilled to welcome back one of its previous volunteers when Leo and his girlfriend Jenny popped in to see us. Leo spent three weeks here in January at the beginning of his French working holiday, and he came to say goodbye over the weekend before going home to Hong Kong.

Under the France and Hong Kong Working Holiday Scheme, Leo was able to spend up to one year as an employee in France. As we enjoyed lunch in the garden, he filled us in on his time in France and other various places all over Europe. He maintained, however, how glad he was that he started his European adventure here at La Giraudière. It acted as a base for him, he said; and gave him the opportunity to gain confidence in the language and culture before setting off to find work. In between landscaping and gardening, repairing wood burners, painting and other general maintenance tasks at LG, Leo spent his weekends exploring the area; and by the end of his three week stay he’d found a job at a restaurant in Bordeaux. He then went on to find work in Marseille, before spending the last two months of his trip travelling Europe with Jenny.

Playing around with the 'Selfie Stick'

Playing around with the ‘Selfie Stick’

After a lovely lunch in LG’s garden, we had the chance to play around with the couple’s ‘selfie stick’, an Asian phenomenon that’s about to take Europe by storm! Paul then took Leo and Jenny to the market in Tatre, where they enjoyed some fresh French oysters. It was then time to say our au revoirs, and to wish them well on their last week in France before their return.

Thanks for coming to see us Leo and Jenny! As Paul said, it really makes his work here worthwhile.

Leo, Jenny and Paul after lunch

Leo, Paul and Jenny after lunch

To learn more about the France and Hong Kong Working Holiday Scheme, visit http://www.consulfrance-hongkong.org/Working-holiday-visa

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Written by Elain Jones, a student from Wales volunteering at La Giraudière

Aug 27

Les événements de La Giraudière en 2014:

Les événements de La Giraudière en 2014:

Le calendrier des événements prévus à La Giraudière pendant la dernière partie de 2014 sont désormais disponibles sur le site de l’association.

Le premier événement se déroule le 24 septembre, une “Soirée pour les Brossacais de rencontre la communauté internationale de Brossac;” Le but est de mélanger tous les nationalités de Brossac et pour les expatriés différents de venir rencontre les autres et la communauté locale. Il y aura un turnoi des flechettes avec des prix à gagner, ainsi que plein d’autres activités. Le prix pour les joueurs est 14€ et 9€ pour les non-joueurs, qui comprend le repas et le dessert.

En octobre quand les nuits commencent à tomber plus tôt…il n’y a rien mieux qu’une soirée internationale pour vous éloigner de la télé! On propose la “Soireé Allemande,” avec le schnizel accompagné de la bière bavaroise traditionnelle et du vin allemand. Le prix est 11€, y compris le schnizel et frites, un quart du vin allemand ou un demi-litre de la bière bavaroise.

Le 8 novembre sera temps d’encore brûler le pauvre Guy Fawkes, donc un grand feu et un ragoût chaleureux vous attend à La Giraudière: “Guy Fawkes Night;” Le prix est 12€, y compris un apéritif de punch, un bon bol de ragoût irlandais et un quart de vin.

Le marché de Noël à La Giraudière, Brossac: Notez que les dates du marché ont changées. Le marché reste un événement de 2 jours, mais aura désormais lieu le dernier week-end de novembre, le 29 et 30. Il y aura aussi un repas pendant la soirée de 29, un dîner du marché de Noël à 19.30.

Les détails complets de ces événements et les autres prévus sont disponibles sur http://association.lagiraudiere.com/

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Le calendrier des événements à La Giraudière

La page web des événements de l’association

Aug 27

Events at La Giraudière 2014:

Events at La Giraudière 2014:

The calendar of events planned at La Giraudière for the final part of 2014 are now published and live upon the website of the association.

The first event planned is on the 24th of September, named “Soirée pour les Brossacais de rencontre la communauté internationale de Brossac;” The goal here is for the different expats and nationalities of Brossac to come along and meet other expats and the local community. There will be a darts knock out with prizes plus other activities planned for the evening. The price will be 14€ for players and 9€ for non-players, which will include dinner and dessert. Reserve now as places are limited.

October and the evenings are drawing in…what better way to pull you away from the tv than an event with an international flavour? “Soireé Allemande — A German night with Schnitzel served with traditional Bavarian beer and German wines.” The price for the Soireé Allemande is 11€ and includes your Schnitzel and frites and a quarter of German wine or half a litre of Bavarian beer.

November 8th and it is time to burn poor old Guy Fawkes yet again, so a warming open air fire and stew awaits you at La Giraudière: “Guy Fawkes Night;” The price is 12€ and includes a warming punch aperitif, a hearty bowl of Irish stew and a quarter of wine.

Marché de Noël à La Giraudière Brossac: Note that the Christmas market dates have changed. The market remains a 2 day event, but will now be held on the last weekend of November, the 29th and the 30th. There is also a dinner planned for the evening of the 29th. Dîner du Marché de Noël – 19.30.

You can see fuller details of these events and others planned by visiting http://association.lagiraudiere.com/

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Calendar of Events at La Giraudière

Association events web page

Aug 27

French red wine and Sunshine at La Giraudière

French red wine and sunshine at La Giraudière

As the end of May approached and my stay in France drew to a close, I couldn’t wait to start planning my next French adventure. As a student at Cardiff University, I’d spent eight incredible months teaching English at a lycée in Brittany; where I’d fallen in love with the French way of life, the people and the culture. Although I couldn’t wait to spend the summer at home in Wales, a part of me was bursting to come back to France and spend a few more weeks living life à la française before returning to the hustle and bussle of my final year at university. I was looking for an unique experience that would also give my French a little extra boost, and a stay at La Giraudière seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

“…good company, good wine, good welcome, can make good people.”

Volunteer meets Sidney the black labrodor

A warm welcome from Sidney

As Paul, the Program Director, drove me from the train station to La Giraudière; the breathtaking views of sunflower fields, vineyards and red-roofed houses were exactly what I’d hoped the Southwestern French countryside would be. Upon arriving at the house I was greeted with a very warm welcome from Sidney, the black Labrador, who later joined Paul and I on the grand tour of the old stone house. As I’m filled in on all the goings-on at LG, I can’t wait to get started on helping to plan future events.

First day at the office for volunteer

A busy first day at work

Today, on my first full day as a volunteer at LG, I’ve jumped straight into the marketing and social media aspect of the project. With all sorts of events such as a Pub Games night, Belgian and German evenings, Bonfire Night and a Christmas Market planned in the next few months, there’s a lot of organising and promoting to do! During my three weeks at La Giraudière, I’m looking forward to participating in the project’s clerical day-to-day, marketing and event planning work; and of course lending a hand to any other jobs that need doing around the house. Although I’m afraid I’ll need some guidance from other members of the team when it’s my turn to cook!

I can’t wait to spend my weekends meeting and socialising with the locals, or the Brossacais as they’re called; and discovering more of the beautiful rural landscape that surrounds the village of Brossac. I’ve been promised a bike by Paul, so who knows where I’ll end up! I’m keen to visit the nearby market that takes place every Monday, and I might even try my luck at one of the village’s bi-weekly Pétanque games!

A bottle of French red wine at La Giraudière

A bottle of Bordeaux’s finest at La Giraudière

And after passing through Bordeaux yesterday, I’m also very eager to return and spend a few days exploring the city. Rue Sainte-Catherine, which at 1.2km is Europe’s longest shopping strips, is especially tempting!

So after my first 24 hours here at La Giraudière, the next few weeks are set to be an exciting and interesting experience. As I make the most of the French red wine and sunshine, there’ll certainly be plenty of things to keep me busy!

 

Elain Jones, a student studying Welsh and French at Cardiff University, publishes her first blog entry at La Giraudière.

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Aug 24

Hungarian volunteers in France

Hungarian volunteers in France

 

The last of our Summer volunteers left on Wednesday morning heading home to Hungary. Richard was the first of Hungarian volunteers we have had stay at La Giraudiere.

Hungarian volunteer

Richard Masszi Hungarian Volunteer at La Giraudiere 2014

Richard who was taking time out before going to university hopes to study to become a medic or doctor. During his three weeks at La Giraudiere Richard learnt how to put up plaster boards and the supporting railing for dry lining or doublage as it is known in French.

Richard also helped out in the Park and Garden with weeding, trimming and cutting grass. Repairing the bikes also was something Richard enjoyed and he proved to be a very good cyclist taking off to Aubeterre and as far as Angouleme, which by the way is 50 kilometres from LG,

Cooking for the group was another job that Richard took in hand and he produced some nice evening meals and desserts.

 

Petanque, or boules, is a game that is played twice a week in the village in the evenings and the volunteers from LG are always invited to join in. Richard proved to be a very useful player and tested the French to the line losing on one occasion only 12-13

Volunteer playing petanque

Richard the petanque player representing La Giraudiere

“So thank you Richard for being our First Hungarian Volunteers and for all you did and maybe see you back at La Giraudiere one day.”

Richard is on La Giraudiere Facebook and Twitter

Jul 31

Hosting Volunteers France

Hosting Volunteers France

Ever wonder why someone may leave it all behind to pursue a life hosting volunteers in a quiet little part of France?  Just about twelve years ago, Paul  decided to give up the hustle and bustle of his hometown London, England and search for another way of life.  He took over an old stone maison in rural Southwest France called La Giraudière.

The roots of the house date back to the early 1700s but the original main house had long ago disappeared due to a fire or some other force of nature. What may have been the Gate House to the old estate still survived and in 1904 the family Giraud added an extension and this became La Giraudiere as known today.

It is rumored that the last offspring, 2 daughters, of the Giraudiere family had little or no interest in the property and moved off to Paris in the 1960s.  La Giraudiere fell into disrepair and needed some major repairs.  With nary a French word in his vocabulary, Paul set to rehabilitating the old house, taking on various other building projects in the area to bring in some income.

 

Paul Sidney hosting volunteers France La Giraudiere

Amiable La Giraudière hosts, Paul and Sidney

An afffable man, he soon got to know the locals, and learning the best way possible, through experience, he became conversant in French.  However, he still proudly holds on to a distinct British accent as he believes everyone should recognize their roots.

He was soon joined by a Labrador pup, Sidney who quickly became his right hand dog.  A man of leisurely pace, La Girardière slowly took shape until 2007 when Paul stumbled upon the idea of opening  up the building to holiday visitors in search of a unique experience in rural south west France.

For a small fee, (that basically covers food expense, French lessons, excursions and transfers) folks come from all over the world to volunteer in the effort to restore La Giraudière. Some like me come to help with the blogging or dealing with the ever arriving inquiries that arrive in the mail box each day.

 

Visitors come for many different reasons.  Some come to freshen up their French or English skills.  Others want to learn more about French culture while others just want a quiet getaway from the frenzied pace old modern living.  Whatever the reason, Paul greets everyone  with a smile and welcomes them aboard.

It’s clear Paul has come to love his adopted home.  He is never happier than when he usher his visitors to area markets, festivals or tourist spots.  He enjoys watching his guests marvel at the beauty of the local sunflower fields or the majesty of The Atlantic coast.

Well known in the nearby town of Brossac, the local villagers welcome his guests into the local shops, bar, restaurants and invite them to join in the bi-weekly games of petanque.  Perhaps, though, his favorite activity is sitting at La Girardière at sunset watching the beautiful colors streak across the sky or maybe even better, viewing the night sky, white with stars.  Regardless, wherever you catch Paul, you can count on a lively Bienvenue to La Giraudiere

Terrence Cremin

 

Travel writer Terence Cremin describes his experiences while volunteering at La Giraudière, France

 

 

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Jul 31

A volunteers journey to La Giraudière France

My Volunteers Journey to La Giraudière France

While spending three weeks volunteering at La Giraudière in Southwest France, I got to wondering how the planets had ined so that a volunteers journey would bring me to this little jewel in Southwest, France. I ‘m not sure when I was struck with the happy disease of wanderlust but perhaps it was during the fourth grade.

The Parthenon volunteers journey

The Parthenon

We studied Geography for the first time in my small Catholic school on the south side of Chicago.  The textbook was written as a travelogue and followed ten year old Peter on his family’s trip around the world. I read with awe as he watched the guards change at Buckingham Palace, climbed the steps of the Eifell Tower and ate gelato on The Spanish Steps in Rome. I would have happily traded places with him as I wiggled in my starched blue school uniform while he took pictures of The Pathenon and floated down The Ganges. Or perhaps it was even earlier when I received a picture book as a very young child called The Land of The Midnight Sun.  It was filled with happy Lap Landers with red puffy cheeks ,wearing colorful coats and hats,

Colorful Lap Landers

Colorful Lap Landers

herding reindeer under The Aurora Borealis.  Under drab Midwestern skies I dreamed of faraway places and knew that I must get there some day. Other than a tornado sweeping me away like Dorothy to Oz, I knew I would have to figure a way to get there on my own. It didn’t take as long as you might imagine, once I started saving my money from my daily paper route.  By the time I was sixteen, I had saved enough money to participate in a month long student tour of Europe sponsored by my high school.  I considered it a survey course of Western Europe; of the variety, snap a picture and look at it when you get home. We have to hurry on to our next country.  Or, if this is Tuesday, this must be Belgium.  It was all wonderful and I still look back at it fondly but it did not slake my travel thirst.  It would be ten years before I returned to Europe, this time to Switzerland to work in a language summer camp.  This

Balloons over Cappadocia, Turkey

Ballons over Cappadocia, Turkey

also afforded me the opportunity to visit The Netherlands, Luxembourg and England once again.  I would follow up my summer adventure with another Swiss tour the following year adding Ireland to the itinerary.  Then life would interfere.  Career and family would become the priority with some magical visits to places closer to home in The United States.  There is so much to see and do there but often when I would see a jet trail high in the sky, I would long to be aboard a jet plane European bound.  It would be over thirty years before I would have my passport stamped again. Two  years ago, I was given an opportunity to travel to Paris to visit a young friend gratuating from The Sorbonne.  I brushed off my dormant French skills and leapt at the chance.  This time I wandered to points south and north visiting Nice and Normandy.  It opened up my eyes that there was much more to Europe than the

major cities.  A trip to Turkey the following year would intervene but I would hang on to the idea that I wanted to see more of rural France.  However, a major trip abroad was putting a strain on the pocket book.

Sunflowers

Sunflowers of La Giraudière

I took on a part time job and started researching volunteer possibilities in France.  This happily brings me to La Giraudière.

Name your poison and there is most likely a volunteer opportunity to meet your needs.  I was attracted to the somewhat communal setting of English and French speakers in rural France.  It’s location in Sud Ouest had great appeal as it was an area I was unfamiliar with and knew it would yield great surprises.  I have not been disappointed in that regard.

My visit to Bordeaux revealed a beautiful ancient city brimming with gorgeous architecture, delicious dining spots and a fascinating history dating back to prehistoric times.

Forays to the Atlantic Coast delighted with beach resorts that rival the Cote D’Azur but with less people.  I have to thank my literary fourth grade friend Peter for opening the doors to such vast fields of exploration.  I don’t know if my travels will bring me back to La Giraudière ; after all Peter made it all around the world. I still have other continents to conquer.

 

Terrence Cremin Travel writer Terence Cremin describes his experiences while volunteering at La Giraudière, France

 

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Jul 29

Holiday volunteering at La Giraudière France

Holiday Volunteering and La Giraudière Volunteers Arrive and Depart

 

After spending three weeks on a holiday volunteering the La Giraudiere Volunteers arrive and volunteers depart. Even on a quiet weekend, La Giraudière is a busy as a hen house on Easter. There are markets in town and car boots in the village (that’s a flea market to our American friends; so named because people sell items out of their car trunks (boots.)

Holiday volunteering in France Marlene and Sal

Sal enjoys a concert with La Giraudiere friends before he departs

One can wander to points north and west, Bordeaux or the west coast, or stick close to home and swim in Etang Valliersfollowed by a terrific meal at Quay Sud.

A good book and a nap is also a welcome distraction; there is no more perfect spot than under a shady tree facing a field of tournesols (sunflowers).  All this and more happens on a typical La Giraudière weekend.

This past weekend saw us wishing a fond farewell to Sal who came to us from Northern Ireland. In the evening we all met for a delicious meal over looking Etang Valliers.  Despite the reality of having to say goodbye to a new friend, the mood at the dinner was kept lighthearted.  Sal is not one to look backwards besides there was still a concert to attend.  The Latin rhythms of the band added to the revelry.  After Sal left in the morning, La Giraudière was hit with a sensational thunderstorm

Holiday volunteering and Dinner at St. Bernard

Volunteers bid adieu to Matthew at Cafe St. Bernard

(or l’orage as the locals call it) that knocked out our internet and threw us back to The Stone Age – or at least to the 1980s.  We all wondered if Sal’s flight to Bordeaux took off or canceled but we couldn’t dwell on it as we had a new arrival to welcome and bid a fond adieu to another.

Richard arrived from Hungary as Matthew was packing his bags for home in The United Kingdom.  After spending a year studying in Toulouse and a month at La Giraudière, Matthew still wanted to extend his stay in France but family beckoned.

Another dinner, this one everyone’s favorite, Cafe St. Bernard in the center of the village of Brossac, again found us toasting a fellow volunteer with a local vintage.  The highlight of the evening however was the trivia contest that followed. Matthew was in his element, able to show off his expansive wealth of General Knowledge. He left home with not only fond memories of a his time in France but with a trivia victory under his belt.

Meanwhile Richard had precious little time to experience being the new kid on the block.  Tina from Austria

Richard plays petanque

New volunteer Richard proves to be quite adept at petanque

was scheduled to arrive the next day.  A secondary student,  Richard was hoping to work on his English and French.  He certainly became proficient in all the forms of hello and goodbye in both languages.   He was also introduced to the French game of petanque in Brossac and despite being a novice, walked away with two victories against more seasoned players.  Tina arrived the next morning with a near flawless American accent.  A native German speaker, she is conversant in English and anxious to learn French.  Despite, living in Belgium for five years, she says, with a giggle, that she didn’t learn any French there. Of course, as an American I’ve heard that all before.

 

A European says she doesn’t speak the local European language and then perfectly orders a meal while discussing options with the server.What they really mean is they couldn’t pass a second level exam in the subject. 

Tina does household chores whilsi holiday volunteering


Tina from Austria spends her holiday volunteering with household chores

As the weekend draws to a close, we look to the upcoming week which will see the departures of intern Jacques, after a month, English couple Marlene and Colin who were our unofficial den parents and then

finally by the end of the weekend, your intrepid travel writer sets off for points northward: Paris, London and Dublin.  One entire crew is replaced by another as more volunteers are scheduled to leave soon after I leave. All the coming and goings are the very nature of La Giraudière.  It’s all very bittersweet but the sadness is replaced by the friends and memories made here.  Some vow to return, others are content to add their tour at La Giraudière to their list of places visited.  Either way, all agree it was memorable and wish their replacements well

 

Terrence Cremin

 

 Travel writer Terence Cremin describes his experiences while volunteering at La Giraudière, France

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