French market & Restaurant Poirier

French market & Restaurant Poirier

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

Chalais market fun

Chalais market fun

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

Delightful cuisine at Le Poirier

Delightful cuisine at Le Poirier

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

Delicious salmon course

Delicious salmon

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

wide selection of cheese

wide selection of cheese

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

delectable dessert

delectable dessert

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

 

Volunteer Adventures in Angouleme

Volunteer Adventures in Angouleme

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

Wall art in Angouleme

Wall art in Angouleme

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

Volunteers explore by train

Volunteers explore by train

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

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

Adventures at the Comic Museum

Adventures at the Comic Museum

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

Boat tour of Angouleme

Boat tour of Angouleme

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

Cathedral in Angouleme

Cathedral in Angouleme

Bastille Day Celebrations at Lake Brossac

Bastille Day Celebrations at Lake Brossac

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

Eve of Bastille Day - picnic at Lake Brossac.

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

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

Spectacular Bastille Day Fireworks.

Spectacular Bastille Day Fireworks.

The Lake transformed by red fire.

The Lake transformed by red fire.

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

LG Volunteers watching the Bastille Day fireworks.

LG Volunteers watching the Bastille Day fireworks.

Circle of friends - Bastille Day Celebrations 2016.

Circle of friends – Bastille Day Celebrations 2016.

La fête du 14-Juillet

Bastille Day 2016

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

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

Kathryn and Emily doing the big clean.

Kathryn and Emily doing the big clean.

Bruce and Alina hedge trimming.

Bruce and Alina hedge trimming.

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

Joanna wiping the bar down.

Joanna wiping the bar down.

Kathryn and Emily hard at it.

Kathryn and Emily hard at it.

La Giraudiere work, play, fun

Work, Play, Fun at La Giraudiere

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

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

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

Joanna and Emily from UK tree trimming. Great job!

Joanna and Emily from UK tree trimming. Great job!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Work day at La Giraudiere

Volunteers/Interns Work Day at La Giraudiere

Sitting in the office on a Volunteers/Interns Work Day at La Giraudiere has a different feel to sitting in an office in a busy city or sitting in a class at Uni taking notes. A peek out the door and you can take in a view so picturesque that you have to pinch yourself and say “how glad am I that I find myself here” – green fields, stone cottages in the distance, trees swaying in the breeze, sun shining and a quiet peacefullness all around. The outside workers stroll by occasionally in search of a tool, some advice, or ready for another chore.

Each volunteer elects to do whatever type of work they like of the chores to be done and somehow everyone is very content with what they are doing. We all look forward to morning tea break, lunch break and afternoon tea break which are always lively and generally there are discussions about who is cooking dinner and what they will be cooking. Of course there are discussions about politics, home countries, chores and all manner of interesting topics.

Today we have 2 volunteers and 1 intern in the office and the tapping of computer keys breaks the otherwise peaceful silence. The intern will be very well equipped to run a business after this experience as she will learn all the various components of the organisation and how it runs. There are manuals and procedures to be updated, emails to be read and answered, bookings to be managed and all sorts of duties providing an in- depth overview of the organisation in total. All good experience for one’s c.v.

Kathryn is an Intern from Scotland who speaks French and Arabic as well as English.

Kathryn is an Intern from Scotland who speaks French and Arabic as well as English.

Olivia from the UK working on a website for Brossac. Olivia speaks French and German as well as English.

Olivia from the UK working on a website for Brossac. Olivia speaks French and German as well as English.

The other two office workers are blogging and doing a website for the Brossac district. Volunteers and interns are constantly arriving and leaving so it is very helpful to have up to date manuals and procedures.

Who can resist posting a photo of the beauiful La Giraudiere with the wisteria coming into bloom.

The wisteria bush flowers a little more each day. A pretty adornment to the house.

The wisteria bush flowers a little more each day. A pretty adornment to the house.

Volunteers/Interns at La Giraudiere enjoy travel to other regions of France

Volunteers/Interns at La Giraudiere enjoy travel to other regions in France

With just a 3 day commitment to work, La Giraudiere volunteers/interns have 4 days each week to explore other parts of France and the current group have been making the most of this opportunity. The train service from Chalais provides a gateway to anywhere you want to go. Some popular weekend jaunts are Angouleme, Santes, Cognac and Bordeaux.

Bordeaux, in southwestern France, is a port city on the Garonne and hub of the famed wine-growing region. It’s definitely a city on the not to be missed list.  It is known for its Gothic Cathédrale St-André as well as its many fine and contemporary art museums and 18th and 19th century mansions. The Grand Place de la Bourse opens to the water with the Three Graces fountain at its center.

Some 1,810 hectares of Bordeaux are listed a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is well worth a trip on the ‘red bus’ to get an overview of the city and then go back to specific sites to visit magnificent buildings some dating from the 12th century. There are a myriad of outdoor restaurants and good French food available everywhere.

Whilst in Bordeaux another not to be missed is a visit to Saint-Émilion. It is located 35 kms northeast of Bordeaux. Saint-Émilion’s history goes back to prehistoric times and it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site with fascinating Romanesque churches and ruins stretching all along steep and narrow streets. The Romans planted vineyards in what was to become Saint-Émilion as early as the 2nd century. Monks started up the commercial wine production in the area in the 8th century. The scenery is eye-wateringly beautiful with rows and rows of grape vines in every direction.

The group currently staying at La Giaudiere have this past weekend returned from various locations and their lovely photos and descriptions of where they have been demonstrates that Volunteers/Interns at La Giraudiere enjoy travel to other regions of France.

There was lots of hugging and kisses when everyone returned to Chalais last evening to be reunited after a weekend away from their now good friends and two newcomers and a local couple joined us for a dinner in the churchyard of Chalais Chapel under the trees. Chalais Chapel was rebuilt in the Neo-Roman style from 1868-1872 as a hospice, chapel and girls’ school. Today the building is associated with worship and culture for the benefit of mainly young people.

Friends sharing dinner and stories about their weekend jaunts

Friends sharing dinner and stories about their weekend jaunts

It was obvious from the lively chatter and camaraderie that Volunteers/Interns at La Giraudiere enjoy travel to other regions of France and sharing their stories with each other. A lovely meal was served by the owners of the small restaurant across the road from the Chapel.

Beautiful location for dinner in the Chalais Chapel yard under the trees

Beautiful location for dinner in the Chalais Chapel yard under the trees

Kathryn Intern from Scotland found a fluffy friend

Kathryn Intern from Scotland found a fluffy friend

We arrived back at La Giraudiere to witness a glowing magic sunset, perfect end to a perfect weekend.

Sunset from La Giraudiere - perfect end to the day

Sunset from La Giraudiere – perfect end to the day

 

 

Enjoying the outdoors as a volunteer at La Giraudiere

Enjoying the outdoors as a volunteer at La Giraudiere

For some volunteers, their stay at La Giraudiere offers a chance to work outdoors in the beautiful countryside of Brossac. For those normally stuck in an office or studying at university, this is a great opportunity to try their hand at a range of activities they wouldn’t do on a day to day basis. La Giraudiere has a lot of land and there is always pruning, mowing, hedge trimming, whipper snipping, gardening, tree trimming and general yard tidying to do. Last week there was a lot of effort devoted to the garden/yard tidy up. A familiar sound is the whipper snipper going non-stop and someone calling out “where are the loppers”. With volunteers from a range of countries, there is  lot of discussion about what the various tools are called.

Odile from Ireland and Emily from the UK did a massive prune with the loppers. Big job.

Odile from Ireland and Emily from the UK did a massive prune with the loppers. Big job.

Enjoying the outdoors as a volunteer at La Giraudiere is not confined to gardening only but as the garden is a priority at the moment, the volunteers are focussing on getting that done before moving on to other things. Roses are blooming and a bit more wisteria appears each day and as we sit outside having all of our meals, we can pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. Some of the volunteers are beginning to sport sun tans from their time in the sun. It is amazingly cool under the shady trees so quite pleasant for working.

Elena from Russia gets into the clearing up in the yard.

Elena from Russia gets into the clearing up in the yard.

Odile did a lot of work in the garden and sadly it was time to say goodbye today. Back to Ireland. She is missed already.

Odile did a lot of work in the garden and sadly it was time to say goodbye. Back to Ireland. She is missed already.

Once the work day has finished, some of the volunteers can been seen Enjoying the outdoors as a volunteer at La Giraudiere by taking a walk to the lake for a cool swim. It is a pleasant walk to the lake past fields of sleepy cows resting in the deep green, lush grass. The walk into Brossac is about a 10 minute stroll, past gorgeous stone houses and of all things a water lily pond which evokes memories of Monet’s garden and his famous painting “Waterlilies”.

Bruce with the whipper snipper. He has made a big impact.

Bruce from UK/China with the whipper snipper. He has made a big impact.

Learn French at La Giraudiere

Learn French at La Giraudiere

A wonderful opportunity exists to Learn French at La Giraudiere or if you already have mastered some basic French to improve your skills. Currently 6 of the volunteers at La Giraudiere can speak French and are here to take their command of the language to  higher level. As well as all volunteers having acess to French lessons by teachers who come to La Giraudiere each week, those involved in an internship have one on one intensive lessons several times a week. The weekly lessons are fun and you get to learn basic phrases and greetings. It’s amazing how a little French goes a long way and the locals appreciate an attempt to at least greet them in their language.

If you want to Learn French at La Giraudiere you couldn’t really find a better place to learn. It goes beyond having a lesson and then trying to remember what you have learned because you get lots of opportunities to practice on a day to day basis. A stay in Brossac provides contact with many local residents e.g. trips to the local supermarket, pharmacy, restaurants and tourism office will require you to have a little knowledge of French because the locals in these shops speak very little English. Besides it makes you feel good to be able to communicate even at a basic level rather than just pointing at what you want. The volunteers have lots of interaction also with the local community as they get involved in community events, assisting with the set up and running of the events and it is a lot of fun to converse with the locals and add enjoyment to the experience.

The best way to learn a language is to be immersed in an area where everyone is speaking the language and getting to hear the way words and phrases are pronounced. Paul, being a gregarious and generous host, likes to invite some of his local friends to dinner from time to time and having enjoyed such an occasion last evening it was fun to see all the volunteers communicating in French no matter at what level of skill.

As mentioned, Learn French at La Giraudiere and hear the language spoken all around you every day. Such a fun and enjoyable way to learn. Sitting outside in the beautiful French countryside has to be better than sitting in a class room don’t you agree?

Kathryn intern from Scotland taking her one on one intensive French lesson. Outdoors in the garden of La Giraudiere.

Kathryn, intern from Scotland, taking her one on one intensive French lesson. Outdoors in the garden of La Giraudiere.

Group French lessons for all - loads of fun

Group French lessons for all – loads of fun

 

Volunteers at La Giraudiere Brossac

Volunteers at La Giraudiere Program

After 4 days of free time to do their own thing, the latest group of volunteers looked forward to Tuesday this week to fulfil their work commitment to the Volunteers at La Giraudiere Program. A list of tasks are proposed by Paul and volunteers are free to choose those tasks which suit their skills and capabilities. No-one is expected to do anything they feel they cannot do. Some may choose something they have not done before so as to learn some new skills. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are working days. Paul works alongside the volunteers guiding and supervising. There are a variety of tasks to choose from such as gardening, hedge trimming, furniture repair, digging post holes, tidying up, housekeeping and computer work e.g. blogging and answering email enquiries.

Some of the more artistic have been able to express themselves by creating works of art from found objects all adding to the ambience of a country residence.

Odile creating an artistic piece of work to place in an outside area

Odile from Ireland creating an artistic piece of work to place in an outside area

Work days are very satisfying and there is a lot of camaraderie and support for each other. It is good to know that we are making a contribution to a wonderful place. For a holiday experience with a a variety of activities, nothing could be better than being one of the Volunteers at La Giraudiere Program.

After the chores are finished for the day around 4.30 there is plenty of time to take a walk to Lake Brossac and have a dip in the refreshing waters, sunbathe on the golden sand or have a nice cold beverage at the Clubhouse. Would you like to join us?

Brossac Lake, chores done for the day, perfect for a dip on the sunny days of summer

Brossac Lake, chores done for the day, perfect for a dip on the sunny days of summer

Golden sands perfect for sunbathing and getting that summer tan hapening

Golden sands perfect for sunbathing and getting that summer tan happening