Matthew Harrison Testimonial
Here is the Matthew Harrison Testimonial about his lively four weeks at La Giraudière during summer 2014.
The four weeks I spent at La Giraudière at the end of my year studying abroad were some of the most enjoyable of my year in France. The house itself was a wonderful place to stay, as the owner, Paul, and the other volunteers at the time, from such varied countries as the UK, America, Australia, Ireland, and Hungary, all made it a lovely place to live and work, with always someone to talk to, lots of interesting and entertaining stories to hear, and a different delicious meal every evening.
I participated in the volunteer programme, which entailed working three days a week to maintain and improve the house itself. It was great to be able to learn new things while working on the house; I did all sorts, from gardening to cleaning, from painting to putting up plasterboard, and from cementing to filling. I definitely picked up a bunch of useful new skills and the company of the others made sure that the work was never dull, and at no point did I wish I was just there purely on holiday!
After the work, it was very rare to have an empty evening. Whether it was playing pétanque in the village, playing poker or watching a concert at the lake, eating out at the Saint Bernard with the friendly locals or at Quai Sud looking over the lake or in at the house with guests – Paul seems to know everyone in a five kilometre radius – or attending the Bastille Day celebrations, there was more to do in the countryside than I expected! And our days off were no less full. The day trips to Saint-Émilion, a prestigious wine-making town, and a road trip up the coast stopping at Pons, Talmont and St. Palais sur Mer, all with their own charms (medieval fête, tiny beautiful seaside village and lovely beach town respectively) were excellent and perfectly chosen by Paul. Another day was spent by some of us in Bordeaux, only an hour away by
train and well worth a visit with so much to see and explore. We also headed to another quarry-turned-lake with its own beach (and bar) for a late afternoon, for a well-deserved relaxing swim and sunbathe after work. The Restaurant Poirier in nearby Bardenac is great for a long (and big) lunch, and the wide-ranging Monday market in Chalais and French lessons on Friday mornings with the lovely and entertaining teacher, Lynn, were also great ways to fill the time.
Basically, I cannot recommend highly enough a stay at La Giraudière. You have the opportunity to make great friends, experience French life like a simple tourist never could, learn some French, contribute to the project, learn new skills, visit the region, and much more. My four-week stay went by far too quickly, and I would have loved to stay on longer; instead, I think I’ll just have to come back next year!