Viva la France

Currently we are in France enjoying our first ‘workaway’ experience, basically we work 4-5 hours a day, 5 days a week,  for our board and keep.

We are in on the outskirts of a small village called Touzac, (pop 350 approx) which is by the River Lot http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Touzac,_Lot     This wikipedia link tells you briefly about Touzac and we are working in the hotel by La source bleue or the blue spring. The spring is right outside the house and every day we go to it to collect drinking water. It is like a small pond but it is about 40m deep, the water temperature is a fairly constant 14*c and it flows quite quickly through to the River Lot. Our accommodation is the old hotel and it was originally a mill, parts of which date back to the 12th century.

We are working for a wonderful couple, Jean-Pierre (French) and Sian (Welsh). Sian has lived in France for over 40 years now and they have 5 adult children. The original family home (gorgeous) is run as a B&B by Jean-Pierre’s sister and the mill was converted into accommodation in the 1970’s and has been run as a hotel by Jean-Pierre and Sian for many years along with a popular restaurant at the front of the property.  About six years ago they rented out their house and left the restaurant and hotel in the care of others to pursue other ventures ( eg a year in Morrocco!) and now they are back. The property needs some work done to it and the restaurant needs to be brought up to scratch again so in the mornings we have been helping them with this. Another workaway couple are also here;  Yuya and Nanae, a young Japanese couple, plus their son, Ichan (19months).  Yuya is a trained pastry chef and now wants to open a restaurant in Japan, they are travelling and learning about different food and how to cook it. Today I taught him to make a pavlova!

Sian, Nanae and I have cleaned the restaurant from top to bottom, every surface, every utensil and tool and last Friday the restaurant served its first customers,  a walking group  of 12 people who also stayed at the hotel. Jean-Pierre, Yuya and Mike have been plastering and painting rooms. In between times we cook! And we eat! We have had fabulous French food and in between times Japanese and Kiwi meals. These are often eaten outside on the terrace. Breakfast each day involves the baguette, torn and not cut,  plus coffee. Trust me, it is as good as it sounds. We think we may never leave…..The people are great, the food is delicious, the scenery wonderful, the peace, the quiet, the “serenity” ….what’s not to love????

In our spare time (and yes there is some of that) we have been out and about, sometimes all 7 of us, sometimes the 5 visitors and sometimes just Mike and I. We have been to vineyards, café’s, castles, markets and more.

Here is a sample. During our first weekend we went to a plant fair at a place called Abbaye Nouvelle;  now most of it is a ruin, the ‘new’ part being added in the 13th century. On the way home we stopped in Puy l’Eveque at a café called Pukeko run by a kiwi and his English wife, it is again on the River Lot and is two villages away from Touzac. Delicious flat whites are served here!

We went to a weekday market about 40 minutes away to do food shopping and of course to drink coffee.

Last weekend we went to the larger town of Cahors and visited their Saturday Market, a riot of colour and smells. Quite incredible. The Cathedral here was lovely, quiet and still with an amazing cloister contained with the Church and some of the neigbouring houses. I am trying to imagine looking out my back window into a cloister!

We also visited a medieval village called Pieton which is in Saint Cirq Lapopie. This was built on a steep hillside and while it is a popular tourist attraction it was well worth the visit. It doesn’t seem too busy as you have to park outside the village and walk in. This visit involved our first go at driving on the right hand side of the road. It was definitely a two person job with Mike driving and me navigating. We kept quoting our brother-in-law Geoff, ‘tight right, loose left’. Due to the narrow roads, steep banks and rocky hillside it was a nerve wracking experience, but we survived, we didn’t yell at each other (although there was some muttering). We were exhausted upon our return and wine was required. From here the driving has been much easier.

Our  next excursion was to the Chateaux de Bonaguil which dates back to the 11th century. It is now largely a ruin but parts are still intact or have been restored, a magical visit.

We leave here on June 2nd and fly to Barcelona, Spain. This has been an amazing start to our workaway experience and it’s all because we took a risk and said ‘yes’.

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