We have been here for about 7 weeks now and we are loving every minute! We will be here for 11 weeks all together. This is a really cool house sit, very different from any we have done before. We are at a Chateau in the Loire valley, outside a small village near Chatellerault. We arrived by fast train, the TGV, it travels at about 300 km/hr, though you would never know when you are on it. We flew from Brazil to Portugal, then to Orly, got a bus into central Paris where we got the train south. It was a pretty long day all up, but worth the effort ––
We are now in Europe!!
We were picked up by the previous house sitters, who were leaving the next morning. The property has a main house, a gate house and a farm house, along with many other out buildings, an orangery, barns, workshops, garages, wells and caves. We are staying in the farm house. There was a meal waiting for us of traditional Confit de Canard – OMG SO GOOD!! and a very welcoming bed! Our first mission was to take Greg and Nam to the train station in Poitiers the next morning at 0600, they were heading back to Australia. This was no bother for us as our body clocks were so screwed up, we didn’t really know which was up or which was down. In reality it was a real baptism of fire! Driving on the wrong side of the road, in the dark, no idea north from south, jet lagged! HA! Thank you google maps! We drove back very slowly concentrating so hard on keeping to the correct side of the road. We made it in one piece and as the sun comes up we see the beautiful place we have landed ourselves in. WOW this is like a fairy tale, – it’s a castle! A real castle and so beautiful. The weather is great, blue sky and pleasantly warm. I think we are going to be very happy here.
Our hosts are amazing, we have been welcomed in as part of the family. It is a privilege to be here and we feel so lucky to be able to have this opportunity. We are living in rural France, just like a local and are learning so much of the culture and lifestyle, the language and traditions. It is truly amazing, almost too good to be true! We help out on the estate, gardens, painting, collecting wood etc. It is a huge upkeep for a property this size and we are so glad to be able to help out. Of course there is wine and cheese to try on a fairly regular basis, all educational of course!
We were taken for a day at the local farmers market. A small town about 20kms from here has a huge market on the first Monday of the month. It was so much fun! Our lovely host took us which was great because he was able to explain a lot of things. I don’t think there is very much that you cannot get at this market! From pet rabbits to every variety of eating fowl, snails and eels to cakes and wine to lawn mowers and orchard trees. No beer tent like our markets in NZ – but a wine tent. The old boys there chatting, catching up with the last months gossip over a wee Rosé, this happens from 0630 by the way! The atmosphere is so friendly, everyone happy and glad to see everyone else. Crepes, cheese, garlic, sausages, everything you could imagine, its all here in abundance and so fresh and delicious. We got all sorts of wonderful things, 3 trips back to the car to unload! Then best of all back home to cook and sample our purchases for lunch. Our lunch menu today? Oysters, white wine and 1st cut of wine (yes it’s a thing, not quite a fruit juice, not quite wine, prob about 3%) Boudin noir (French Black Pudding – soft velvety texture, nothing like our black pudding) with corn, fresh soft goats cheese and to finish, a local delicacy, the Tourteau Fromagé Which is a cake made with cheese and has a blackened top – looks like it has been left in the oven for too long. Delicious! How lucky are we to experience this! We are really pinching ourselves.
The history here is staggering! Coming from New Zealand, we don’t have the everyday appreciation of the history that is here in Europe. When you can walk down a cobble street and know that it was here, in this actual spot, 600 or 800 or more years ago – blows my mind. I always wish we could snap our fingers and be back there then – just to have a look and see what life was really like at that moment. But we have the history books, and we have Google, and we still have the buildings and the cobble streets so we can imagine, we can picture in our minds the life here. The things we see on TV, the movies etc, the things we think are just made up for impact are actually normal life here and we are loving being part of it. Buy a baguette every day – yes its normal! EVERYONE does it, Eat cheese at every meal – yes its normal, Have to navigate narrow country roads with blind corners and only room for 1 vehicle – yes just a normal day! We are not on a movie set, this is real and that is why we love it! These experiences are why we travel.
So, each day when we can, we walk to our local village and buy a baguette traditional. Chat to the lovely ladies at the wee café, sometimes have a coffee, then stroll back. We have a bit of a French lesson while there, it is hilarious, most people here do speak a bit of English and between hand gestures and puzzled looks, we seem to get the point across. We were doing pretty well in Brazil with our Portuguese, but French is eluding us a bit, the Portuguese has confused our mono-lingual brains – but we keep trying! Our fridge always has at least 3 different types of cheese and a typical lunch will be that beautifully fresh baguette, butter and cheese. Sometimes a bit of pate but that’s it. So simple yet so satisfyingly delicious. Our Friend Tricia, who lives in Holland, came to stay for a night and we had this discussion… what is it about France that all you need are the simple things? Is it because those simple things are so good? I don’t know, but it is so true. Evening meals are simple too, no plate filled to the brim of a multitude of flavours, just two things, two perfect things paired together to be amazing. Often there is more than one course though.
So to say we are loving France is somewhat of an understatement! Together with its beautiful countryside, wonderful people and stunning cuisine, we feel like we have died and gone to heaven! We are in a real life fairy tale, truly Amazing!
Lots more adventures in to come!!