Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Chateau St Ferriol


As I begin this post its Sunday morning 10am and we are sitting in our cosy gîte, listening to the church bells ring out..dong..dong…. 

We’ve just indulged in some fresh pain, fromâge, pâte, some delicious patisserie all topped off with a lovely local café espresso.  As we sit here, basking in the beauty of our surroundings, we feel disconnected from the hectic world yet strangely connected to a deep seeded sense of community.

Where are we?  Well, my fellow Eat Travel Divers, we are in France.  Not just touristic, cosmopolitan France from the glossy magazines.  Oh no.  We are in rural, traditional France.  
Quaint Esperaza's Boulangerie
Winnie and I recently decided to take our travels back on the road once more, but in the true spirit of travel and contribution we are doing this trip a little differently.    Whilst staying in Edinburgh we met a couple of Aussie girls who told us they had been working on a farm in Spain, in return for food and accommodation.  This means very low budget travelling, with the possibility of long term exposure to something that most travellers seek – true culture and the essence of being part of something bigger.  The girls gave us the web address for the organisation responsible for this opportunity, told us that you join with a small membership fee and you can contact (or be contacted by) potential hosts for the locations that interest you.  Workaway is a great idea.  It enables you to really try anything that is in your imagination, thus helping you plan and execute the travel that you always wanted.

The French Connection

So, after the issues and experiences of Egypt, plus the highs and lows of family borne-politics in the UK, Winnie and I are here in France.  We are enjoying every second of an experience that is really honestly priceless.  So, here’s the low down on what, where and how.
Fromage, Pate, Jambon et Pain

We were contacted by a very cool lady, who we shall call Queen Sophie.  Queen Sophie is the owner and controller of a lovely Chateau.  Chateau Saint-Ferriol is located in a small village called Saint-Ferriol, which is 60 minutes south of Carcassone.  
This is rural countryside; rolling hills with grape vines, olive groves.  This is a location where everybody knows everybody else, where food is an integral part of life – where the local boulangerie, charcuterie and farmers can sell their produce straight from the source.  This morning we were up at 7am, and were greeted to the welcoming smells of local meats being cooked, herbs and spices and so much more… aromas that tantilised me from my slumber and out into the main square.  We are 10 minutes from the Chateau, staying in a private and uber cosy gite.  This is similar 

to a small 3 floored town house.   Our gîte is situated in Espéraza, and a hot spot for farmers markets.  Ok, back to the chateau.  It is an ongoing project to say the least.  It is circa 1500 medieval French.  It is big, is very handsome and like all handsome things…it needs work, time, love and careful renovation.  The chateau is a monster, and Queen Sophie has been living and working on this since 1997.  She and King James have recently added to their family.  Their son, Prince Guilhem is a polite and excitable 3 and a half year old, always willing to get stuck in!  Two other fairly major elements of this whole set-up is the two awesome “Standard Poodles”, named Joy and Esther.  Between the workload of the chateau, life with a 3 year old and lots of dog walking, our hosts are pretty tired.  It’s a nice feeling for us to be contributing to something bigger than ourselves.  To assist on a project on such a grand scale, to remove the load from them is awesome…and remember, we’re doing it for food, accommodation and to experience life in this amazing place.
Café Espresso avec chocolat
Now, as you can imagine the work here is varied.  So far, we’ve been involved in everything from cleaning and organising, to babysitting, to digging trenches and learning new skills.  This blog post has stretched itself over the past week…and it is now Tuesday.  We’re in another gîte, this time a more cosmopolitan version located in Carcassonne.  We’ve been working hard in the chateau and Queen Sophie needs our help in this place, assisting in some redecorating and refurnishing….bring on the local Markets!  (Winnie will love that).  Anyway, more on that later.

So what I would like to do is tell you all about some of the amazing things I’ve learnt this week.  In my usual manner, I will blog about each in some level of detail and take photos!  Here’s what I plan to discuss:

  1. Chateau Saint-Ferriol Ground Keeping
  2. Herbs – how to pick and grow them
  3. How to prune Willow Trees
  4. Weaving Willow & Hazel to make structures (raised flower beds)
  5. Traditional Cobbling with “Pierre-Grilles” the Builder
  6. My First attempt at Butchery – Rabbit
  7. Rabbit & French Red Wine Stew with Rosemary & Paprika Dumplings (Versatile Cooking)
Teaching Winnie to cook
Expect more, but that is a glimpse of the past few days for Winnie and I.  If you want to see more about the workaway website, or the chateau check out the links I added above.  

This trip ranks as one of the best experiences for me - so glad we decided to get involved with this.  I sit here with cuts on my hands, and a smile on my face.  We’re honestly working hard, and enjoying every second. 

St Ferriol Chateau
Esperaza Gite

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...